So the boots arrived yesterday. They are flawless, except for the slightly darker vamp and lighter toe cap of the right boot. Just out of the box, with some brushing:
Close-up of color differential:
This is what confused me. The boots are labeled, #61 out of 1000, suggesting that they are firsts, but there's a tiny hole punched into the back heel of the right boot, the one with the color variations. Maybe the boots passed early QC, but then were rejected later? I'd really be interested to hear if anyone else happened to have boot #61. Numbering and hole punch shown here:
This is what they look like with a coat of VSC and some brushing. They've been sitting for a bit, and they just drank up the cream, so I'll probably follow up with another coat. All in all, I'm extremely happy; beautiful new shell boots for $325. If the lighter toe cap is bothering me, I can always just darken it a bit.