Monday, July 21, 2014

Muddy Monday: Collector Stories, Volume One

Some of the best stories collectors tell are about amazing finds in small towns, coincidences, and random help from strangers. Being at BreyerFest reminded me of this, as I heard stories shared between china collectors. These were submitted by collectors online.

From Lynn Isenbarger:

I had an unusual experience finding my little HR Monrovia Sherif. It has won a champ or reserve at nearly every show I've taken it to, including Reserve Grand Champ of the Americanware Show at Breakables in 2012 and Reserve National Champion in Breed at this year's NAN.

Karen Beeson and I went to an auction in tiny Fairbury, Illinois on a whim back in the very early 1990s. Fairbury was about an hour away, but the listing had mentioned a few horses for sale so we decided to go check it out together. The auction building was small and full of stuff, and as we looked at the sales tables, there was a small box of HRs, mostly broken.

I brought home my stickered, beautifully shaded Sherif after paying $4. He had a clean and glued leg break, but I had that restored. Now he takes place of pride in my china hutch.

I still marvel that tiny Fairbury harbored HRs! 

From Tiffany Tran:

There is one horse in my collection, one of my most prized pieces, that I believe was destined to be mine.

I've always admired and coveted Kathi Bocuki's Showman in bone china by Horsing Around. While HA did a lovely job with the original finish colors, I always wanted to have a custom glazed Showman in elegant dapple bay with chrome. Alas, I couldn't afford to commission one from HA, so he remained a clinky dream. 

One day last year, after a day of errands, I logged online to check MH$P (as we all do) and noticed excitedly that someone had listed my dream horse: a CG Showman in dapple bay with chrome; at a price I could afford. To my great dismay, he was marked as 'ON HOLD'. Disappointed, but determined, I sent an email to the seller, explaining to her that this horse was the incarnation of a personal clinky grail and begged her to please let me know if the sale didn't go through for any reason. Although she agreed to keep me informed, I personally had my doubts that the buyer would back out, because it was such a gorgeous piece for a reasonable price.

Some time later, maybe a couple weeks, I received an email from the seller of the CG Showman. I held my breath as I opened the email. It turned out that the person who was going to buy the Showman had wanted to buy a few models from the seller, but could not afford all of them. As a result, the would-be buyer decided to back out on Showman. The seller asked if I was still interested in Showman...


Three months and several time payments later, I was thrilled and grateful to welcome Showman into my collection. He was stunning; everything I imagined and more. In my excitement, I posted his photo to Blab and told the story of how he came to live with me - and to my surprise the hobbyist who originally commissioned him from HA came forth, and told me the identity of the real life racehorse whose markings were reproduced on my Showman. 

But the story doesn't end there. One day, maybe a couple months after acquiring the CG Showman, I was going through my model horse photos that I'd saved on my computer over the years and stumbled across two grainy old photographs from a long-gone MH$P listing. They were of a CG Showman... a CG Showman in dapple bay with chrome, and very familiar indeed. It seems that years ago I had seen the very same CG Showman for sale on MH$P, and could not afford the asking price, but saved the photos as inspiration. Apparently he changed hands, possibly multiple times, since that first encounter until the time he was offered to me.

Somehow, my dream Showman found me at last. He will stay with me forever. 

Photo courtesy Tiffany Tran.

From Lois Bennington:

How I found my Sespi....A girl I worked with told me that her neighbor was having an auction and she knew there was horse figurines in the house.  So I went to the auction and was disappointed to find NOT ONE horse.  

I'm basically an introvert but I summoned all of my courage and knocked on the lady's door.  'Lori told me you had horse figures.  Do you mind if I see your horses?' and she let me in the house.

There wasn't a lot of good stuff there but in the back of the cabinet was a Sespi.  I couldn't tell what shape it was in.  So I summoned some more courage and wrote my name and address down on a piece of paper and told her 'If you ever want to sell that horse, I would pay you a $100.00 plus 100.00 for each leg that was not broken.  I thought I insulted her by the look she gave me.  Disappointed, I left.

EIGHT years later...I got a letter from another lady.  Do you remember offering some money to a lady for a horse?  The horse's owner was going into a nursing home and was ready to sell.  I could not believe she had kept that piece of paper all that time.  

Plus, I had just gone through 1-1/2 years of unemployment while going back to school.  The unemployment ended 6 months before school did.  I was dead broke by the time I graduated.  Luckily, I was just starting my new job.  If she had called any time sooner, I would not have had the money that I offered her because the Sespi was perfect.

Photos courtesy Lois Bennington.

The horse is now named 'Whitehall Unbelievable' because of the unbelievable luck that the lady kept that piece of paper!  

