To get the most accurate sense of a Cybis porcelain sculpture’s value it’s important to know the difference between the various types of editions. You might see any of the following words used to describe Cybis pieces: Open, Closed, Retired, Variation, Special Edition, Numbered Special Edition, Limited Edition, Special Commission, Gift of State, and Artist’s Proof. What do they all mean? The edition type had a definite influence on a sculpture’s original retail price and its market value afterward.
OPEN EDITION (a/k/a non-limited edition): An Open edition was introduced and then continued to be produced until Cybis decided to stop making it. Open edition sculptures are not numbered. Some open editions were available for many years; for instance the Baby Owl was continuously produced since the 1950s. The production lifespan for an open edition could range from one year to infinity; it was entirely up to the studio to decide when to stop making a certain piece.
It should be noted that “open edition” means something quite different when used in reference to Boehm porcelain; for Boehm that term always meant “a limited edition that was still being produced.” So during the years when both Boehm and Cybis were operating, the quite opposite meanings could cause a bit of confusion! In my opinion, “non-limited” is a much better phrase but Cybis chose to use “open” in their advertising instead.
OPEN EDITION, VARIATION: This is an open edition that differs in some way from the original version – perhaps different paint colors, or a decorative element was changed or added to the original mold, or both. A good example is Bunny ‘Bon Bon’, pictured below, which in the standard edition is a plain white rabbit standing up on its hind legs.
However, Cybis also produced Bunny ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ which is the standard BonBon with the addition of black bowtie and buttons, at a retail price about $100 higher. There is also Bunny ‘Puttin’ on the Irish‘ which is the basic BonBon with the addition of green bowtie, green flower, and green straw hat; Bunny ‘Patriot’ with red-white-and-blue hat, bowtie and flower; and Bunny with Santa Hat. All of these were priced from $25 to $50 higher than ‘Bon Bon’. Each is identified as a separate open edition because each was marketed by Cybis under a different name. Some collectors consider these to be only a “decorative variation” of the original piece; however, the Cybis studio obviously felt that the changes were sufficient to justify a different name and higher pricepoint. Many such variants are shown in A Bonanza of Bunnies.
RETIRED EDITION: When Cybis stopped making an open edition it was then said to be Retired (not “Closed”; that’s something else). Cybis did not give advance notice of the retirement of an open edition – it simply no longer appeared on the retail list of currently produced sculptures. When the studio ceased active production all existing “open” editions automatically became “retired”, and so the word is no longer relevant except when researching the production timeline of a given sculpture.
GALLERY EVENT SPECIAL EDITION: Just to make things more confusing (or fun, depending on your point of view), Cybis would sometimes create a Special Edition of a currently-produced open edition sculpture for a gallery or charity event. This special piece would be announced only to those people on the mailing list of the store or charity, as “A special edition of only [however many] sculptures that will only be available for purchase in person at this event.” The price was always higher than that of the standard edition. For example, in the 1970s Cybis produced an special edition of the standard open edition Betty Blue (seen below) for a special event at Brielle Galleries. That special edition of only 100 sculptures was done in pink ribbon decoration and named Patty Pink – availability was first come, first served at the event itself. (Both versions are shown in Pink and Blue.)
A gallery-event edition was always done in a colorway different from the retaiil version; several of these can be seen in Color Confusion. Any of these special editions are hard to research because they were only offered to a small clientele and were never included in any of the price lists, brochures, or catalogs published by Cybis. These pieces were not usually numbered, but once in a great while the studio would indeed produce a …
NUMBERED GALLERY EVENT EDITION: These sculptures were produced under same scenario as described above except that Cybis would individually number each sculpture. Bunny Pat-a-Cake in white with Carrot was one of these: a numbered special edition of 200. In March 2006 I sold one which was numbered on the piece as 144 / 200. Not all such numberings included the edition size…in fact that is even more rare than having the special edition pieces numbered at all. For instance, there was a numbered special edition of Wendy, called Betsey Bobbin, in which her dress has handpainted flowers and she is carrying a bouquet of flowers instead of the usual doll, bearing the sculpture number only. A numbered special edition is valued higher than an un-numbered Special Edition and, like the others, they do not appear in any published Cybis literature.
Circa-1960s Anomalies: Decorative Variation, Special Edition, or Artist’s Proof?? Examples of circa-1960s open editions are occasionally found in which the coloration is different from the standard issue. How can you determine whether this was an artist’s proof (a OOAK piece that was created during the design stages), or a decorative variation, or a gallery-event special edition, or a one-off produced in those colors for a particular collector or as a test piece? Well, in the 1960s Cybis had not really started to do retail “decorative variations” with separate names and pricepoints at that time. So if the piece was retired before 1970 the odds are that it’s probably not one of those. Cybis did indeed do a number of special editions even in the 1950s, but all of those were religious subjects. If a 1960s mystery piece in question has a religious theme it’s quite possible that it may have been a small edition produced for a church. After 1960 most artists proofs were marked AP, even on open editions, whether it was a OOAK or a painting standard.
