When the Cybis porcelain studio decided to begin selling sculptures directly to the public in the 1990s, they decided to also follow the ‘collectors club’ trend as well. At that time I had severely cut back on my own collecting and as a result this completely escaped my attention. Although it may have been launched as early as 1990 — at which time it was called the “Cybis Collectors Club” — it seems to have gone largely unnoticed for several years.
A recently discovered copy of a 1993 retail price list mentions that the Hall of Fame pieces were supposedly “available to Collectors Club members only” which was a real surprise, given the state of the art porcelain market in general. Based on that list, it seems that the Club had been in existence for at least a year previously, and maybe more. But when did it begin?
I decided to reach out to Dorothy Farrar, proprietor of Brock & Farrar who has been selling fine porcelain such as Cybis, Boehm, Royal Doulton and others for decades, to see if she could shed some light on the mystery.
Ms. Farrar explained that “Yes there was a Collector’s Club at one time, my first knowledge about it was in the mid 90’s when the Golden Princess, then the Golden Prince and then Little Princess were released. These pieces were supposedly only available to [club] members, but it seems some dealers had multiple copies in stock…. On all the price lists I have, all three pieces are listed under the section titled “Available to Collectors Club Members Only”.
This advertisement placed by the Cybis studio in a March 1996 issue of the local paper Princeton Town Topics contains “Charter Collector’=s Society Membership Available for a Limited Time” along the bottom. This is the only mention of the Collector’s Society that I have found in a published ad.
The three special members-only sculptures are – shown from left to right — the Golden Prince (8.5″ high), the Little Princess (5″ high) and the Golden Princess (7.75″ high.)
In this brochure the group is referred to as the “Cybis Collectors Society” — probably to make it sound more upscale than “Club.” I suspect that the name change coincided the with introduction of the first “specialty piece”, despite the fact that the club/society had already been in existence for at least two years and possibly as much as five!
Although the first special figurine was designed and created especially for this purpose, the other two are special variations of previously-introduced sculptures. The annual membership fee for the Colletors’ Society was $55, which included a different “membership freebie” each year; those are shown below.
The Golden Princess
Something was naggingly familiar about the Golden Princess and it drove me slightly nuts until I figured out what it is: This piece reminds me of Disney’s Snow White! The hair, the style of her gown, and of course the winged creature in her upraised hands… yep, definitely a Snow White wannabe. Although Cybis produced a number of fairytale characters (including three versions of Cinderella) they never made any named Snow White. I’ve since learned that the studio did indeed originally intend for this to represent the iconic animated Snow White but did not obtain permission from the Walt Disney Company to do so, and thus she was shelved until being resurrected a couple of decades later under this new name.
The Golden Princess was only available to Society members for $275 from November 1995 until October 1996 (theoretically.) All of them are signed in gold paint but they are not always consistent in their markings.
Each of the members-only pieces includes the Collectors Society year (number and date) to which it belongs. Thus the signature on the Golden Princess says 1st and also 95-96. The second and third photos show the location of the Cybis signature (on the back of her dress) and the mold impression which shows a copyright year for this design as 1994.
The image above shows an example that was offered for sale online; it has the correct numbering (1st) but the wrong year range! For some reason the artist dated this one as 96-97 instead of 95-96. The C/C/S stands for Cybis Collectors Society.
The Golden Prince
The second membership piece was the Golden Prince which was a re-issue of a piece named The Prince that had been introduced in 1987 but apparantly made for only that year (see Of Princes and Paupers for this figure’s history.) The original piece was designed by Lynn Klockner Brown. What the studio did for the Club re-issue was to replace the original Prince’s hat with a crown, and change his clothing from shades of green to plain white bisque with some gold decoration added so as to match the Golden Princess.
The Golden Prince was available to Society members from the autumn of 1996 until autumn 1997, at which point he was to be retired. He was priced at $395.
A comparison of the signatures on the four Golden Prince sculptures from Brock & Farrar shows various differences even though all four are genuine club pieces. Three of the four include “Trenton N.J.”; only three (but not the same three!) include the 96-97 designation; and only three include the C/S notation for Collectors Society.
