Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Packing a Ceramic Model Horse for Shipment

Disclaimer: If you've sold a ceramic horse figurine, please check with your buyer first to see what their preference is for safe shipping. There's more than one safe way to do it!  These are only my ideas.

My favorite way to acquire a new (old) model horse is to find it at an estate sale, yard sale or thrift store. And sometimes I buy model horses for my collection from online sellers.  

But there's a danger in buying something breakable online: it may break in transit.

"Clinky" horses are at great risk
of being damaged during shipment!

Social media sites for "clinky" (ceramic, porcelain, china) animal collectors have lately been full of horror stories of rather expensive horse figurines damaged in transit -- heads broken off, legs crushed -- due to rough handling and inadequate packaging. (One friend tells the story of receiving a crushed ceramic horse figurine that had been shipped in a padded mailer with no extra protection.)

Sellers are not always familiar with different strategies for packing a ceramic horse figurine (such as a Hagen-Renaker or Beswick horse) for shipment, so I've come up with some suggestions to share. 

In packing for shipment, we are securing the breakable horse so she doesn't rattle around inside the box. We're pretending she's a raw egg, or a baby mouse that needs a nest to protect it. We're not putting so much pressure on her that she will crack from our careful handling. We are protecting her from the (almost inevitable) mishandling of the postal service, UPS, FedEx or other delivery service.

My strategy is to very gently wrap the horse like a mummy, then use additional thick padding materials to protect it inside two shipping boxes, the smaller inside the larger.

If you can use a larger outer box with two or more inches of packing peanuts or foam around the inner box, so much the better. The important thing is that the horse not shift around. Gentle but sturdy.

        Note: I did not sell and ship the horse in the photos. She's the Hagen-Renaker B-567 "Sespe Violette" Belgian mare,  just posing for the photos.  If I were shipping a piece like this, I would use bigger boxes, pay the extra money for shipping a larger box, and use an overnight insured service. 

You will need:

Ceramic horse figurine

Two sturdy boxes, one smaller than the other

Packing peanuts and/or other small packing material (not paper)

Cotton balls or something similar

Foam rubber (I just get an inexpensive twin size mattress topper from Walmart and cut pieces of it to fit -- you can ship several horses off of one pad)

A roll of toilet tissue

Bubble wrap

Sturdy packing tape

"Fragile" labels or a thick marking pen to write "fragile" on the outer box

Step 1: Gently Mummify the Horse

Take the horse and put a piece of foam in between the legs as shown. Put another small piece of foam or part of a cotton ball between the ears. Fill in the gaps between the foam and the horse, between the legs and between the ears, with cotton balls (pull them apart if you need to) or cotton/polyfill batting. Be generous but gentle in filling the gaps.  Extra fluff hanging outside the horse is okay. 

Now take the roll of toilet paper and gently mummify the whole horse. Make sure you wrap it at least twice around, all around. No horse should be showing; make sure there’s tissue around the ears, hooves, knees, tail, etc.

Step 2: Prepare the Boxes

Important: Using this technique, you should leave two inches or more of padding between any edge, side or extremity of the horse (a hoof, an ear, a tail) and the edge of the inner box. If the horse is too large to fit into this configuration, use a larger box. 

I cannot stress this enough: Wedging a ceramic figurine, even a well-wrapped one, into a too-small box almost guarantees it will arrive broken.

Put a layer of packing peanuts or foam or a few layers of bubble wrap on the bottom inside of the outer box. Then set the inner box, which holds the horse, inside. Take your foam rubber and cut it to fit the bottom and all four sides of the inner box, and then cut another piece or pieces to fit on the top of the inner box.

Step 3: Installation of the Horse  

Wrap the horse, horizontally and vertically (two long sheets) in bubble wrap (see photo on right, above). Put the horse in the inner box. You should be able to close the lid of the inner box with *room to spare* because we're going to put additional padding on top. Take cotton balls or packing peanuts and stuff them all around the corners of the horse and the foam, gently but firmly, so the horse in its mummified, bubble-wrapped state, won't rattle around inside. 

Then cut a piece of foam to put between the mummified, bubble-wrapped horse and the lid. 

Put the smaller box with the horse in it, inside the larger box. Put additional foam or packing peanuts in all the space between the two boxes, bottom, sides and top. 

