The horse girl to model horse collector pipeline is a short one. Breyer model horses are the pinnacle of the collectible model horse circuit and have been steadily capturing these majestic beasts’ likenesses since the 1950s. Get to know the story behind this quaint collectible and the model horses with insurance values that rival their Kentucky Derby counterparts.
That Time a Clock Unintentionally Popularized the Model Horse
The Breyer Molding Company was originally an early plastics manufacturer, though you probably recognize them better as Breyer Animal Creations aka the name in the model horse game. The story behind how they made this transition makes for the perfect late-night trivia question.
In 1950, the F.W. Woolworth Company ordered a special molded horse from Breyer as the cherry on top of a mantlepiece clock they were working on. The clock was a bit of a bust, but people absolutely loved the horse and sent Breyer hundreds of requests asking where they could purchase it. And so, seizing the opportunity in front of them, #57 Western Horse became the first model horse of its kind.
What Are Model Horses?
Much like Matchbook Cars and Lionel train sets, model horses are proportionally scaled-down versions of the real thing. These horses are usually made out of plastic and painted in all their inspiration's finery.
Model Horse Sizes
Model horses from any brand can come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the largest at 1:9 scale to the smallest at 1:64. Collector standards for these sizes are:
- Traditional: 1:9 scale
- Classic: 1:12 scale
- Littlebits: 1:24 scale
- Stablemate: 1:32 scale
- Miniature: 1:64 scale
Model Horse Brands
Undoubtedly, Breyer is the best-known model horse manufacturer, but there are many other brands to look for. Some of these smaller, lesser-known brands include:
- Peter Stone
Model Horses That Make Collectors Whinny & Neigh
If you’ve ever been to the racetrack and listened to how much prize-winning horses are worth, you won’t be surprised at just how much horse enthusiasts are willing to spend on these lifelike figurines. But what makes a model horse stand out?
Single Year Runs
Scarcity creates value. With model horses, the fewer that were made of a specific kind, the more valuable each of the ones in that run are. Beyond specialty horses, single-year runs are highly collectible because of how few were pumped out within those 12 months.
Older model horses were usually hand-painted, meaning you could find a lot of color variation from horse to horse. Some collectors love finding the different variants of a specific model horse.
Chalkies & Pearlies
Chalkies and pearlies are two specific Breyer models that were manufactured in the 1970s when finding the white plastic for their horses was incredibly difficult thanks to oil embargoes. Chalkies were made with recycled plastics and painted with a white base coat while pearlies had plastic that gave a pearlescent finish.
These are two of the rarer types of Breyer model horses, making them a must-have in people’s collections.
How Much Are Model Horses Worth?
On the whole, model horses aren’t worth that much. For around $50, you can get a brand-new Breyer model horse in all its galloping glory. In the right circles, you can sell vintage model horses for around $1,000, like this Gold Florentine Five Gaiter Breyer horse from the 1960s that sold for $1,563. But most model horses won’t make it past the $30 threshold.
However, a Breyer Glossy Silver Dun Pegasus broke records in a Breyerfest auction. This rearing Pegasus decked out with stormy gray wings was released in 2022 and sold a year later for a shocking $65,000. What makes this horse so special is its highly emotive design. From the hairs in its mane to the wings on its back, this horse screams motion. And it goes to show that any model horse in good condition and with a great design can sell for a ton of money when the right buyer is interested.
If You Can’t Ride Them, Collect Them
Riding horses is expensive. So, if you can’t ride them, you can always collect them. Collectible model horses capture all that raw energy without any upkeep and liability. Unless you’re taking your model horses to Sid’s workshop from Toy Story, they shouldn’t go lame on you anytime soon.