How Much Is My Breyer Model Horse Worth?
Since we handle thousands of models each year, it's a question we get asked frequently. Everyone wants a simple two-word answer (with the second word being "dollars"), but it's really impossible to give a solid answer without fully inspecting a model. Here's our take on determining your model's value:
Several factors combine to determine the value of each individual model horse. Age, rarity, variation from the normal color for that release, condition, and plain old supply-and-demand all play parts in a model's value. To further complicate things, market value fluctuates, so a model selling for $50 today could sell for $20 or $100 next week. It's easy to get overwhelmed when deciding what starting price to place on your model, but a good starting price is important in getting the most for your item without scaring off buyers.
Age and Rarity
An easy place to start in determining value is by establishing the age and rarity of your model. A model made for a single year is almost always worth more than one made for multiple years, simply because there will be many, many more of the second one on the market.
A good general rule is if it was available for more than three years or more than 10,000 were made, even for Special Runs, it generally gets little value from the "age and rarity" category. A good example of this is the The Family Arabian Stallion, Mare and Foal, which were produced from 1961-1987, so there are potentially hundreds of thousands of them in the world. Most sell for less than $10 each.
On the other hand, models produced for a single year, or even better: a single event, can be valued in the hundreds of dollars, such as the Breyerfest Volunteer Models, which are only given to people who work at Breyerfest, and are generally produced in runs of less than 150 pieces. These can sell from $300 to upwards of $600 dollars each. Certain vintage pieces have sold for up to $3500!
A good resource for establishing the age, rarity, and even identity of your models is the website www.IdentifyYourBreyer.com. That site will also provide you with information to use in your listing, such as mold name, model name, model number, and release information. Buyers may search on any of these things, so including as many as possible in your listing will help collectors find your item, leading to a sale. If you know enough about your model to search for it by release name, other eBay listings can also provide you with this information.
Which is worth more, if everything else about them is equal? That comes down to desirability. Generally whichever is the less common version will be valued higher. The key to getting top dollar for your model is to look at the details and compare them to what's currently for sale. If your model can be considered a "darker version," "lighter version," or has more or fewer socks than most of those currently for sale, you may have a variation, and that's worth touting in your ad. Some collectors collect only a single Breyer mold, but they may have a dozen or more of the same release because they love variations. If yours is different from the norm, let them know!
Important variations to be on the lookout for are vintage chalky and pearly models, which are differentiated from their regular versions by the type of plastic used in the model. Most often, these were models created in the early 70s (though earlier and later examples exist) during the oil embargos, which made white plastic expensive to procure. To keep costs low, Breyer began using recycled, often colored, plastics during that time, often painting the mold with white base coat before applying the model's regular color. These have become known as "chalkies," because of the chalky look the white base coat gives their whites. Once you see one, they're easily distinguishable from the raw plastic usually seen in the whites of Breyer models. Pearlies are models that were made with a plastic that produced a pearly, carnival glass-like finish. Both chalkies and pearlies are rare finds, and have greater value than the regular version of their release.
If you want to sell your model, you need to put sentimental value and optimism aside and give the model an honest, even brutal evaluation. Condition is one of the two places that many sellers fall down on and lose potential sales because of it. (The other is photo quality, which I'll get to later.) Breyer models are collectibles, and as such, condition is EVERYTHING to collectors. It is as important as rarity in determining a value! A model that could be worth over a hundred dollars in Mint condition can be brought down to "body price" (generally $5 - $10 paid for a model destined to be cut up and customized) by condition issues.
Since condition is of as great an importance as rarity, I often see what seem to be nice vintage models go unsold on eBay because the seller didn't describe their condition. Most collectors don't have spare money to take a chance on a model, and many assume the worst when a seller doesn't describe the model's condition. Grading is a subject unto itself, and may become a topic for a future guide, so for now, let's keep it basic: An honest seller will inspect their model and list every flaw and condition issue they find. Don't be put off by this - Collectors know that no model is perfect. They are generally willing to purchase an older or rare model with some issues, and will feel more confident bidding if those issues have been listed right up front.
Take the black and white pinto Western Horse pictured above. He is noticeably yellowed, is missing his saddle, and has two small rubs: one on his barrel and one on his shoulder. These will reduce his value somewhat, but listing them in his ad will increase the chance of a sale, rather than making buyers scrutinize photos and wonder what other issues they may have not noticed.
