Horse Tack Discussion

Thunderbolt wearing his best tack!


The Louis Marx Toy Company did some amazing work in the early Sixties... One fine example of that is their various Tack sets for their horses! On this page I'll take an in depth look at the production of these exceptional accessory sets and try to demystify the Mold Numbers that appear on some of the pieces and the modifications Marx made over the years.


But first, a little recap on PL Numbers and Piece Counts


PL Numbers: PL Numbers is how the Marx factories kept track of their various toys. Some think PL stands for Parts List, others think Plastics List. Regardless, the PL Number is seen on internal documentation and in the case of the PL Books, shows a breakdown of the item and all the associated parts that were made to complete the item. More on that later...


Piece Count: Piece Count is literally that, a count of the pieces that make up a particular group of accessories. In our example of the Western Tack Set, the piece count is 15: Saddle, Cinch Strap, Saddle Blanket, 2 Stirrup Straps, 2 Stirrups, 2 Saddle Bags, Saddle Bag Connector, Bridle, Bit, 2 Reins, and a Rifle Scabbard. The other Tack sets had different piece counts. See my section on Horse Accessories for pictures and other information

Molding

Molds used by Marx were designated by the PL number of the set they made. For example the first Western Horse Accessory mold was designated PL-1272 and was ordered from the company Ferriot Brothers on Feb 5, 1965. It was received by the Marx company in Erie, PA on Mar 31, 1965 at a cost of $11,800. It contained two Family Molds that each created a complete set of the Tack needed for the horse. Each of the sets had 15 individual Cavities that were the actual berilium copper mold for each part. The mold also contained steel parts that formed the Runners between the individual pieces. Think of a tree. The individual pieces are the leaves, the Runners are the network of branches and stems are called Gates that feed the leaves. After molding each set, some of these runners were cut off and used in the next batch of poly vinyl that was going to be injected. This reuse is called Regrind and the amount was closely monitored to prevent too much being used and degrading the new vinyl too much. There was always some post production work to do to a molded set, whether trimming off runners, separating, packaging, etc. Nothing went directly from mold to box. Often multiple copies of the molds were produced to keep up with demand. Sometimes there were modifications done to the actual part to improve its design or function.


Mold Numbers

Likely for quality control purposes, the parts in the two distinct halves of the mold sets (each creating a complete tack set) were numbered so that the employee could tell what part came from which half of the mold… If a saddle bag was not being formed correctly the employee could then target which half of the mold had an issue and address it. The original mold sets were not usually numbered, maybe because they felt comfortable with one mold, but as duplicate molds were coming on line, that issue became harder..


These numbers / letters in certain mold cavities were part of the mold cavity and created the mold number in the poly vinyl of the part. Not every part was numbered, sometimes the number couldn't be put on the part without being too visible but mostly because you only needed a couple of numbers on the side of the mold creating the part, because all parts came out of the mold connected to each other by the runners. For example, the Reins, Cinch Strap were molded next to each other, fed by the same runners, so they only marked the Cinch strap and not the reins.


Different fonts, letters, and numbers (some backwards) were all used on various mold cavities


There is really no proof that Marx used the numbers in ascending order, and some numbers/letters look like they were 'scratched' into the surface of the cavity by hand. So I think it is safe to say that, at least in the early days, this was a home grown solution to improve quality control and trouble shooting.


Ejector Pins

The purpose of an Ejector Pin in injection molding is to push the molded pieces out of the mold when it opened after cycling, the Ejector Pin Mark is caused by the ejector pin sitting in the mold, flush with the cavity wall when the mold is closed, the slight difference in height of the pin and the wall of the cavity caused a circle to be molded into the part.


The Mold making company (Ferriot Bros) in coordination with Marx, determined the best places to put the Ejector Pins in the mold. Not every cavity had a pin, but most did. If possible, they placed the pin on a Runner so it would not leave a mark on the actual piect, but that was not always enough to push the part out of the mold.


Each successive modification to the mold or duplication of the mold, likely had changes to the placement, size or number of Ejector Pins, all in an effort to improve the efficiency and cycle time of the mold.


Ok, ok... Enough lecture, lets take a detailed look at the various Tack Sets!


Western Tack Set

The Western Tack Set was the most widely produced set and was in production during the entire Johnny West decade.

