You might see any of the following words used to describe Cybis pieces: Open, Completed, Retired, Variation, Special Edition, Numbered Special Edition, Event Piece, 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 (at least during the “boom decades.”)
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” meant 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 a retail 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 by that name is a plain white rabbit standing up on its hind legs.
However, Cybis also produced Bunny ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ which is the standard Bon Bon 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 Bon Bon 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. Cybis did not give advance notice of the retirement of an open edition. During the 1960s and 1970s the piece would appear on the next price list with a small r next to the name, identifying it in the Legend as “retired.” In the 1980s and thereafter, a retired piece simply disappeared from the next Cybis price list. Because the studio is now closed, the word is no longer relevant except when researching the production timeline of a given sculpture.
SPECIAL EDITION a/k/a GALLERY EVENT 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.
LIMITED EDITION: These were 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 PHYSICALLY 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 a combination of expected demand and actual retailer orders. It wasn’t 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.
COMPLETED EDITION: When active production of a limited edition ceased, the sculpture was said to be Completed. Cybis would indicate the piece is “Near Completion” 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 word “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 completed 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 important discussion of edition-size vs. sculpture-numbering differences, and why “completed” did not mean the same thing in the 1990s and 2000s as it did in prior decades.)
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). Frankly it is best to completely disregard the entire “collections” concept because they were purely arbitrary, subject to change, and have no influence on anything that matters.
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. (All such pieces can be seen in the Pairs, Companions and Sets post.) The market 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 completed 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 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.
Unfortunately, the Cybis studio played rather fast and loose with their definition of A.P. and, as a result, this can actually indicate any one of the following seven scenarios:
- an actual painting standard/guide as described above
- a piece done in a custom colorway at a purchaser’s special request
- a piece done in the color-decision stage of the production process
- an un-numbered piece that was marked A.P. in order to increase its perceived value for charity-auction purposes, or for donation to a museum
- a piece sold directly by the studio after 1990 that has had A.P. added to its existing sculpture number in order to justify a higher asking price
- a completed limited edition that was nevertheless made for someone afterward but no sculpture number was available; hence, marked A.P. instead
- a circa-1940s piece that was consigned to the studio’s liquidation auction in 2019. The studio added a signature (if needed) to all of them, and A.P. to many, even though they were simply old stock and were never an artist proof in any accepted sense of the term.
A future Archive post will go into more detail about the circumstances surrounding the appearance of A.P. on Cybis sculptures.
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The Cybis Archive is a continually-updated website that provides the most comprehensive range of information about Cybis within a single source. It is not and never has been part of the Cybis Porcelain studio, which is no longer in business.