A sad fact of life about Cybis porcelain has been the dearth of resources available to those looking for information about their sculptures – hence the need for the very comprehensive reference ‘encyclopedia’ that you are now perusing! However, it’s worth reviewing the alternative-format and previous research sources as well.
Many mainstream collectibles companies established (or aficionados themselves establish) some type of collectors’ club or organization, and at long last the Cybis studio did end up creating a Cybis Collectors Society in the 1990s. Unfortunately it was short-lived and no reference materials were ever published in connection with it. Thus the collector’s usual first line of research was immediately a dead end.
To make things even more challenging, Cybis never published a collectors’ guide in the usual sense (meaning a 100% complete listing of all sculptures with photos, details, and original issue prices). However, in early 2009 I came across the mention of a Cybis collectors guide published in 2003 by Carol Marren. I have never seen this guide for sale, and attempts during 2014 and 2015 to contact the author were unsuccessful. This publication does have an ISBN but it is publicly available only at the Library of Congress.
The Cybis studio launched a website (www.cybisporcelain.info) in the early 2000s in order to establish an internet sales presence. Unfortunately it is far from comprehensive and is not always accurate. There is only a single photo of currently available sculptures, 99% of them scanned from a piece of printed Cybis literature; thus, what you see is not the actual piece you will get. Unfortunately some of the photos are attached to the wrong item, and some entries do not have any photo at all. There are several instances where a limited edition sculpture is incorrectly shown as “open” (non-limited) which begs the question of whether this is a typo or a ‘downgrade’ in status although not in price. There is no section showing completed/retired sculptures. The most recent updates to the retail section were done at the end of 2008 and the first few weeks of 2009….almost a decade ago. Thus, as a research tool the Cybis website is not useful.
Faced with the absence of any comprehensive official channels for research, the only recourse until now has been fragmentary online resources and vintage print materials.
Current and sold listings on eBay are probably the best source for researching market value and/or seeing multiple photos of a piece, though rarely for “background info.” The downside to eBay is that not all listings have the sculpture identified by name, which necessitates doing a search only for the name Cybis within the category of Collectibles (because there is a software company also named Cybis.) The upside to eBay is that it provides the most accurate idea of what the buyer market is for a given piece at the moment; however, one needs to take into consideration whether or not the piece is in 100% mint condition — a factor that should dramatically affect its value. A major downside to using eBay as an information source that incorrect information taken from other sellers tends to go viral and end up perpetually uncorrected, and/or details can be skimpy or nonexistent.
The online venue Replacements.com has consistently offered a selection of Cybis for decades. The sculptures are always correctly identified by name, but there may not be a photo for each one and the image is usually whatever Cybis once used in their advertising materials, so the image is not of the actual piece they have on hand. Useful information is limited to only the name, the asking price, and in a few cases the introduction year (shown as “style” for some reason!) Their NB codes are internal and have no relevance to Cybis. Replacements also sells on eBay, so there is some cross-site duplication, and in general their asking prices tend to be higher than other online selling venues.
Other selling venues such as Etsy and Ruby Lane usually include some Cybis but in much lower quantity than the “big two.”
The Kovels guide to collectibles does include Cybis but due to space limitations they cannot possibly list even a fraction of all that were produced – and certainly none of the special editions, special commissions, and so forth.
The only comprehensive online resource for identification and sculpture history is now this site; the About the Cybis Reference Archive page explains its origins and evolution.
Update, October 2017: With the addition of a new, separate post showing the publications and advertising materials that the Cybis studio produced, the information originally in this section has been relocated to Cybis Porcelain Publications and Advertising Materials.
Why Such a Mystery?
Why was there such a dearth of information about Cybis porcelain while there is seemingly so much ‘out there’ about their competition? (Several hardcover books were written about Boehm, Royal Worcester, etc.) This situation was a result of Cybis’ marketing strategy; they were choosy about which stores they allowed to stock their pieces. Until the 1990s, sculptures were never sold directly from the studio but only through approved retailers catering to a higher-end market. Cybis retailers included jewelers such as Bailey Banks & Biddle; the gift departments at Bonwit Teller and Neiman Marcus stores; antique galleries such as Wakefield Scearce Galleries in Louisville; high-end galleries such as Brielle Galleries and Reese Palley Galleries in southern New Jersey; and other smaller but very select shops in locations such as Palm Beach and Los Angeles. Retailers were not permitted to sell any second-market pieces. Their marketing (and pricing) strategy kept Cybis porcelain restricted to the upper echelons of collectibles… and thus, not many people were familiar with them as compared to, say, Lladro or Hummel which were available almost everywhere. In fact, the studio completely avoided using the word “collectible” and always referred to their pieces as “porcelain art sculptures”.
You may also wonder ‘Why not simply contact the studio for information from their archives?’ Sadly, that avenue of research is no longer an option. It’s unknown what happened to all of the rare early Cybis works and the archived information that had been kept by the studio ever since its opening in the 1940s. The Syracuse University Library holdings have some archived “business records” from the Cybis Studio covering the period from 1960 to 1970 but they are flagged as “unprocessed and accessible by special permission only”.. not available to the general public. It may well be that they are simply corporate and financial records and have nothing to do with the early output of the studio.
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