Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Joy of the Factory "Second"

A colleague in the model horse hobby gave me a gift not long ago: it's a rose gray Hagen-Renaker mini Arabian foal from the era when HR was located in Monrovia, California. I was quite pleased for two reasons: one, I didn't own this model in this color.  And two, this particular foal also helps illustrate an interesting aspect of HR history: that of the Factory Second.

Hagen-Renaker A-48 min Arabian foal,
tail pointing straight, first issued Fall 1959. 

You can tell from the foal's face that he has flaws that were probably incurred at the factory, around his eyes.  He has an extra chunk of clay on his right side, and his left eye is barely painted compared to my white mini Arab foal.

The reason the rose gray foal illustrates a bit of model horse history is that we know from anecdotal information and from newspaper ads of the day, that it was quite common for less-than-perfect Hagen-Renaker animal figurines, as more than one collector has described it to me, to "escape the factory."

I have to admit, the first time I heard that expression, I had a mental image of a tiny flawed ceramic horse coming to life and skittering out the back door of the factory while the employees were at lunch, to avoid being tossed in the trash.  

In reality, Hagen-Renaker regularly sold its second quality and soon-to-be-discontinued pieces from the factory itself, as described in this Pasadena, California newspaper classified ad from 1959:

 And at least one pottery store in nearby Pasadena sold HR seconds as well.  These Los Angeles Times display ads date from between 1964 and 1966.

It's also possible that factory seconds went home with Hagen-Renaker employees; after that, the seconds could have been sold at yard sales, estate sales, antique malls and the like.

And, in doing research for this blog, I've talked to more than one older person who lived in Monrovia during the 1950s and early 1960s who told me that, as kids, they used to walk by the Hagen-Renaker factory and dig through the trash looking for more-or-less intact ceramic figurines that didn't quite measure up or were otherwise not needed by the company.  (And yes, I asked them and no, they didn't still have the pieces they rescued.)

But what does a collector do with a tiny ceramic scrap of model horse history, besides display him next to his undamaged friend?

You find him a mom, of course.  One that also escaped the factory, not-quite-as-intended.  Like this Monrovia rose gray mini Arabian mare that never had her forelock painted.

A-48 foal with A-46 mini Arabian mare, also first issued Fall 1959.

Both pieces were designed with great care by artist Maureen Love, and despite not being "perfect" they have survived over the decades to land on my shelf. 

I think they look wonderful together.  

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