Occasionally I receive inquiries from people asking for advice on pricing or valuing a piece of Cybis that they have received or wish to sell, and they sometimes ask why I don’t include the current market values in the Archive. It’s a logical question, given the ‘Wild West’ that is the secondary market for collectibles nowadays.
Unfortunately there are far too many variables at play, not least of which is the sculpture’s condition. Time after time, Cybis sculptures are offered on eBay described as being “mint condition” and/or “no chips, cracks, repairs or missing pieces” when in fact there are indeed missing elements such as leaves, flowers, or what-have-you. And what are the odds that the seller has thoroughly examined the piece under a blacklight, to check for prior repairs? Slim to none, probably.
In an effort to give some perspective on intrinsic value, I do include each sculpture’s original Cybis issue price at introduction if it is known at the time of writing; if unknown, and I later find — from an official piece of Cybis literature, not from a seller’s online listing! — this information, I update the post. Cybis retailers were prohibited from running “sales”, and the studio never reduced their retail prices either; thus if a piece was currently priced at $395 there was no way to buy it at retail at that time for less.
The final Cybis price of a limited edition sculpture is provided in a format such as “introduced in 1968 at $450, completed [or closed] in 1974 at $825.” ‘Completed’ means that Cybis did make the full number of sculptures that they said they would; ‘closed’ or ‘closed early’ means they stopped making it before that number was reached. For the open (non-limited) editions whose production stopped before 2000, the ending price is shown as “retired at ($whatever)”.
Some sculpture descriptions include an interim retail price. For example, it may say “issued in 1979 at $495, which rose to $550 by 1988; closed [or retired] before [year.]” This gives an idea of the price trajectory and shows that the (unknown) final price was at least as much as the interim one.
Of course with the cessation of active production at the studio, all existing open editions immediately became Retired and all existing limited editions became Closed.
Some descriptions include the last Cybis price phrased as “circa-2000s Cybis website price.” This was the price shown on the Cybis studio’s website between 2000 and early 2009. Because the website has not been updated since 2009 those “ca.-2000s” prices are technically the current Cybis retail prices today. However, I would be remiss not to include my observation that the prices shown on the Cybis website are several times higher than the prices asked for the same mint-condition item by 99% of other sellers. A more realistic representation of a piece’s best/highest value would be the price Cybis was asking for it at the start of the 1990s which was when the overall art porcelain market began to seriously implode. (This is a polite way of saying that the Cybis website MSRPs bear absolutely no resemblance to current market reality and have not done so for quite some time.)
The pricing details outlined above are the only ones that I offer on my website, although I will be happy to provide an opinion via email about the likely current market value of specific pieces. I dislike all so-called “price guides” because they are usually light-years away from the real-world secondary market. I have yet to see any that ever reflect what buyers are actually paying for porcelain sculptures currently; the guide estimates are invariably too high.
A separate post addressing the question of “Where can I sell my Cybis?” can be found here.
However, I do believe that it is useful to know how Cybis were once valued by the retail market because, after all, people were buying them at those prices at the time. In fact, from a purely financial standpoint these sculptures should be bringing far more on the secondary market than they currently do. Take for example the closing price of Scarlett: $825 in 1974. Plug those figures into any online inflation calculator and you’ll get a current [as of this page edit] November 2017 equivalent value of $4,468! Ironically, using that method the 2009 Cybis website prices weren’t actually too far off: Eros, who sold for $135 in 1974, ends up at $730 today using the same inflation calculator. His price on the Cybis website was $695; but the likelihood of anyone ever having been willing to pay that price was essentially zero when they could be had for a fraction of that amount on eBay.
Another detail you may see from time to time in posts is the notation “sculpted by (whoever)”. Cybis never advertised the designers of their pieces, and so in those instances where I do know the sculptor’s name I will add that information. Often these artists worked for different studios and/or in different mediums (both ceramic and bronze, for example) and collectors of their works may be interested to know which Cybis pieces these artists produced. Because I believe in giving credit where credit is due: the Cybis Honor Roll contains a list of all the Cybis artisans that I have been able to find; this is an ongoing effort that I hope to someday complete. There is also a series of Cybis Artist Profiles showcasing specific artists.
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