There are lots of ways models can get damaged, so even though this article may be painful to look at, we hope it will help prevent your models from suffering a similar fate. From stains, to breaks, to vinegar syndrome, we'll show you how to protect your models.
1. Don't leave tack on your horses.
Some Breyer models come with tack or costumes. Other times, we make or buy tack for them. It's fun to dress them up to display or show them. However, if you leave tack on them for long periods, you're asking for trouble. Take the beautiful Jack Frost above. This is what he looks like after his Breyer holiday costume's dye seeped into the plastic:
This problem will occur more quickly if the model is exposed to heat and humidity, but we've seen it occur in models both stored and kept out on display in air conditioned homes. We've also seen it with professionally-made custom tack where the dye from either the leather or the stitching thread leached into the model. A few years back, Breyer offered a Friesian model at Breyerfest in a jousting blanket, and nearly every person who got one found it already had stains from its blanket.
Can it be fixed? Partially. We have been able to lighten stains using the bleach method described in our blog here, but have never been able to completely remove them (without damaging the paint).
Prevention: Untack those horses! Blankets, pretty rosette garlands, and the like may look nice, but can destroy your models if left on. Dress them up and take pictures, then let them "just be horses" while on display or in storage. If going into storage, we recommend packing costumes and tack in Ziploc bags where they'll be safe and your horses will be safe from them.
2. Beware what you wrap in.
For the same reasons as above, never wrap your models in colored fabric or newsprint. You might get away with it, but chances are, over a few months or longer, colors will begin to seep into the plastic. Below is a photo of an alabaster Running Mare who had been wrapped in fabric with a blue design.
Other definite no-nos include plastic bags with printing touching the model (make sure any printing is on the outside, not inside), and no paper with printing, like newspaper.
3. Careful storage can prevent breaks, rubs and marks.
It's a phrase we repeat often to people who mention wanting to sell their models: "If you want collectible prices, treat them like collectibles. If you want toy prices, treat them like toys." Would you toss Grandma's fine china in a heap into a box and throw the utensils in on top of it? Then don't throw your models in a heap into a box! Model finishes are very fragile, as are ears, tails and legs. Few things make a collector cringe like having someone bring out a random box full of unwrapped models, all banging against each other.
Can it be fixed? Accidents can happen, even when you're careful. It's heartbreaking when a beloved horse gets broken. Yes, legs, ears and tails can be fixed. Rubs can be touched up. Hearts can be mended that way. Monetary value never fully recovers, though. If your damaged model is a Regular Run or not-so-valuable Special Run, you can fix him yourself. For valuable models, though, it's often best to contact a respected model restoration artist. Most have reasonable prices and provide a signed paper of restoration with their work which can help recover at least some of the value lost by the initial damage. A good artist's touch-ups can be invisible and they have ways to pin legs or even rebuild ears that can make your model display beautifully again.
Prevention: When storing models, whether for long-term, or even just for transportation to a new location, wrap each one individually in something soft. More information on safely storing models can be found here.
4. Models hate dampness and humidity.
Did you know that cellulose acetate (the plastic Breyer models are made from) is made partially from plants? Even though it's now a plastic, it's still a bit porous and absorbs everything from dyes to moisture. Models can be given baths with no problem - Just make sure not to get moisture inside them through the little vent hole (usually in their nostril or corner of the mouth), and be sure they're fully dry before you wrap them to store away. Try to never store models anyplace damp or humid, like a basement that gets wet or an attic without climate control. Mold and mildew can grow quickly on models. Handling moldy models can make you sick, and even if it's cleaned off, spores can remain to regrow later if returned to damp conditions.
This poor old girl was kept in a plastic tote in a basement that got damp repeatedly. Mold spores can even find their way into totes!
Can it be fixed? I have had some luck bleaching models to remove mold stains, although it rarely gets rid of them completely, and their paint may fade in some cases, so it's far better to prevent it than try to fix it. (My technique for bleaching is here.)
Humidity can also be a problem, particularly for Woodgrain models. The fellow below shows how their unique paint and finish combination reacts to humidity - Bubbles form under the clearcoat:
Can it be fixed? No - There's no way to restore a Woodgrain that has bubbled, unfortunately.
Prevention: The best way to store models is out on open shelves in a climate controlled room. If you don't have insulated windows, keep them out of direct sunlight that could heat them up. If they have to be stored in containers, find a place that stays cool and dry year-round, and add a large silica packet (or several small ones) to the box/tote to absorb any moisture inside it. We sell 500g silica packets that are generally enough for a sealed 20-gallon tote. When storing models, open the containers to check on them monthly. At the first sign of anything amiss, pull them out, clean them, and let them dry thoroughly out in the open.
5. Models shouldn't smell like vinegar.
If you open a box of models from storage and smell vinegar, you've got a shrinky problem. I've gone into detail on shrinkies in another article, so here it's enough to say that storing shrinkies in airtight wraps or containers hastens the breakdown of their plastic. As that happens, they can start to deform or even begin to ooze nasty chemicals.
This guy looks like he's running downhill, as his front end has shrunk faster than his hindquarters, leaving him deformed.
Can it be fixed? No - Nothing can be done to reverse this and restore the model.
Prevention: It's said that there's no way to completely prevent shrinking on models that are prone to it. Models made during a certain time frame are especially likely to become shrinkies (more info in my other blog post). However, the process can be slowed down to the point of appearing to stop if the models are displayed on open shelves where they get plenty of air flow. At an early stage, shrinkies are actually kind of cute - They can look like slightly smaller versions of your favorite molds, and many people enjoy having one or two of these miniaturized versions in their herd, just for fun. It does lower their monetary value, though, as the models are limited to open-air display always.
6. Tippy models need a bit of protection.
Some models just always want to tip over, and some seem determined to start a line of dominoes and take out as many of their neighbors as they can every time. The Tennessee Walker, Pacer, Buckshot, Black Beauty, and Gem Twist come to mind as some of the worst offenders, but there are plenty of others. It's one of the scariest sounds a collector knows: The sound of a line of horses cascading into each other, with at least one crashing to the floor.
Can it be fixed? YES! We love our tippy models despite their "challenges," and thankfully there is safety equipment that can help them.
One great option is Museum Putty. This can be used to help models stick to the shelf to prevent wobbling or tipping over. It's trusted by museums around the world to help keep items from vibrating off shelves or tipping over, and we use it here at Triple Mountain to keep models safe, even when the quarry across the pond uses dynamite! A tiny bit under one or more hooves helps keep ponies upright.
For serious tipping prevention, like climbing cats or model horse show tables, we recommend Horse Racks. Each Horse Rack holds six models, each separated from his neighbor with soft, vinyl-covered uprights. Like giving your models each a straight stall, they prevent dominoes.
Horse Racks are very popular among collectors both at home and for taking to model horse shows, and we're privileged to be their exclusive retailer. Learn more about Horse Racks or order some for yourself here. We have them for Stablemate-sized models as well.
I hope this has given you some tips to keep your models safe! The poor ponies used as examples of damage are sad sights, but they volunteered to be shown in order to help save other models. They have all had some restoration and have gone on to new homes. As always, though, prevention is far better than repair!