Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Muddy Hoofprints Down Memory Lane

Hard to believe it's been almost 1.5 years since I first shared my research on the Mystery Horses of Maureen Love. This entry's title is even more appropriate because some of today's information comes from a phone interview with a collector, recalling these models at one of their original retailers. It was fun to hear her excitement in reliving the past, and we share a candy-store-window enthusiasm for their variety. If you thought these horses had a lot of variations as we knew them, brace yourself.

Before we get to that, a little public notice: I have not given anyone permission to copy my blog. Further, some dealers have started leading their customers to think any old horse by Lane is a Maureen Love, and thus worth a small fortune. A little information is a dangerous thing! Not all Lane horse molds are designed by Maureen (as covered in the first post on this topic). In a nutshell: anything copying this blog's exact syntax and diction does not signify an endorsement. Fact check any seller's Love identity claim against what you have seen here, and be a wise consumer.

What is permitted use of this blog? The raw data is here for your education and collecting enjoyment. It's easy to put it in your own words when describing items for sale or on collectibility cards, as you would from a reference guide. You are welcome to share the link to this blog. Please contact me if you have new photos, a vintage Lane sales sheet, questions, or if you need help identifying a Lane horse. I finally fixed my Profile here, and my email is now available.

A Rainbow of Factory Finishes

For now, we have to leave the door open for all molds possible in all OF colors. Just because I've seen some glazes on certain molds more frequently, doesn't mean that's the only mold decorated that way.

Last year, I spoke with collector Diane Knoth, and she shared her personal memories of seeing Love Lanes for sale at Grant's Department Store. This chain became defunct in 1976, so we're talking about memories from the late sixties-early seventies, the height of variety in Lane glazes.

She listed the following colors, which were news to me:

Black Orange Lava/Flame
Black with Gold Accents
Black Pearl (I had been calling these "Iridescent", but that overglaze formula's name is Mother of Pearl, so...)

She also mentioned a larger version of the Leg-Out Facing Left horse, that was on a scale with the 25" Facing Right mold, in all-over metallic silver.

She startled me further by saying that the mold that I thought was only a hobby mold copy, the ring-necked thicker-base 17" Leg-Out mold, was paired in matching OF glazes with the original 16" Leg-Out mold. I guess we can call them "father-son" sets. She specifically mentioned the woodgrain sets like this at Grant's. Coming from my model horse background, to me, "woodgrain" is a color found on plastic horses, so my brain went, "What?!" The next week, I found a father-son set in woodgrain on eBay that proved her memory correct! Unfortunately, the pair photo file I saved has an "unspecified error", so this example (and another in the mold section below) will have to suffice.

Woodgrain 239 v.2

The woodgrain glaze look is not always sharply detailed rings, nor bubbled, as one might see on plastics. Some are just alternating brown shades in linear washes, and a satin finish. It is distinct from the translucent glossy dark brown glaze, reposted here for comparison. Notice how the translucent glaze makes the high points of the sculpture's relief show up paler than the rest of the color.

Gloss translucent brown on 239 v.2, photo by author.

I have seen black with lava/flame glaze on other ceramics of the era, just not yet on the Love Lanes. I think it might be something akin to this, without the "Canada", of course.

239 v.5, is that a Fjord on fire?!

I haven't seen any Loves in blue-green, so I can't even describe that. Sadly, I can't yet confirm the giant Leg-Out mold, nor the metallic silver colourway on any mold. Keep your eyes peeled!

Collector Susan Brady provided photos of the Black Pearl.

Black Pearl A-9 v.1, photo courtesy Susan Brady.

Diane also listed colors I'd already independently confirmed with other sources, such as White Pearl.

White Pearl A-9 v.1, old photo from Goodwill.


Natural A-9 v.2, photo courtesy Simrat Khalsa.

Mustard with Gold (scroll down)

Caramel Brown with Gold

Airbrushed Smoke with Natural base and Gold

Smoke A-9 v.1, which even has a touch of purple on its mane and tail areas.

Airbrushed Purple on White with Natural base and Gold

239 v.2 airbrushed purple on white with gold.