Oddly enough, the impressed copyright year on the Golden Prince is 1996. The reason this is strange isn’t because it’s a year before the “club release date” but because Cybis is using the exact same mold as the 1987 issue (which was copyrighted in 1986)! The hat and crown are both separately-created elements but everything else is exactly the same as the original sculpture. Cybis did plenty of variations of existing sculptures and in none of those cases was the copyright year in the mold impression changed for the variations. It’s clear that Cybis deliberately changed the copyright date on this sculpture, but why? A cynic might say that the studio didn’t want the Golden Prince to look “ten years out of date” to collectors’ club purchasers. However, it certainly wouldn’t have been any secret that the Golden Prince was a variation of the previously released sculpture.
Well, just to muddy the royal waters even further, Cybis apparantly also created – but for who or what purpose, and exactly when, is another mystery – a separate white-and-gold version of the Prince! Although at first glance it may look the same as the collectors’ club Golden Prince, it has several differences. All of the Princes are compared in Of Princes and Paupers.
The Little Princess
Turning now to the final (autumn 1997-1998) collectors’ club piece, the Little Princess, she is an adaptation of a piece which had been part of Cybis’ late-1980s bridal party series. Although very similar in name, she should not be confused with the Ballerina, ‘Little Princess’ which was produced for two years during the 1960s.
The club piece Little Princess is the wedding’s Flower Girl after being decorated in gold and losing her basket and flower elements.
I do not know what the members’ price for the Little Princess was, because I have no price lists between Spring 1996 and Spring 1999. However, that 1999 price list does show that club members could indeed purchase any of these three “past” figures even after they had supposedly been ‘retired.’ The snip below is from that price list:
Obviously these pieces did remain available for purchase later, although at an unspecificed pricepoint.
The Comanche Chief Medallion – 1995 membership piece
The “freebie” for the 1995 membership fee was this final iteration of the Comanche chief medallion first used in 1970 on the facing page of the Folio One lithograph series and also as a framed item; all of its versions are shown in the Comanche Chief Medallion post. For the Collectors Club the year 1970 was removed from the front of the mold and it was produced in white with gold accents.
The back of the medallion is incised with the Collectors Society year range of 1995-1996.
Update, October 2017: A copy of the Fall 1995 price list from Cybis shows this available for purchase by club members only, for $75. This seems to contradict the information previously received which was that it was a “freebie”. The 1999 price list mentioned above does not offer this or either of the other two “smalls” for purchase after the fact.
The Small Crown – 1996 membership piece
This small crown, 2.25” in diameter and about 1.25” tall, in white bisque with gold decoration was the annual membership-fee freebie for year two (1996-97.)
One day I happened to be looking at a photo of the Cybis House of Gold madonna and child, which was produced only between 1957 and 1965, and suddenly realized that this late-1990s Collectors Society crown is in fact the same one as on the retired vintage madonna piece. Here is a photo, enlarged to show detail:
The House of Gold sculpture is 9″ wide and so a crown diameter of slightly more than 2″ is certainly proportional. Thus, the 1995-96 Collectors Society item is actually a decorative element from a piece retired thirty years previously.
The Miniature Cybis Sign – 1997 membership piece
The final (1997-98) membership-fee freebie was a miniature version of the Cybis display sign. I only recently (thanks to a helpful Archive reader) became aware that this was used for this purpose, because nothing about it corresponds to the Collectors Society. However, this is indeed what the studio sent to people who joined or renewed their membership that year. It is only 2.5″ high and is all white bisque — no gold anywhere — and the reverse is incised simply Trenton NJ with no reference to the club. A side by side comparison of this piece with the full-size original (some of which were, ironically, produced in white-with-gold!) can be seen in the Cybis Display Signs post.
The foregoing six pieces are the only items that Cybis seems to have issued in conjunction with their Collectors Society. None of them appeared on the Cybis website during the 2000s, so it’s safe to assume that the Collectors Club ended its run at the turn of the millenium.
Some of the Collectors Society sculptures have been offered on the auction market as supposedly being part of a “golden treasury collection”. It is true that Cybis had various categories for their porcelain sculptures and some of the categories or names thereof changed/appeared/disappeared over the years. However, I very much doubt whether the studio would have chosen to anger collectors who had previously paid for a sculpture marketed as having very restricted availability, by later offering those same pieces to the general public. The likely explanation is that one secondary market seller – having no clue as to what the sculptures were originally for – decided to insert “golden treasury collection” into their description in order to make the pieces sound more special… and then subsequent seller(s) picked up on that. Ah, the internet!
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