  • Colors: It was made in several shades of Brown, Canadian Orange (2 versions), and Black. The early sets were made in a rubbery poly vinyl, but that was quickly changed to the more common thicker Poly V. material.
  • Modifications:
    • Saddle horn, started off narrow but then changed to larger and fatter
    • Extending Left side Rear Billet (Flank Cinch) strap: originally too short making the cinch strap tight and hard to put on, especially considering the first issue poly v was rubbery and stretched easily, causing the chinch to slip off the retaining nubs on the saddle.
    • Nubs on Saddle Bag connector got bigger: originally fairly small they would slip out of the saddle bag slots easily
    • Nubs on Rifle Sheath straps got bigger: originally fairly small they would slip out of the saddle slots easily
    • Possible lengthen of Cinch Strap but may be to stretching or shrinkage
  • Pieces and Mold Numbers
    • Saddle, mold number under the Seat
    • Saddle blanket, mold number under and centered
    • Saddle Bags (2), not numbered
    • Saddle bag connector, mold number under and centered
    • Stirrup Straps (2), mold number on inside of large end
    • Stirrups (2), not numbered
    • Rifle Sheath, not numbered
    • Cinch Strap, numbered underneath close to one end
    • Bridle, Numbered underneath the top nose strap
    • Reins (2), not numbered
    • Bit, not numbered
  • Horses with this set:
    • Thunderbolt
    • Flame
    • Buckskin
Western Saddle - Possible first edition with small saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle - Possible first edition with small saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 1 large ejector pin under the seat and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Not Numbered, Cavity had 1 large ejector pin under the seat and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 1 (large font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 1 (large font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 1 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle, and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 1 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle, and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 2 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle, and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Number 2 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle, and 2 smaller ones on the forward part of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Letter A (Hand Drawn), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Letter A (Hand Drawn), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Lettered AA (Hand Drawn), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Western Saddle with large saddle horn, Lettered AA (Hand Drawn), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the seat and rear of the saddle.
Stirrup Strap, Number 2, No ejector pin marks.
Stirrup Strap, Number 2, No ejector pin marks.
Stirrup Strap, Number 3, No ejector pin marks.
Stirrup Strap, Number 3, No ejector pin marks.
I did not take a picture of the most common Stirrup Strap, that being the one without any markings.
I believe there is one with a Number 1 on it but I have not found it.
Cinch Strap, Number 1, No ejector pin marks.
Cinch Strap, Number 1, No ejector pin marks.
Cinch Strap, Number 2, No ejector pin marks.
Cinch Strap, Number 2, No ejector pin marks.
I did not take a picture of the most common Cinch Strap, that being the one without any markings.
Saddle Blanket, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Blanket, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Blanket, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are centered on the blanket.
Saddle Blanket, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are centered on the blanket.
Saddle Blanket, Number 1 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Blanket, Number 1 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Blanket, Number 2 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Blanket, Number 2 (small font), Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the blanket. These are off-center (nearer the rear of the blanket).
Saddle Bag Connectors, No Number, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector. This image shows how they were either closer or more widespread.
Saddle Bag Connectors, No Number, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector. This image shows how they were either closer or more widespread.
Saddle Bag Connectors, All Connectors had 2 Nubs that held the Saddle Bags. The mold with the smaller ones was modified to make the Nubs larger and kept the bag more securely fastened.
Saddle Bag Connectors, All Connectors had 2 Nubs that held the Saddle Bags. The mold with the smaller ones was modified to make the Nubs larger and kept the bag more securely fastened.
Saddle Bag Connector, Number 1, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector.
Saddle Bag Connector, Number 1, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector.
Saddle Bag Connector, Number 2, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector.
Saddle Bag Connector, Number 2, All Connector Cavities had 2 large ejector pins under the connector.
Bridle, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps. These almost filled the entire width of the strap.
Bridle, No Number, Cavity had 2 large ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps. These almost filled the entire width of the strap.
Bridle, No Number, Cavity had 2 smaller ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps.
Bridle, No Number, Cavity had 2 smaller ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps.
Bridle, Number 2 under Nose strap, Cavity had 2 very small ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps.
Bridle, Number 2 under Nose strap, Cavity had 2 very small ejector pins under the Forehead and Nose Straps.