The horses with gold accents even had distinct variations of where gold was applied to their bodies. Some even had it sprayed around their girths and necks. Some had gold dot-liner eyes, and others had gold airbrushed blobs for eyes. Here are two Mustard with Gold on the H-1 v.2 Added Branch Mold:

Distinct gold areas, photo by author.

Gold overspray, photos courtesy Diana R. Dubbeld.

It lends an even more sculptural and fantastic air to the mold, as if he's turning into gold.

Black with Gold

Did you catch that they are not the same mold? Yup, the upper pic was v.1 and the lower is v.2 (added base height and neck rings).

There is also a Black with Bone color on mane, tail, hooves, and base.

239 v.2 photo by author, in the wild.

Before we judge Lane on what seems to be an anachronistic choice of gold accents, they weren't alone. There are examples on eBay of ceramic, pot metal, and chalkware non-Love horses with similar gold decoration. It was a weird time. Horses got gold accents in odd places, and people bought them.

The burden of naming these colors for general collector reference has fallen to me, and my tendency is to over-describe because I see the glaze and overglaze elements as distinct. In my experience, they are separate firings, which translates to more work. They have significance to me, and so I tend to make sure they are listed in a color name. Feel free to suggest more succinct color names that we all can embrace. I really am not committed to any of the color names, except the Pearls.

Identifying the Love Lane Molds

I like keeping the OF inscribed mold number in the name, so that we can have an instant mental picture of the horse in discussion. When we talk about molds that were modified then reissued as OFs, the name has to target the most obvious modification. I also tried to number the versions in order of production, but a couple may be in order of when I became aware of them. Without inscribed dates in the molds, it's the best I can do for now.

Mold # H-1 v.1 first version Facing Right, marked © H-1 CALIF. USA

This model's forelegs were not connected to each other.

Apologies for the drawing, but the the original photo's owner could not be reached for permission.

Mold # H-1 v.2 second version Facing Right Added Branch 13" tall (inscription is moved and redone)
marked H-1 CALIF © U.S.A.

Note the difference in the base marking between versions. This shows that the modified H-1 v.2 is a whole other MOLD, not just that a branch was slipstuck in, connecting the forelegs of some castings.

H-1 v.2 photo courtesy Scott, in this blog's Comments.
It is possible to collect ALL of the molds in this matching color.

We might be able to tell chronology by how they did the pour holes, too. Note that the first version above has a ragged pour hole, where the excess clay was just ripped off there. So does the crisply detailed (early mold use) H-1 v.2 here.

This softer-detailed, later casting has a smoothed-out pour hole.
It seems they became more sophisticated with practice.

So far, no open base bottom versions, nor hobby molds, of the 13" H-1 have come to light. It doesn't mean they aren't out there! The closest thing is the giant 25" hobby mold, but it is a different sculpture entirely.

Mold # A-9 v.1 first version Running Horse, marked Made In CALiF U.S.A. A-9

Check it out: fettled pour holes! Closer to being smoothed out, but not quite.
The original owner noted when and where this item was purchased.

Mold # A-9 v.2 second version Running (open base bottom)

See further down for a side-by-side comparison of v.1 and v.2 of this mold.

This version has an abbreviated base.

Mold # A-9 v.3 hobby mold version, with grass sculpted solid up to the groin (open base bottom)

This version has the long base, as the v.1 does.

Hobby mold A-9 v.3, painted by a hobbyist, not an OF.

Mold # 239 v.1 first version Rearing Horse Facing Left Leg-Out, marked CALIF USA 239

239 v.1 base bottom

This 239 v.1 photo courtesy Arlene Soderlund.

Mold # 239 v.2 second version, Added Neck Rings and Base Height (open base bottom)

Open bottom of an OF 239 v.2, easily mistaken for hobby mold because of this!

Woodgrain 239 v.2, note another sculptor added base height and three rings to the neck!
Photo by author, taken in the wild.

Mold # P-159 the 239's third known version, a Provincial Molds brand hobby mold (open base bottom)

P-159 hobby mold bisque. This version has fine hair texture in the mane and tail.

Mold # 239 v.4 fourth version, open base bottom hobby mold (manufacturer unknown)

This is 239 v.2 as it became available to the ceramics hobby for home glazing.

239 v.4 hobbyist custom glazed, photo by author, in the wild.

239 v.4 hobby photo courtesy Kim Ford. She knew the lady who glazed this childhood gift.
It even has glass eyes added.

