This disclaimer is necessary because the established stance is, HR's DW molds were never altered between Monrovia and San Dimas.
The mold retooling that took place in the early 1980's for San Marcos is both acknowledged by collectors and by Jim Renaker, according to Nancy Kelly*.
Hagen-Renakers' Designer's Workshop mold, Sun Cortez, is a prime example of the observations I am (and other collectors are) making about mold differences between Monrovia and San Dimas factory eras. Of the molds that survived at least two factory eras, I have observed that quite a few went through an apparent resculpt and remolding. Some of us collectors summarize the entire multiple mold situation by citing "the mane of Sun Cortez" as the classic example of change.
Collectors are less likely to see the middle-era mold variant, because the San Dimas mold version is so rare. The main side-by-side comparison in this post is between Monrovia and San Marcos. Further on, the San Dimas will be shown. You read that correctly, I interpret three separate mold versions of Sun Cortez.
Left: San Dimas White matte photo and owned by author;
Right: Monrovia Palomino owned by Jayne Kubas
Why edit a mold's mane?
The mane flip of Monrovia Sun Cortez is prone to chipping.
Maybe the resculpt reduced loss in shipping and retail?
If you are wondering why such an otherwise crisply detailed palomino
has a smooth face, keep reading...
Huge difference in neck wrinkles and shoulder sculpture, too.
Different hindquarter muscle sculpts.
Different shoulder muscles.
Different chest muscles, throats.
The mane, however, is not the only difference. The entire x-y axes orientation of the heads are different, and it's in the mold. In fact, the above smoothed-out face isn't from a mismatched older mold piece (as evidenced by the neck and throat wrinkles) nor a sponge wipe. It was purposefully flooded of all undercuts because the head makes a 45 degree, when viewed from above.
Monrovia 45 degrees, San Marcos 90 degrees.
The more open angle makes demolding easier and allows more face detail.
Monrovia head tilts slightly upwards.
Above, San Marcos has distinct points of buttock and differentiated tail.
Below, crispy Monrovia is boneless and has little detail in tail.
San Marcos analogous Achilles tendon goes all the way up to tail swish;
in the Monrovia mold, the tendon ends abruptly halfway up to tail.
Differences: cheekbone, lips, nostril, eye, curb, throat...
San Marcos has face veins.
Differences: cheekbones, nostrils, eye bulges, width between eyes, brow, width of muzzle...
So, the above comparison, showing retooling, is consistent with Jim's information.
San Marcos Cortez molds -King, Sun, and Don- in White (glossy and matte) are also interesting because unlike the Arabian family and DW Head-Up and -Down Ponies, their gray shading is like the old underglaze gray of the previous eras. Other than the Cortez trio, other San Marcos molds in white have a dark, cold tone to their gray shading, in both matte and gloss.
Note the dark, bluish gray shading on this San Marcos matte white Zara.
Compare to the matte and glossy white San Marcos Sun Cortez models below.
Zara photos by author.
San Marcos White matte left, glossy on right.
Photo courtesy Marcia Miner.
San Marcos White glossy, and now matte on right.
Photos courtesy Ed Alcorn.
San Marcos White matte.
His hooves give away that he is not the bluish gray, despite photo contrast.
Photo courtesy Janis Whitcomb.
San Marcos White glossy, photos courtesy Nancy Falzone.
Look at that soft gray, even under the intensifier of gloss!
The San Dimas mold version, in the very rare bay color. The San Dimas also was released in palomino. As you can see, the San Dimas mold has an altered mane, like San Marcos. Unlike the later era, though, the face details are not as chiseled and hard. Neither are the facial features flooded like Monrovia. The San Dimas is, in my opinion, the in-between mold version. Speaking from my own experience as a moldmaker, it is challenging to mold and cast ceramic horses with such an extreme neck turn. I can understand why this horse was molded over and over, refining it for ease of production.
No mane flip, but retains Monrovia body muscle sculpts and short "Achilles".
The face is neither Monrovia nor San Marcos.
Photo courtesy Sue Thiessen.
Model owned by Nancy Falzone.
Top Row: Monrovia
Lower two: San Dimas
No mane flips on San Dimas.
Photo courtesy Ed Alcorn.
Here is what appears to be a Monrovia-San Dimas Transition model.
White on the altered San Dimas mold!
His eye decoration and sticker are similar to the transition model shown in this post.
Photos courtesy Marcia Miner.
Left: white "transition" with no mane flip
Right: Monrovia palomino
Unlike my usual portrait investigations, I came up dry on the real Sun Cortez. I have this photo to share, but of the two palominos standing behind King Cortez, I can't tell you which one he is.
Far left: King Cortez, Ernest Specht up.
The other Cortez boys are ridden by Ernest's sisters.
The photo above, with Sun and Don in parade sets, indicated that the tack was made around 1960. My research has shown that some parts of King's set existed as far back as 1947, the date of the photo of him shown below.
King Cortez in 1947, with his early parade set.
Source: The Visual Arts: Plastic and Graphic, by Justine M. Cordwell, Google Books.
Page 674. Photo originally from Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association archives.
King Cortez seems to be a bit older than Sun and Don, as he is in promotional photos in a simpler, earlier version of his famous Bohlin parade set that dates to 1947. The post-1960 group photo shows King with a grown-out mane. In the references below, you can view a link to a King Cortez publicity photo dated to 1949. He was a famous parade horse, hence the multiple photos of him.
The three Cortez stallions premiered in Fall 1957 as HR Designer's Workshop models. The palomino matte of Monrovia and San Dimas is, obviously, the portrait color.
More mold observation posts in the future!
Gratitude to Jayne Kubas for her help with the side-by-side photo shoot, and to everyone who sent photos: Ed Alcorn, Nancy Falzone, Marcia Miner, Cindy Neuhaus, Sue Thiessen, and Janis Whitcomb.
* Kelly, Nancy. Pers. comm. 5/5/2012
Roller, Gayle. Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue. Third Edition. P. 80. The Charlton Press: Palm Harbor, FL, 2003.
1949 King Cortez old saddle set photo http://www.dancinghorses.com/king_cortez.htm