I believe there is a Bridle with a Number 1 on it but I have not found it.



Cavalry Tack Set

The Cavalry Tack Set, PL 1272A, used most parts in common with the Western set (Except the Saddle itself). Therefore, it is entirely possible that some of the mold numbers and ejector pin locations I noted above actually belong to one or more of the Cavalry Tack mold sets.

  • Colors: It was made in several shades of Brown, Canadian Orange (2 versions), and Black. The early sets were made in a rubbery poly vinyl, but that was quickly changed to the more common thicker Poly V. material.
  • Modifications:
    • This mold was first made in March of 1967. I believe that by that time Marx fixed the Rifle Scabbard and Saddle Bag Connector Nub issue, but it's impossible to tell unless we see a sealed set of Cavalry Tack with both nub versions
  • Pieces and Mold Numbers
    • Saddle, mold number underneath the side of the Saddle. I'm surprised that this large piece did not require an Ejector Pin, perhaps they could be placed on the Runners close to the saddle?
    • Saddle blanket, mold number under and centered
    • Saddle Bags (2), not numbered
    • Saddle bag connector, mold number under and centered
    • Stirrup Straps (2), mold number on inside of large end
    • Stirrups (2), not numbered
    • Rifle Sheath, not numbered
    • Cinch Strap, numbered underneath close to one end
    • Bridle, Numbered underneath the top nose strap
    • Reins (2), not numbered
    • Bit, not numbered
  • Horses with this set:
    • Comanche
Cavalry Saddle, No Number, No ejector pin marks.
Cavalry Saddle, No Number, No ejector pin marks.
Cavalry Saddle, Number 1 (Reversed), No ejector pin marks.
Cavalry Saddle, Number 1 (Reversed), No ejector pin marks. (Image Courtesy of Terry R.)
Cavalry Saddle, Number 2 (Reversed), No ejector pin marks.
Cavalry Saddle, Number 2 (Reversed), No ejector pin marks.



Pancho Tack Set

The Pancho Tack Set, PL 1417, used all unique sculpts, except, possibly, the Reins. Some collectors believe the Pancho reins are shorter than the larger horse reins. But I have sealed Pancho tack sets and sealed Thunderbolt tack sets and the reins appear identical.

  • Colors: It was made in several shades of Brown, Canadian Orange, and Black. The early sets were made in a rubbery poly vinyl, but that was quickly changed to the more common thicker Poly V. material.
  • Modifications:
    • This mold was first made in December of 1966.
    • I know of no modifications made.
  • Pieces and Mold Numbers
    • Saddle, mold number underneath the seat of the Saddle
    • Stirrups (2), not numbered, but see picture discussion
    • Cinch Strap, not numbered
    • Bridle, not numbered
    • Reins (2), not numbered
    • Bit, not numbered
  • Horses with this set:
    • Pancho
Pancho Saddle, No Number, All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.
Pancho Saddle, No Number, All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.
Pancho Saddle, Number 2 (Reversed), All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.
Pancho Saddle, Number 2 (Reversed), All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.
Pancho Saddle, Letter X (Hand Drawn), All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.
Pancho Saddle, Letter X (Hand Drawn), All Pancho saddles have 2 ejector pin marks under the Saddle. Under the Pommel and Seat.

Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup.
Although there are no obvious numbers or letters inside the Pancho Stirrup, I do believe there is a marking that differentiates the different mold parts. This takes the form of a 'mark' over the top of the ejector pin and surrounding wall. Like an employee ground out a groove or two into the mold at that point causing a distintive and non-repeating mark on the stirrup... Below are those 'marks'

Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see a Diagonal Mark from the upper left through the ejector pin circle.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see a Diagonal Mark from the upper left through the ejector pin circle.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see a Single Horizontal Mark from the left through the ejector pin circle.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see a Single Horizontal Mark from the left through the ejector pin circle.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see it is almost all covered with a Large Horizontal Mark from the left through the ejector pin circle.
Pancho Stirrup, No Number, All Pancho Stirrups have 1 large ejector pin mark inside the stirrup. Through the Ejector pin mark you can see it is almost all covered with a Large Horizontal Mark from the left through the ejector pin circle.



Coming Soon:

Viking Tack Set

Knight Horse Armor Set

Draft (Wagon) Tack Set