Check out this craziness! A near twin to the above, except no star on this one's head.

Mold # 239 v.5 fifth version, drafty, Roman mane and standing on oval base (photo in colors section above)

Mold # 1156 v.1 (the actual inscribed mold number of this derived version of 239) Bent Leg 15" tall x 12" wide
Base bottom marked 1156 USA

Compare with photo above of 239 v.1 base bottom.

Base bottom of 1156 v.1 in OF Airbrushed Purple on White with Natural base and Gold,
photos courtesy of junkinmarcia.

OF 1156 Airbrushed Purple on White with Natural base and Gold

1156 in Gold, and assuming this is an OF because it has the connected forelegs.

Mold # 1156 v.2 Bent Leg hobby mold, open bottom base.

Note that both forelegs are free, and not tightly curled, unlike the OF version.

Bent Leg-Out 1156 v.2 as a cold-painted hobby mold,
in the wild photos courtesy Diana R. Dubbeld.

Side-By-Side Comparison of Lane A-9 Running Horse Original Mold
and Derived A-9 v.2 in Similar OF Color

Now that I have seen two similar OF models in side-by-side comparison, it is clear that somewhere in the A-9's production, they decided to cut costs, or at least changed managers. As a potter, I can tell they cheaped out on the v.2 because

1. They edited the original base in two ways, to save on clay (and, ultimately, weight). A whole section under the out-stretched foreleg is missing, as is the base bottom.

Lane A-9 v.1 background; v.2 foreground.

2. The quality control is poor on v.2. This v.2 has a tear all the way through the casting wall, by a hind leg. Some were carelessly dipped, and pendulous drips of glaze hang from the belly or chin.

3. They ran molds until the detail was shot, and the ears, hooves, etc. well rounded off.

Lane A-9 v.1 left; v.2 right.

Lane A-9 v.1 left; v.2 right.

Lane A-9 v.1 left; v.2 right.

Lane A-9 v.1 left; v.2 right.

Lane A-9 v.1 Running Horse in OF Natural (red brown).

Natural A-9 v.2, photo courtesy Simrat Khalsa.
This horse is an in-between of v.1 and v.2, as it has the v.1 red brown, but is on the v.2 mold.

Natural A-9 v.2 (dark brown), photo courtesy Lisa Garcia.
This one has good mold detail.

A-9 v.2 Running Horse in OF Natural (dark brown).
The factory ran these molds until they were blobs without detail.

How to Identify Derived Molds

As a ceramics artist myself, this is a subject that bothers me. To me, it is very obvious when a mold I sculpted has been reworked by another artist. It's clear that the derived molds were not reworked by Maureen's own hand. The derived-from-Love molds are not as intimate or detailed as the older Love Lane molds. Some of the magical flow is missing, and the edits are jarring.

I think it's only fair to mention in sales descriptions and collectibility entries whether or not it is a derived mold (version 2 or later). My thought is that the first versions are the closest to Maureen's original models, and thus the best representatives of their kind.

The bottomless molds are tricky to ID without a clear, felt-free view of the underside, as it has been illustrated that OFs exist on them, too. You never know what may be lurking underneath that felt bottom, maybe even an original price sticker, as you'll see further into this post. The photo below shows a wear-shadow that hints of a hollow base on this feller. If in person, give the bottom center a thunk; you'll know right away if it has a ceramic wall there. So far, it looks like the factory never put these on, but rather, consumers did, to protect their furnishings.

Black with Gold 239 v.2 with previous owner-added felt.

Black Pearl A-9 v.1 with previous owner-added felt, photo courtesy Susan Brady.

Still, the bottomless molds are overall smaller (down a generation, and further, as plaster and clay reductions combine), except for the Leg-Out Facing Left. They cheated his size up by extending his neck with those rings and adding a couple inches of non-Love base. All of the bottomless molds have softer detail, wider seams, thicker legs, rounded ears, and rounded hooves compared to most of the inscribed-bottom molds, as one would expect if molded off of a glazed (and thus, flooded detail) master. All of these points are quite obvious in the side-by-side comparison above.