Generally speaking, any rub (missing paint) will reduce a model's value slightly. Multiple rubs larger than the point of a Sharpie can devalue a model considerably, as can marks (ink, crayon, spray paint). Chips are considered a large flaw, and breaks relegate the model to the body bin (unless it's a 1964 decorator or one-of-a-kind auction piece). That doesn't mean you should throw damaged models away - Simply give them a low starting bid and an honest description. Sometimes a buyer looking for a particular model will still buy a seriously damaged one if the price is right. This is the time to use ".99 Starting Price, No Reserve!" postings. Some money is better than no money, and there's a whole community of collectors who buy body models to repaint, so offer them up and see what happens.
Another option for certain condition issues is to restore the model before selling it. Let's be clear: Restoring is different from covering up issues. While it's generally not a good idea to try to touch up missing paint - Breyer paint is almost impossible to match in color and finish, and bad touch-ups can actually LOWER a model's value - there are a couple of things you can do to make your model worth more. The easiest is sunbathing! In the photo above, the Western Horse was about to begin the sunbathing process. Age and smoke can turn Breyer plastic an ugly yellow, but this can be reversed with a few days (or weeks) in a sunny place. We designate an area on the front porch, surround it with fencing to keep out curious pets, and lay models on soft towels to prevent damage. Every day we flip the models over to insure even lightening, and bring them inside during inclement weather. Care must be taken to keep models from getting too hot, which can cause melting or bloating. Generally temperatures between 50 and 75F are safe sunbathing temps. Another thing to be careful of is fading... Pink areas like muzzles, ears, and hooves are particularly prone to fading and should be covered while sunbathing. We use painter's tape, which is designed to come off without damaging paint, and change it at least once a week if a model has a prolonged sunbathing period. Some people have good luck placing them on sunny window sills, but if you have Low-E glass like we do, months can pass and the model will not change.
One other form of restoration that might be worth attempting is to reposition legs which have deformed due to exposure to heat or years of holding up a model's weight. A hair dryer can be used to gently heat the leg, which can then be moved back to its original position. Running cold water over it can cool it in the new position quickly, or you can hold it there until it cools. The caution here (other than using an electrical appliance near running water, of course) is to not over-heat the leg. This could cause the plastic to bubble and melt, causing damage that's not easy to correct.
If you have a particularly valuable model that has sustained damage, you might try contacting a professional model restoration specialist. Ask for references and talk to other clients, as this is a job requiring a lot of skill and patience, but can help you get the most for a damaged item like a vintage decorator or Connoisseur piece.
Supply and Demand
Models that remind us of horses we've known rate high for most collectors and are valued accordingly, while models that have that "something's just not right" look often aren't worth the plastic they're made of. The Fury Prancer and Khemosabi molds are two that most collectors refuse to offer any amount of money for. That doesn't mean NO ONE will buy them, but the buyer pool is a lot smaller than for popular molds.
In the last couple of decades, model showing has increased in popularity and competitiveness. Molds that have good conformation and are positioned to make them suitable for the show ring now often get valued higher than many comparable "not show-worthy" molds.
Current events can also influence supply and demand. For example, when Breyer chose the Othello mold as their Celebration Model for Breyerfest in 2012, and produced it in a desirable color, other releases on that mold temporarily increased in value as collectors who had never collected it before became attracted to it. This effect comes and goes, and is hard to anticipate, but if you get lucky enough to list your model for sale at a time when people are excited about the mold, you may get a surprising price for your piece.
Because supply and demand fluctuates so much in the collectible marketplace, we always recommend checking eBay for models like yours that are currently for sale to see what people are asking, as well as the "Sold Listings" to see what they have actually sold for recently. The Sold Listings option is on the left side of the screen when you are viewing search results.
Getting Top DollarTo get top dollar for your model, be sure to take quality photos from several different angles. I'll follow up with a separate guide containing tips for photographing your model, but basically make sure they're in focus and large enough to zoom in on. Write a good description for your item, including anything you know about its release and a realistic description of its condition.
Don't start your auction too low - Many auctions these days sell to the first buyer, who will only pay your starting price because of eBay's bidding system. For example, if you start a model at $1.00, I might want it enough that I bid $20, but if no one else bids, eBay only charges me the starting price of $1. Find out what the average starting price is for this particular model, take condition into account, and set a realistic starting price in the area of others currently posted to get the most for your model.
Take advantage of eBay's free relisting feature: Don't worry about starting your model a little high... If it doesn't sell the first time, eBay will allow you to relist it for free in most cases, and you can adjust the starting price down a little the second time if you want to. Words we live by: You can always re-list it for less, but if it sells too low, you can't raise the price later!
We hope these tips help you get the most for your Breyer model. Collecting and showing Breyers is a great hobby with thousands of participants worldwide. Whether you are a collector yourself, or just have some models you want to sell, tap into that collecting community on eBay. Present your models well by doing your research and writing a great ad to sell your models for top dollar!