Friday, September 13, 2013

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - the Sears Years

Mail order special runs were a long-established institution, but in 1989, Breyer and Sears teamed up to bring collectors a little something new. This was the year a gift set of twelve Stablemates was included amongst the special run offerings in the Sears Wish Book. Granted only five of the twelve were models exclusive to the set, but still, twelve models all at once!

Later sets would bear the title "Parade of Breeds", but for now they were just the Stablemate Assortment with a roman numeral indicating release order.

1989 Stablemate Assortment
Missing: black Saddlebred

The repackaged regular runs included a chestnut Morgan Stallion, palomino Morgan Mare, grey Arabian Stallion, dapple grey Draft Horse, a bay Thoroughbred Mare, and an Alabaster Arabian Mare. Also making his special run Assortment debut was the black Saddlebred - he wouldn't be a part of a gift set again until 1996.

These models are all exactly the same as the regular runs, which makes it a pain to collect them second-hand. With the exception of the Morgan Stallion, all models pictured above were likely regular run issues. The Morgan Stallion was purchased as the special run from someone who had bought him new.

A Swaps in a flea-bitten grey (or black leopard appaloosa, depending on who you ask), a buckskin Silky Sullivan, Citation in a chestnut-based flea-bitten grey, a stunning blood bay Native Dancer (one of my top ten favourite G1 releases), and deep red chestnut Seabiscuit completed the set.

Fewer than half of the assortment were new, but it was a fair start.

1990 Stablemate Assortment II
Missing: black Arabian Mare, chestnut Morgan Mare, slate grey Swaps, & rose grey Swaps

Speaking of better things to come, the 1990 special run was even better than the preceding year; twelve all new colours on eleven molds.

The deep red chestnut Morgan Stallion was impossible to confuse with his regular run chestnut herd-mates, but the chestnut Morgan Mare could be a bit more difficult. I do not own examples of either the regular run or the special run myself, so I must rely on online pictures for my descriptions.

The regular run chestnut was only available in 1976 and seems to have a certain je ne sais quoi which sets her apart from the special run. The regular run seems to be more matte, slightly textured, and the mane and tail seem to be closer in shade to the body colour. The special run looks smoother, has more of a shine to her finish, and the mane and tail seem to be distinctly darker than the body. But, as with so many of our Stablemate runs, variations can blur the line between the runs.

The Draft Horse was a perfect solid black, Silky Sullivan could be called a dusty chestnut or wild bay, Citation was an interesting muted chestnut, and Native Dancer was stunning as always in a black pointed white-grey.

Also in the herd was a buckskin Arabian Stallion, his mate, the Arabian Mare in black, the Thoroughbred Mare looking adorable in blood bay, and an electric yellow palomino Seabiscuit. Finishing off the group were two Swaps models, one in slate grey and another in a rosy grey. The models this year all seemed to have a satin to semi-gloss finish.

1991 Stablemate Assortment III
Missing: bay Silky Sullivan

Fans of the Draft Horse would find 1991 particularly exciting as the Stablemate Assortment III featured two new releases of that mold. Collectors didn't know it at the time, but this year would be notable as it was the last time a special run assortment would be released in old plastic.

The six Thoroughbred molds were heavy on the grey this year: Citation in slate grey, the Thoroughbred Mare in Alabaster, and Seabiscuit in splatter-dapple grey. A bay Silky Sullivan, black-bay Swaps, and a lemon yellow palomino Native Dancer balanced out their grey-scale herd-mates.

Also in the same blinding palomino was the Morgan Stallion. His mate, the Morgan Mare was much more sedate in a red bay with four snappy little socks. Our other couple, the Arabian Stallion and Arabian Mare could be found in black and chestnut, respectively.

Last but not least we had the Draft Horses. One was a plain, but lovely clear bay while the other was a little more unconventional. Many reference guides describe this model as "olive dun" and while he is more likely a sooty buckskin, the popular term does suit him down to the ground; all he needs is a toothpick and a pimento.

The following years would bring about many changes to this particular gift set tradition, but the holiday herds would be with us for a long time to come.

Next: Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Passing the Torch

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