To illustrate that not all hobby mold versions are easy to tell at a glance:

This is a custom glaze on the 25" tall Facing Right hobby mold.
It could easily fool one to think H-1, if you don't give the grass a close look.
Photo courtesy Laura Behning.

Values of Factory Love-sculpted and Derived Lanes

For a general idea of age, let's stick with the Lane trademark dates for the OF (factory glazed) horses. This means 1973-1974 is the last year the company kept its name. It does not rule out that they might have sold their molds to another factory. There could have been post-1974 Love OFs by a different pottery, using the Lane molds. The bottom-less, unmarked mold variations could support this, and selling/copying molds certainly was a common practice among potteries. Even after Lane or whatever factory was no more, it can take years to sell off inventory. Don't be surprised to find provenance that claims these horses were bought new in the mid-late '70's. These horses are vintage, in the "not-quite-antiques-but-at-least-30-years-old" sense. Chips, cracks, gold surface wear, and breaks are very common. So are the models.

These horses were not high-end porcelain limited editions. In fact, they are not porcelain at all. They are earthenware (low fire) clay, a much cheaper and easier material to manufacture. They were made by Lane, a company that mass produced TV lamps and planters. These horses, figural home decor for the working class, produced by a functional-ware pottery, were retailed in discount department stores. Today's equivalent retailers would be Target or K Mart; in other words, they were not in jewelry shops, nor the Nordstrom's fine china department.*

For example, here is an original Arlan's Discount Department Store price tag on a Lane A-9 Running Horse in OF Pearl Black:

Black Pearl A-9, photo courtesy Susan Brady.

Some stores had the inventory year stamped on their price stickers. Let's pretend that "68" indicates 1968, so
US$ 4.99 in 2010 dollars is about US$ 31.30, according to this site.

Even in 1974, the last year of Lane as a brand name, that's only US$ 22.10 in 2010 dollars.

If you don't like that method of valuation, as it doesn't take into account the rise of Love's popularity since they were made, ask your fellow collectors what they paid. What I have been told is the prices today average US$10 each, with only two examples in excess of that. One was $50 and another $80 at auction, both several years ago, when the model horse market was much stronger. One or two have set Buy-It-Now prices much higher, but those are the only high actual selling prices I have heard.

I have never paid more than $30 for any one, including a 25" giant horse, that I have found online or in shops. Most were in the $9 to $14 range. I have left some behind, like the "in the wild" photos, because they didn't strike my fancy. Some antique dealers online think that because they are so large, they deserve a large BIN price tag. I know of two that have sat at $75 each for the full year since I last researched this topic. I personally have some derived mold examples that make for good examples for this blog, but beyond that, I don't value them. Love purists are probably in agreement there. If you're going to pay $100+ for a "Maureen Love Lane", make sure it is a first versiongenuine article of whichever mold you like, and in mint condition.

Were the first version Lanes ever high-dollar items? No.

Were they offered exclusively through one elite retailer? Absolutely not.

Only one or two colors? Clearly, no.

Are they really "rare"? Not by any normal collecting definition, but they are collectible, as the same can be said of many Hagen-Renakers. No one denies HR collectibility!

Are these Lane molds loved because of who sculpted them? Yes, and that fondness sees beyond the craziest of glazes. It is up to individual collectors whether they will value the subsequent mold versions.

The internet changed everything; things we once thought rare are now turning out to be fairly common. I find at least one of these horses a month online, and I frequently stumble across them in person, at resale shops or swap meets/flea markets. My advice is to protect yourself as an online buyer; always get a photo of the base underside, and an exact description of condition. Spend based on how long you are willing to wait for another one in that exact color and detail to come along.

I'm torn in delivering this bad news on values and rarity, because I would prefer to see all of Maureen's work highly valued. I'm impartially putting my research out there, make of it what you will. I invite others to share what they have learned about these horses and the manufacturers. Values of custom glazes by hobbyists on derived hobby molds are going to be based on the quality of the custom glazing and the crispness of the casting. I can't even begin to discuss their values because there is such a massive range of quality.

*I don't know if Grant's was a discount department store in the same vein as Arlan's or Target. I'm told it was more like J.C.Penney's.

1 comment:

  1. What a cool article Kristina, so full of info and equine eye candy! I had no idea any of these guys were out there. Something else to keep an eye out for when I go out antiquing! Thanks for writing this!