Before the internet era, the print medium was the only way for art porcelain studios to ‘get the word out’ to collectors and potential buyers. In addition to newspaper advertising placed by their network of retail galleries, Cybis maintained a steady stream of publications from the early 1960s onward.
The Boleslaw Cybis studio did no direct retail advertising during the first fifteen years of its existence. The Cordey side of the operation had a wholesale catalog that salesmen brought “on their rounds” during the 1940s and early 1950s; it was about 9″x12″ with a leatherette binding and almost 50 pages of black and white photos of figurine examples, usually two per page side. Any consumer advertising was placed in newspapers by retailers; see 1940s Cybis Retail for examples of these.
As far as I know, there was never a corresponding wholesale catalog for Cybis although I would be fascinated to someday discover one. The Cybis-branded items were entirely different from the Cordey line and were cast (with few exceptions) from commercially available molds. When Joseph Chorlton came to work for Boleslaw Cybis in the early 1950s his job was to (as he once put it) “load up my car with pieces of Cybis and drive all over the country showing them to store owners.” So in those days Cybis advertising was very much of the classic door-to-door-salesman variety although in this case the doors were commercial ones.
After Boleslaw Cybis died and Marylin and Joe Chorlton took over the studio, I can find nothing in the way of print advertising or publications for almost seven years, while the studio was undergoing its metamorphosis into a new market (and marketing) realm. I’ve grouped the resulting publications into four sections: catalogs, brochures, price lists, and miscellaneous bound publications.
There were four distinct catalog issues by Cybis, spanning 22 years and multiple “editions” and printings.
The very first Cybis catalog appeared in 1964, the same year that the studio created the Flower Bouquet of the United States for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
It is 8.5″ x 11″, printed in black and white and is identified on the outside back cover as “Commemorative Issue New York World’s Fair.” It was then reprinted in 1965.
The pages are not numbered but each is printed on both sides plus on the inside front and back covers. The first three pages contain a brief history of the studio, along with something very unusual: artists identified by name. The photos on page five show artist Elsie Matelski (left) with studio owner Marylin Chorlton; the righthand photo is of Laszlo Ispanky who had joined the studio two years before. It is interesting that Boleslaw Cybis’ wife Marja (here spelled Marya according to its pronunciation) is specifically mentioned as an artist even though she had died six years previously.
Subsequent pages contain professional black-and-white photos of Cybis sculptures, typically one image per page although six pages contain two photos. Each photo is captioned with the sculpture’s name and either a short commentary or poem. Limited editions are identified as “limited edition of (quantity)” but the nonlimited editions display only the name. Four of the limited edition sculptures are noted as being already “complete”, i.e., no longer available.
The 1965 printing is almost identical to the first except for some changes in the “artists” section at the beginning, adding photos of ‘new’ in-house artists Lynn Klockner and Dorothy Kaminski. A few of the sculpture photos were also changed, one being this one of the Christmas Rose which now appears in a wintry staging; its photo in the 1964 catalog shows it simply on its wood base, upon a table and against a black background. The catalog was reprinted in 1966. Although the 1967 printing still includes the photos of the female artists, they are no longer identified by name; Laszlo Ispanky, having left the studio in somewhat of a huff not long before, is notably absent. The page/leaf count of this printing is 26, though still unpaginated. Several new sculptures appear, including Columbia and an updated photo of the Windflower. It should be noted that some of the photos in this catalog (and later ones as well) do not necessarily correspond precisely to the appearance of the actual retail piece, especially regarding wood bases.
The 1968 catalog got a facelift but the contents still remained without color. The heavier, fairly glossy white coverstock is embossed with a depiction of the closed limited edition Turtle Doves in relief. The inside of the coverstock was given a gold-foil finish, and the artist-photos were removed entirely. Photos of some of the older sculptures were removed in order to make room for more recent introductions; the names of a few remaining ‘oldies’ were changed, such as an updated photo of the Baby Boy being recaptioned Young Boy either by accident or design. Cybis sold this catalog for $1, according to a contemporary pricelist.
For some reason there was no 1969 edition/printing; the next iteration came in 1970, where there is again some photo-shuffling. Noteworthy in this printing is that it contains the only published photograph of the American Screech Owl with Virginia Creeper, a limited edition with a whopping retail price of $1500. I searched for a photo of this piece for years, until a collector friend got his hands on a 1970 catalog and sent me a scan. (You can see this elusive image in the Cybis Owls post.) Other new introductions debuting in this catalog are the Clematis with House Wren and Cybis’ first foray into paper graphics, the Folio One.
Another catalog makeover came in 1972. The white coverstock is now embossed with a collage of four Cybis phoenix logos, along with two new elements: a gold foil slipcase with a circular center cutout to frame the collage, and finally….. some full-color photos! Many of the images still remained in black and white, however. This iteration has 62 pages and more than 100 photos.