From Maggie Barkovitz:

On April 2, 2006, one day after my 1 year anniversary of moving to Missouri, I got to encounter my first tornado.  I wasn't home when it hit, and I wasn't allowed in until the next day.  When we were allowed into town, I was greeted by a pine tree sticking out our front window, and a pecan tree that had smashed our second bedroom.  Where my china cabinet sat, the tree now sat.  The cabinet was on the ground.   We lived on the second floor of a two-story apartment complex.  Our apartment was the only one damaged.  

Photo courtesy Maggie Barkovitz.

To this day I still feel the numbness I felt that day, knowing that the most valuable objects I owned, the most valuable object in that apartment, were reduced to shards.  One horse, my Otto known as Spanker, remained mostly intact save a broken leg and a few huge chips to his mane and tail.  He was found still in the second floor bedroom.  One horse managed to survive the fall with only a few chips - my Bahkitt, known to collectors as Lemonzilla.  She had some minor chips, that was it.  The rest were reduced to parts.  Dave found most of them by carefully excavating them from underneath the ceiling, the insulation, and tree.

Photo courtesy Maggie Barkovitz.

They had stories, these horses.  Most of what I collect have stories.  My Hadrian, aka "Haddock the Hadrian", was as a result of a scheme between Joanie, Lesli and Pam.  Joanie had sent Pam a bisque by mistake.  She told Pam to hold on to the bisque.  My birthday was coming up so she asked Lesli if she could glaze it.  Imagine my surprise when he showed up!  All that is left of him is half a body and his nose.  Lemonzilla was a piece I saw Lynn have at the very first Breakables in 2002.  The following year when she was getting ready for BOYC so I asked if one of the horses she was selling was Lemonzilla.  She was and I was so excited to get her.  The Spinnaker I had just received from Addi not long before the tornado.  I entered the lottery for him on the last day at the last hour - next day he was mine.  Otto came to me after I lost out on Puzzle.  He was my second favorite, and was thrilled that Lesli offered him to me.  I loved the hand painting in his mane.  The genie was such a great prize.  She was my favorite of the original run of 20, and when she came up for sale again I was at the right place at the right time.  I received her one month before my next show.  I never got to show her - her name was Bagel.  Two weeks before Ozark Mountain Live, an F-3/4 came through Caruthersville and crushed her & her friends.  It crushed me too - now they look like ancient sculpture ruined by time and war. 


Photo courtesy Maggie Barkovitz.

Friends were so kind.  They sent me shiny pretty ponies to ease the pain.  The biggest surprise was genie's "twin".   What made her twin unique was she was slightly altered from the original, but not by much, so you have to put her up against one of the run of 20 to see it.  She was cast and glazed by Lynn herself to match the pattern of the original.  It was so touching.  I do have her for sale now, but if she never leaves I won't mind.  But to rebuild a collection on a salary less than what I was making in Philadelphia has been tough.  I was able to rebuild to the original quantity I have, but have never been able to grow it past what I had before.  It's been frustrating, but there will always be shiny ponies, and I'll just trade and sell towards what I want my collection to be.

Replacement Genie on left; original Genie remains on right.
Photo courtesy Maggie Barkovitz.

Lemonzilla was sold to another collector, Corrie McDermott, who lovingly restored her and had a great show career with her. Two years ago I was judging Stone Age Live and I had a chance to see Lemonzilla in person since selling her.  I cried, and surprised myself on how much she still affected me.  Last year Corrie was downsizing and contacted me about her.  My birthday present from Dave was being reunited with Lemonzilla.  I cried again - she was home.

You would think that a storm like that would have me shy away from collecting custom glaze china - not on your life.  I love the medium, always have.  Of course, they now reside in the tornado closet, aka the earthquake closet.  I live on the New Madrid fault line...we've had tremors...why did I think moving to Missouri was a good idea again?

From the blog author:

Some of my own stories have been shared on this blog. When you collect for a while, you tend to also collect adventures and spooky stories. I was looking through my collection record for a fresh one, and found that they tend to fall in themes.

A truly astonishing story deserved an entire blog post, the beautiful gift from Margo Potheau.

"The One That Got Away and Came Back"
In which a series of owners get the item from the very moment it was first made available, but through the help of one or more friends, it finds you, years later. The item is always a one-of-a-kind variation, or not an OF at all, which means the same identifiable piece can be traced throughout its course.

"If You Research It, It Will Come"
This never ceases to give me goosebumps. I will not say a word to anyone about a blog post draft I am researching online- digging through pedigrees, photos, files- but out of the blue, a rash of photos are mailed or emailed to me, or I am offered the exact item in trade.

"The Run"
A rapid series of unrelated events brings three or more of the same subject to me, in a very short time frame, like 90 days or less. The run is doubly improbable because the subject is seldom a common mold.

I would love to share your ceramic model horse stories that fit or expand the above categories. I am not looking for stories of cheap bargains, rather special purchases that are meaningful for other reasons. These will be posted in Volume Two. Carry on, Collectors.

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