There should still be some room, preferably an inch or two, between the boxes. 

Put more foam or packing peanuts in the space in between them.

Then secure the outer box with tape all around mark it FRAGILE all around.

Insure the parcel for the full purchase price.  

Again, communicate with your buyer (or recipient, if the horse is a gift) prior to shipping the horse. Folks who pay more than a few dollars for ceramic horse figurines online are likely to be passionate collectors of ceramic horses, and there are several of them out there. These die-hard collectors are the only people willing to shell out this kind of money for a piece that sold for a few dollars retail almost half a century ago. 

Your buyer will probably have their own suggestions for packaging. The important thing is to have a dialogue with them about their own preferences before you ship. You also want to ask them about whether they want to pay extra for a larger box, expedited service, and which shipping service they prefer. 

Or, if you are happily astonished at the final selling price, you’re feeling truly blessed, and you want to do a nice thing for the bidder, pay for the upgraded shipping yourself.

Other suggestions:

Cold weather can affect pieces in transit. Advise your recipient to let the box warm up to indoor room temperature before opening it and unwrapping the horse.

I do not recommend that you hire a "we pack and ship for you" service to send a ceramic horse figurine. They may have no idea how fragile these pieces can be.

There are other ways to ship a breakable horse safely. Alternately, you can use one box and custom-sized thick egg-carton foam with cutouts for the horse (or horses, if they're small). This method is used by some professionals. Trace around the horse with a felt pen, then remove the horse (!) and use a snap-off blade utility knife, Exacto knife or kitchen shears (utility knife will work best) to cut a section out. Make sure you put some of the extra foam in between the horse's legs.

Note that there is padded protection in between the horses' legs and all around, including space around the sides of the box.  The box in these photos is ten inches high. Each piece of the black foam is about five inches thick. 

There are other methods of packing for shipment; these are only two. I hope they've been helpful!  



The owner of a major retailer of ceramic figurines once told me that her company tested packaging techniques by boxing up a "clinky" figurine as if they were going to ship it using a major delivery service. Then two employees would test the efficacy of their packaging by dropping the box out of the window of a car going 15 to 35 mph, onto asphalt.  The company just assumed that each parcel would get kicked around like a football at some point during transit. 

Try to anticipate the actual cost of shipment you will charge prior to listing a breakable horse figurine for sale. If the outer box you use has one or more dimensions longer than 12 inches (long, deep or high), shipping rates skyrocket. The eBay "postage calculator" doesn't always take that into account. But it's better to use a larger box (and charge more for shipping) than to have a lovely, valuable piece arrive broken. 

Don't necessarily pay or charge extra for official USPS "fragile" handling, though. The USPS "fragile" service is for shipping things like live baby chicks and medical lab samples.  The USPS website advises senders to mark regular priority mail boxes FRAGILE if the item inside could break. 

If you ship a model horse and -- despite your best packing efforts -- it does arrive damaged, anticipate that the buyer may want to have it professionally restored rather than just toss the pieces in the trash or try to glue it back together. That's why you need to buy insurance. 

Here's a link to a foam mattress topper at (I've always found them in the stores too, in various sizes):

If you're using USPS, you can get free boxes from their website:

U-Haul has relatively inexpensive packing supplies:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hagen-Renaker Animal Figurines, Part One

This post is a duplicate of one I previously shared on my other blog, The Estate Sale Chronicles. I enjoy going to estate sales, yard sales, thrift stores and other such places to try to find books and figurines and other things that interest me.

Hagen-Renaker Animal Figurines, Part One

I'm labeling this post "Part One" because I know for sure that I will be talking about Hagen-Renaker animal figurines again in this blog.

Hagen-Renaker miniature Rearing Horse, 3.5 inches tall,
designed by Maureen Love, produced in 1958.   

A recent Los Angeles Times story documents the story of a California pottery, Hagen-Renaker:,0,5981103.story#axzz30NkcSR1K

I've been collecting Hagen-Renakers (mostly horses) since I was a teenager, and yes, I still have the first one I ever bought (although most of the other H-Rs I've owned have either been sold, traded to other collectors, or were lost in a major earthquake).  Since the H-R company has been in business since the late 1940s, it's not uncommon for me to find their little animal figurines at estate sales.  