LIMITED EDITION: These are the “top end” of the Cybis retail range. When one of these was introduced, its edition (issue) size was announced (“declared”); it might be 300, 500, 750, 1000, etc. Every limited edition sculpture was always INDIVIDUALLY NUMBERED, IN PAINT, NEAR THE CYBIS SIGNATURE, AFTER THE FINAL FIRING. THE EDITION SIZE IS NEVER INDICATED ON A RETAIL LIMITED EDITION PIECE.
What’s important to know is that the entire edition was not produced all at once as was done with a special-event edition. Limited editions were produced at whatever pace the studio chose and they would base that production rate upon retail interest and demand. It’s not uncommon for a limited edition sculpture to have been actively produced for five years or more, although of course the studio would steadily increase its retail price over time. For example the Skylark pair was produced for twelve years…from 1958 until 1970.
CLOSED EDITION a/k/a COMPLETED EDITION: When active production of a limited edition ceased, the sculpture was said to be Completed. Cybis would indicate the piece is “Near Closing” on their price list when that point in time drew near. Not all sculptures ultimately reached their originally-declared edition size.. The production of some limited editions was halted early by the studio when they had barely edged past 50%, or 75%, of the original advertised number. Perhaps the most dramatic example was Nashua whose edition was reduced from the originally-stated 500 to only 100; an 80% reduction, due to ongoing production issues.
Like “retired”, when the studio ceased production the words “closed” and “completed” became relevant only in the context of whether or not the studio ultimately did create the number of sculptures they said they would. Thus all Cybis limited edition are now “closed” regardless of whether or not the studio was able to make as many as originally intended.
(However, see Edition Size Discrepancies: A Cybis Conundrum for a very relevant discussion of edition-size vs. sculpture-numbering differences.)
A brief word here about Cybis “collections” which some may accidentally confuse with “editions” or assume that it refers to a matching set or numbered series. Cybis always assigned each sculpture to a particular category (general theme) to which they gave names. Thus the limited edition sculptures representing figures from history, literature, etc are all part of the Portraits in Porcelain Collection. Other named groups/collections included Animal Kingdom and Woodland, Biblical, Nativity, and Children to Cherish. These category/collection names were somewhat fluid and have changed in various ways over the years (and not always in a logical manner). Some sculptures may appear in more than one collection: many (but not all) of the rabbits appeared simultaneously in both the Animal Kingdom and the Bunnies collections. The bust of the Indian Boy ‘Little Eagle‘ and the companion Indian Girl ‘Running Deer’ were at different times assigned to the Children to Cherish and to the Children of the World categories (although they never “lived” in the North American Indians category!) Frankly it is best to completely disregard the entire “collections” concept because they were purely arbitrary, subject to change, and have no influence on an individual sculpture’s intrinsic value.
A second important point concerns “companion” or “mate” designations. Neither of these words meant that a sculpture was part of a pair. Cybis produced very very few “pair” sculptures – meaning that the price of the sculpture included two separate pieces rather than just one. A sculpture described as “mate to” (as in Berengaria being the “mate to Richard the Lionheart”) or “companion to” (as in Psyche described as “companion to Eros”) simply meant that there is another different sculpture that related directly to it. The value of a piece is neither increased nor lowered by the presence or absence of its companion or mate.
And finally a word about Hall of Fame editions. Although technically a “collection”, they need to be regarded also as a sub-group of the editions. In brief, a Hall of Fame edition is a re-issue (replica) by Cybis of a previously retired or closed sculpture with sufficient alteration to enable it to be designated as a “different” sculpture. The alteration is typically one of size, with the Hall of Fame edition being slightly smaller. Hall of Fame pieces can be either Open or Limited editions and should be characterized as such. The problems arise when one is attempting to properly identify a piece as the original or as its ‘Hall of Fame’ re-issue. See the Hall of Fame post for more information about these, including a full list.
Returning to the list of edition types…..
SPECIAL COMMISSIONS: In the 1940s and 1950s Cybis sometimes created small sculptures of saints, madonnas, etc for local churches. Most of them were glazed, many in color rather than plain white bisque, and were usually created to commemorate something connected with the church: perhaps a milestone anniversary of its age, a significant addition or renovation, or for a fundraising event. In order to be cost-effective to produce they were typically small in size (4” to 6” tall). It is also possible that occasionally one of the larger religious-themed open editions was produced in a special variation as a gift to one or more notable members of a church’s hierarchy as a commemorative. None of these pieces appear in any Cybis literature because they were not intended for the general public. They are great finds for the serious Cybis collector. Another kind of special commission is a sculpture created for a specific organization’s memberhip. For instance, in the 1970s the Rolls-Royce Owners Club commissioned a sculpture of the Spirit of Ecstasy (the actual name of the so-called “Flying Lady”) to celebrate the car’s 75th anniversary. It could only be purchased by registered Rolls Royce club members through that club and does not appear in any published list.
