Friday, November 22, 2013

Gift Set: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Passing the Torch

Unbeknownst to collectors, 1992 would mark the end of the Stablemate Assortments issued through the Sears Wish Book. The assortment this year would be one of many firsts: it was the first special run assortment issued in the new plastic, it featured the first unequivocally appaloosa stablemates, and it also contained the first non-grey dappled stablemate. The colour palette for this group was a bit drab compared to past years, but the models were still lovely.

1992 Stablemate Assortment IV
1994 JCPenney 12-Piece Stablemates Set

In the 1989 set, two of the models are often referred to as "appaloosa", but they tend to make more convincing flea-bitten greys; this year the spotted models were unmistakably meant to be appaloosas - a chestnut leopard appaloosa Quarter Horse Stallion and a black blanket appaloosa Morgan Stallion proudly flaunted their spots.

Speaking of spots, the Arabian Stallion had some of his own; in 1992 he became the first non-grey dappled Stablemate. The effect isn't quite up to our modern standards, but at the time, his dappled chestnut colouring was quite exciting.

A range of grey models made up a third of the set and represented many of the stages of this colour goes through. A mousey chestnut-faded-to-rose-grey gave quite a distinguished look to Silky Sullivan. The Arabian Mare sported four white stockings with her dark, solid grey body. Citation was a wild dapple grey with bubble dapples, and Seabiscuit sported a cool alabaster coat.

Rounding out the herd was a very yellow buckskin Swaps, a beautiful black Native Dancer (who, let's face it, just looks good in everything), a very deep, dark bay Morgan Stallion, a flaxen-liver chestnut Morgan Mare, and a sweetly soft buckskin Draft Horse.

1993 came and went with no new Stablemate Assortment. The next year, in 1994, JCPenney featured something new in their holiday catalogue - a 12-Piece Stablemates Set! But wait a minute, it was the same one as sold through Sears in 1992.

Now, there is some confusion regarding whether or not these sets are exact re-releases. I've heard many theories: one year had matte finishes, the other semi-gloss or satin; 1992 has matte eyes, 1994 glossy; one year has black hooves, the other grey. A few kind folks on Blab looked over their collections and reported back: other than the usual variations, both the Sears and the JCPenney sets were identical in regards to finish and hoof colour.

Image scanned from Sears 1992 Holiday Catalog by Sharon Walbridge and used here by permission

This is what Nancy Young had to say about the two sets:
"The 1994 set is a reissue of the 1992 set; the test-run samples created for the 1992 set were used again for the 1994 set, according to the Breyer executive Peter Stone (conversation of Nov. 1994). The only systematic difference between the two sets in my experience is that the1994 horse have glossed eyes whereas the 1992 horses do not."9

Image scanned from JCPenney 1994 Holiday Catalog by Sharon Walbridge and used here by permission

When I requested Blab members to look over their sets, one collector noticed the eyes of her 1992 Sears set were indeed matte while the 1994 JCPenney set had glossy eyes. The other collector noticed no difference in eye-finish. My duplicates, which all came from JCPenney sets have a mixed bag of glossy and matte eyes. So, how can you tell for sure the difference between the 1992 Sears and the 1994 JCPenney sets? I dunno. If the eyes are glossy, it's probably the JCP release, if they're matte, it's probably the Sears release, but maybe not. :)

Over the next few years JCPenney would continue to carry the 12-Piece Stablemates Sets, much to the delight of Stablemate fans (and likely to the relief of those looking for holiday gift ideas for those collectors).

Next: Special Run Stablemate Assortments - Many Minis from JCPenney

Many thanks to appyinthewind and Deb Walsmith for their contributions towards my effort to unravel the mystery of the Sears/JCP assortment and to Sharon Walbridge for her contribution of the original catalogue pictures.

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