Breyer just released a great article by Jocelyn Cote in their April Collectors Club newsletter. I hope you can access it to read some great info and even see an incredible photo from the Chicago factory of a woman painting a chalky Rearing Stallion. Hopefully, they'll make the article available to folks who aren't in the CC at some point, because it's superb!
We have something to add to it - Something so unusual that its very existence has been debated for decades.... a partial chalky! We keep her at our store to help people see the difference between a regular and a chalky model, since she's a great example of both. We also have a chalky-plastic model we keep at the store as a reference. Since both are hard to distinguish in photos, we're very lucky to have these examples that horse lovers can see and touch in person.
First, for those who aren't familiar, let's compare a chalky with a regular model:
This normal Running Foal below has unpainted white areas. His socks and bald face are unpainted plastic. As years pass, the plastic takes on a slightly ivory coloring (which can be made much worse by tobacco or wood smoke).
Contrast him with the chalky version above. You can clearly see on this one that his white areas are painted white - The whole model was in fact given a white basecoat before his body color was applied. Because this opaque white basecoat has a chalky appearance compared to the semi-translucent raw white normal plastic, they earned the name chalkies in collector parlance.
I won't recreate Jocelyn's article here, but for those seeing this for the first time and wondering, "Why?" the most common (but not the only) reason is that most chalkies were created by Breyer in the early to mid 1970s when the oil embargo increased the cost for premium, pure white plastic out of reach for making "toys" from. Breyer had to move to a mix of colored plastics, and since they couldn't leave socks and blazes showing colored plastic underneath, they first spray painted them with a white basecoat. This would also prevent the body paint from appearing darker and lighter in patches as it was applied over multi-colored plastic, smoothing the whole model out to an even white color before adding the body coloring.
Because it's relatively rare to find a chalky these days, they are often sought-after and treasured by their owners.
Now, on to the even more rare models in this category:
I have only verified two partial chalkies in all my years of business and collecting. They appear to be so scarce that many long-time collectors have never seen one, but it makes perfect sense for them to exist. Since Breyer had to use a mixture of plastics, some of those plastics would have been white. If the white plastic made its way to the right parts of the mold, where the socks or face markings would go, there would be no need to spray the whole model white. To make production quicker, and save money on spray paint, they would have only painted what needed to be painted.
Our partial chalky is a Classic Arabian Mare. From most photos, she looks like a perfectly normal model - Her socks and stripe are unpainted white plastic as usual.
In fact, other than her dark coloring with darker hindquarters, we didn't give her a second look... Until we saw her other side. What initially looked like a bit of white gunk under her tail, turned out to be an area where the tail paint had chipped off, revealing the white base coat beneath. That sure gave us a start!
Once we saw that, we began to look at her more closely. You can see in the photo above, that in addition to the white clearly showing, her rump paint looks like it was put on heavily and there is little detail in her tail. Both of these are a result of having "extra" paint: that white basecoat was applied thickly to cover the colored plastic beneath, and because of that, it fills in some of the mold detail and gives the model this appearance. Her forequarters do not show this "heavy paint" appearance.
We also were able to see white basecoat through two pinpoint rubs on one hindquarter, so based on all of this, we determined that only her hindquarters and tail were given basecoat paint. This very special lady has become a "teacher" model at our store, where horse lovers who want to learn to identify chalkies can come and hold her to see both chalky and regular shown in one model.
The other "version" of a chalky model is made in a very different way. During about the same time, Breyer experimented with a different white plastic which was solid, opaque white. Because it was already white, it didn't require a white spray paint basecoat. We assume it caused other issues, though, since Breyer didn't use it for very long. These models, with the solid white plastic, are known as chalky-plastic models.
Our "teacher" model for chalky plastic is this Justin Morgan who arrived with two missing hind legs. A full photo of him is our headline photo for this article. The missing legs haven't stopped him from being very popular in our store as a teacher... In fact, they're a big part of his stardom.
Someone had noticed how bright his highlights were many years ago, and started to remove the paint on his side to see what they'd find.
From the photo above, he could be a basecoat chalky or a chalky-plastic model - You can't really tell unless you've had experience with both. But lucky for us, his broken legs make him an amazing teacher. You can see below that the plastic in the break is very opaque and "chalky" looking, very different from the semi-translucent normal plastic.
These two hard-to-find examples, along with the basecoat chalky Running Foal at the top, all reside at our store and we're happy to bring them out to show anyone who wants to learn more about chalkies. This is what I love about our hobby - There's always something new to learn and discover, even for those of us who have been collecting for several decades!
On a separate but related note, another super hard-to-find variation is a pearly. As the name implies, they're made of a plastic that has a luminous shimmer, like a pearl. These days, Breyer uses a pearlized finish on some models as a choice, but during the Oil Embargo period, pearlies were created from yet another type of plastic they experimented with. We have only had the opportunity to see one pearly here at Triple Mountain, and like chalkies, you almost have to see them in person to really understand the difference because it's dramatic in-hand, but hard to see in photos.
Here's the little pearly guy, a stripped QH Foal:
Pearlies can only be identified by the shimmery, almost glowing plastic in their white areas and are treasures to be discovered among the millions of models "in the wild."
If this is the first you've heard of chalkies and pearlies, and have a collection that includes models made in the early to mid-1970s, you may want to take a fresh look at them, comparing them to later "regular" models to see if any jump out at you as having painted, super-opaque, or pearly whites. Who knows what treasures you might discover within your own herd!
[Note: This article was written in spring of 2020 and our store is currently closed to the public due to the COVID threat, but we hope you'll have an opportunity to drop in if you're ever in the area, once that threat has passed.]