I've found several Hagen-Renaker animals at estate sales in recent months -- mostly horses, but also some dogs and other little breakable animals.  

Assorted Hagen-Renaker miniature horses, found at one estate sale.
These dates to the 1950s and early 1960s.  All were designed by Maureen Love.
It doesn't matter to me if the horse has been damaged and repaired, or even if it's missing a leg or a tail; if the head is still attached, and the estate sale price didn't come out of an overly-optimistic "price guide," I want it.  (That's partly because I have a friend who is very good at restoring legs, tails and hooves on small ceramic horses.)

Hagen-Renaker "Queenie" Cocker Spaniel and "Dot" puppy, found at an estate sale.   
Mama is 4.75 inches tall and was made in 1954.  Designed by Helen Perrin Farnlund.

Hagen-Renaker miniature mama and baby Cocker Spaniels, found at an estate sale. 
Mama is 1 3/8 inches tall.  These also are Helen Perrin Farnlund designs. 
Notice how different the design style is on these comical little guys, 
compared to the next photo.

Hagen-Renaker "Pip Emma" Cocker Spaniel, sitting next to some other unidentified ceramic animals, all found at an estate sale. Emma is 2.5 inches tall and was designed by Tom Masterson.  She's much more realistic than the dogs in the previous photos.  But they're all by Hagen-Renaker.

Speaking of "price guides" and estate sales:  I like books about collectibles.  It's helpful to know what a certain company's items looked like, how old they are, and which ones are more common or more scarce.  But price guides are not always reliable sources when it comes to putting a price tag on a collectible at an estate sale.  

It's important to consider that, at some level, any collectible item is only "worth" as much as you, or someone else, is willing to pay for it at the time in a particular venue (estate sale, yard sale, online auction or collector-to-collector).  And what someone is willing to pay, may depend on whether they want it for their personal collection, want to give as a gift, or are just buying it to try to resell it at a profit.  

I just checked and there are close to 5,000 items listed under "Hagen-Renaker" on eBay today.  So if you want to sell one, you may have competition. Here's my suggestion for sellers:  If you know exactly what item you have to sell, and you've checked its condition, don't just go by the price guide value.  Search for SOLD (not ongoing) auctions on eBay for that same item, and refine your search to "lowest price + shipping."  Then scroll down to see what people are actually paying for the item you have.  That will give you an idea of the low end of the price range you might anticipate for reselling it.  And remember, P.T. Barnum was not always right -- not every collector is a sucker.

The prices on Hagen-Renaker animals go up and down over time, depending on their rarity, condition, condition, condition, and which potential buyers a) came across the item for sale and b) just got a tax refund they're dying to spend on their hobby.  In the case of online auctions, I've seen Hagen-Renaker prices go through the roof on a particular piece, probably because at least two people "had" to have that item for their collection.  And I've seen other pieces sell for considerably less than I thought they should have, for whatever reason.  

Hagen-Renaker's designs have been copied (legally and otherwise) over the years, and some of the copies are pretty good.  For example, the nicest Lefton (Japan) copies of Hagen-Renaker horses are collectible in their own right.  Being able to tell a vintage Hagen-Renaker animal from another brand of small ceramic animals is not just a matter of looking in a "price guide" book; it takes a bit of study and experience to know which ones are H-Rs and which ones aren't.  

To help you do some research, Ed and Sheri Alcorn have a virtual Hagen-Renaker museum online:

And here's the link to the company's website:


Hagen-Renaker B-707 "Amir" Arabian stallion

Do you collect model horse figurines? If so, welcome! (And if not, you're still welcome to learn more about this hobby.)

This blog will feature stories and photographs from my own (admittedly small compared to other people's collections) model horse collection.  We'll talk about model horses created by Hagen-Renaker, Beswick, Breyer, Hartland and other manufacturers.  We'll explore stories of the people who designed and distributed model horse figurines.  We'll look at some of the real horses that inspired horse figurines.

Much of what I want to share with others in the hobby is information about the history of model horses. I've been collecting since I was a child, and I feel it's important that collectors share with others what they know about the hobby and the times that influenced it. 

I'll also share links to information on current and upcoming model horse information, virtual and "live" model horse gatherings, and more!

Old Breyer glossy alabaster Proud Arabian Mare
and Hagen-Renaker "Drum Major" Yearling