Collectors can be a pretty picky bunch. Condition, rarity, age, color, provenance, finish, quality and more are all factors that determine what someone is willing to pay for an item. Each specific group of collectors has their own ranking for judging value, and one group can put one thing high on the list while another doesn’t particularly care. The specific factor I am going to discuss today is packaging. In many groups, such as Barbie collectors, new in mint packaging can raise the price of a specific item. If the box has a ding or crinkle it can discount the price by quite a bit even if the item inside is mint. As a general rule model horse collectors are almost the opposite. We want the box and packaging gone so we can see the model to evaluate for condition. New in box items can even go for less than unboxed items.
Today I will touch on modern packaging, how and why it affects value and when to take something out of its box. One of the biggest criteria a collector will consider when choosing to buy a model is its condition. Everything from hoof edge and ear tip rubs to shiny marks in the finish will bring the value down.
Here we see a typical new Breyer in box. The packaging was created to be able to show off the model for prospective buyers while also protecting the model from damage from prospective customers handling the model. The box serves this purpose admirably. Unfortunately it also can harm the original finish of the model in several ways. Any model that comes with tack or decorations attached is asking for color transfer. Any item of tack that is dyed (pretty much everything), if that tack is touching the horse, the color will stain the model. It is especially true for dark tack on light horses, but you can even stain bay and black horses.
This is a model offered at Breyerfest this year. You will notice that the model is tied into the box with metal twist-ties on the legs. These ties are double-wrapped around legs and pasterns quite tightly to hold the model in to the box and keep it from moving around in the box. Unfortunately this can also have the side effect of the ties rubbing the paint. The metal ties are coated in plastic, but they can rub the paint and are quite difficult to remove without damaging the model further.
Here we see another model still attached to its original box. You can see more clearly that Breyer did recognize the rubbing problem and created custom plastic molds to keep the legs away from the box back and conform to the anatomy of the model to prevent breaking. However if you look up at the shoulder and barrel, these areas can rub against the box back directly. In the older yellow boxes you would get large yellow stains on the areas of the model that touched the cardboard back. Newer boxes have a coating on the cardboard so at least you don’t get the staining, but the motion of the model rubbing on the cardboard during shipping and sitting in the warehouse will leave shiny marks on the areas of the model that touch the backing.
Here we see a stablemate blister card. The model is not tied against the card, the custom-fitted plastic blister bubble holds the model against the card. Again, the card is treated with a coating to reduce color transfer to the model, but the model is still free to move around a bit in the package leading to shiny spots on the high points such as barrel, hip and shoulder. Color bleed does still occur, and is more likely the longer a model is in the package. It is also more likely in a lighter colored or white model than a dark one. The shiny spots are more likely on the dark and matte models.
This is one of the Breyer Christmas stablemate ornaments. Here we see the model is in a reverse-custom blister pack. Instead of being held against the back of the box, it is pressing against the front. It also has the metal-plastic wire ties to hold it in. In addition the blister pack is very detailed and custom-fitted, holding the model tightly in several areas such as the legs and tail. Now we have another problem to add to rubs, the nature of the tight custom-blister pack can cause the model to break when you try to remove it from the package. Porcelain models seem to be particularly susceptible to this problem. Removal takes several specialized tools to be sure you get the model out undamaged.
In these cases of modern boxes and packaging, the value of the model is almost always less to the collector if it is in the box. Not only do we have a huge headache of trying to get it out without damage, we have potential damage from the packaging. In addition, collectors look for good paint shading, clean markings and little over spray. Collectors want to be able to examine the model closely to make sure the off-side is as nice as the show side that is facing us.
This is an insidious example of potential packaging damage. Many new special-run Breyers come in a plastic baggie wrapped in bubble wrap. There is a reason that the model is in the baggie first, then the bubble wrap around. Plastic bubble wrap can melt easily under not especially high temperatures and damage the models that they are wrapping. Bubble wrap can still be the wrap of choice due to it being lightweight and soft, but always be sure that the model is in a bag of some sort so the bubble wrap does not touch it, and to be especially sure wrap the model bubble-side out. It is the thin bubble side that is most prone to melting.
So there you have it, take your models out of their boxes and free them! It makes storage take up less space and is one less thing to have to keep track of. You can throw that box away, we aren’t interested in it for the most part. If the box has an interesting sticker or information card you can cut it out and throw the rest away.
There are always exceptions, but for most modern (post-1990) models we want them out of their boxes. The next post will cover collectible packaging you may consider either removing the model from and keeping, or sometimes keeping the model in.