About ‘Gift of State’ Sculptures: It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see an actual Cybis “Gift of State” offered for sale, although you may see a sculpture advertised as having been one. Such a description simply means that one of these (typically an artist’s proof) was once presented to a president, monarch or other head of state as a ceremonial gift. The actual Gift of State always bears very special markings and other authentications clearly indicating what it is, and spends its life in the recipient’s private collection unless it gets donated to a museum. For example, a Cybis Chess Set was presented by President Nixon, on behalf of the United States, to Premier Leonid Brezhnev as a Gift of State to the Soviet Union in 1972. Thus, although you might see a sculpture described as a “gift of state to so-and-so” it won’t be that actual sculpture if the asking price has less than six figures. (See Gifts of State if you are curious about which designs these were.)
Artist’s Proof: If a Cybis sculpture is marked “A.P.” or “AP” (Artist’s Proof) this can mean one of several possible things.
The typical meaning of “artist’s proof” is the same as what’s called a “painting standard” in the UK: A sculpture that is the final selected version of what was chosen for retail production, painted exactly as it should be, and available for the studio’s painters to follow when creating the sculptures to be sold at retail.
However, artist’s proofs can also be pieces that were created in the early stages of production when decisions are being made as to what colors and decorations to use. An accidental color change during firing can also result in an artists’s proof, if the artist liked it. In this case, A.P. means “one of a kind.”
Serious collectors will argue that an Artist’s Proof sculpture must contain only that designation and nothing else: In other words, if it is a limited edition piece it should not also have a sculpture number on it because the A.P. takes the place of what otherwise would have been the sculpture’s assigned number for retail sale. It is always best to ask for more details if you see an A.P. sculpture that also contains a painted sculpture number as well; for example, exactly how is this sculpture different from the standard colors, decoration colors, or applied decoration? If there is truly no difference, it could indicate that piece was originally the “painting standard” which was then made available at retail after the edition had been completed/closed. But it should be kept in mind that it isn’t difficult for someone to have added two letters in the proper color of paint (see the Signatures and Marks post) in an effort to deceive.
Update, August 2019: Strong evidence has recently surfaced that when Cybis created a sculpture in a non-standard color scheme at the request of the customer/buyer, these were not marked A.P. as I had formerly theorized. If it was a limited edition it was numbered just as if it had been produced in the normal way and did not have any other designation to denote color difference.
The Cybis studio was also known to add the designation A.P. to already-painted sculptures they donated to charity auctions in order to increase their perceived value and ultimate hammer price.
A guide to the respective values of different Cybis edition types is (from lowest to highest and assuming 100% mint condition):
– a 1950s piece cast from commercially available molds that Cybis bought from other companies (Atlantic, Holland, etc.) None of these were original Cybis designs. Almost all of the 1950s pieces are of this type.
– an Open (non-limited) edition in the standard color and decoration that was available to the general public. Most of these were introduced after the 1950s.
– a Special Edition/Gallery Event Edition created for a specific retail gallery event, or for a charity event. This is a special variation, in color and/or decorative elements, of a non-limited edition but is not numbered.
– a Special Edition/Gallery Event Edition that is individually numbered.
– an Artist’s Proof of an open (nonlimited) edition
– a Limited Edition in its normal retail decoration
– a Special Commission (a unique sculpture designed and created for a specific entity or group of people and only made available to them.) It is not an adaptation of any existing sculpture and was typically made in an extremely small quantity; was not available to the general public. Examples of this would be the Spirit of Ecstasy or the Ryder Cup.
– an Artist’s Proof of a Limited edition in the standard retail color/decoration.
-– an Artist’s Proof of a Limited edition in colors or other decoration different from the “standard” edition’s appearance. This theoretically indicates that the piece is one of a kind.
This last (OOAK) category is probably the most valuable Cybis piece likely to be found for sale, other than an actual Gift of State or one of the extremely low-edition pieces such as the Knight in Shining Armor of which only 10 (of the originally-stated limited edition of 25) supposedly were made. Also, some of the early 1940s pieces by Boleslaw and/or Marja Cybis can be valuable to collectors focusing on that period. Naturally a piece must be in absolutely mint condition to be worth the maximum amount for its type; even a professional repair can be detected under a blacklight.
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