The 1974 printing included the first attempt by Cybis at an organized historical sculpture list, a single page of names only, sorted into design categories and rather awkwardly titled “Collectors Guide of Cybis Porcelain Art Sculptures.”
By 1975 the catalog had grown to 76 numbered pages, fourteen of which utilized color printing. This edition sold for $3 from Cybis.
1978 brought a major makeover. The cover was again redesigned with an embossed representation of Pegasus, a recently-completed limited edition. (I seem to recall this too having a gold foil slipcase but am not certain.) The catalog also acquired a new subheading, “A World of Enchantment” and contains a simple but elegant tribute to Marylin Chorlton, who died the year before, on its first two pages. Measuring 10″x13″, this is a larger format catalog than any of the others.
This is also the first of only two catalogs that contained a truly useful retrospective list. Comprising 10 pages at the very end of the book (which has over 110 pages, most in color) and arranged alphabetically, it supplies the following information for each entry: sculpture name, overall height, catalog illustration page if any, design category (“Biblical”, “Carousel-Circus”, etc.), Cybis design number, and year of retail release where known. Limited edition size, completion year, and retirement year of open editions are also shown, as are issue and final (if done) retail prices, at time of printing.
The downside to this “Alphabetical Guide to Sculptures” is that it can be frustratingly incomplete, with some inexplicable omissions: for example, the American Screech Owl issued in 1970 clearly fell within the list’s timeframe, but it does not appear at all. There are also some typographical errors in the design numbers of some of the 1950s religious pieces. However, one very helpful aspect of the list is that it indicates if a limited edition sculpture was “closed early”, in other words if production was stopped before the original declared edition size was reached. This is important information today because all other Cybis literature gave only the original declared edition size at introduction. For example the ballet sculptures Enchanted Princess Aurora and Enamoured Prince Florimund had a declared issue of 500 each but both were closed after only 200 were made.
The 1979 edition cover was redesigned to correspond with the likewise redesigned Cybis logo that debuted the same year. The tagline was also changed to “Porcelains That Fire the Imagination” which phrase Cybis also legally trademarked along with their new logo design. In other respects the 1979 edition appears to mirror 1978’s except for the addition of the 1979 sculpture introductions to the layout and alphabetical list in the Appendix. This is the largest catalog Cybis ever published and was priced at $19.95. The 1978/79 catalogs were the last to be written (text and captions) by Hazel Herman who had provided all of the studio’s advertising text for 15 years. Sizewise this is the same as the 1978 version.
The next catalog appeared in 1981 (with subsequent reprints up to 1984) but is “downsized” in that it contains only 48 pages and quite a few of the photos are the same as shown in the earlier catalogs. It also returned to the standard 8.5″x11″ format. The cover art is a montage of sculpture photos (Lady Macbeth, Little Bo Peep, Berengaria, the Court Jester, Oceania, Harlequin, and the Kestrel) cropped to a circle and printed on white coverstock. The name CYBIS is embossed in relief along the outside edge.
Ann Dorlon is now the author of the text; after a two-page Introduction, the catalog is divided into 12 “collection sections,” each headed by four or five paragraphs of text followed by two to four photographs per page.
Despite having the same heading as the 1978/79 list, the 1981 sculpture list at the back only includes the sculptures that are illustrated in the catalog; it follows the same format as the 1978 Appendix but unlike that list, it does not show the price of any of the pieces. The 1981 and 1982 printings sold for $5; it seems to have been reprinted in 1983 and 1984 but I have not come across any 1985 printing.
The 1986 edition/printing’s cover has a single color image (Madame Butterfly) above the Cybis name/logo and trademarked tagline.
As for text, only the two-page Introduction from the 1981 catalog was retained; the “collection section blurbs” have disappeared in favor of a title sidebar on the initial page, with one exception: an introduction to a new category titled “Heritage” that pictured only the Gemini Bowl. There were no subsequent Cybis catalogs published after 1986. Oddly, this final iteration is the only one in which every photograph is in color; the 1981-84 catalogs still contained six in black-and-white.
OTHER BOUND PUBLICATIONS
There are three other “bound” Cybis publications, two of which were museum exhibit catalogs. The third is a hardcover book.
In 1970-1971 the New Jersey State Museum mounted a year-long exhibit entitled Cybis in Retrospect and published a catalog of the same name to accompany it. The catalog includes many photos of the old papka, Cordey-era and early Cybis studio pieces including the spatterware plates and other rarely-seen items. The book gives the name, height, introduction dates, and edition type (although no prices) for the items mentioned. It was printed in two binding colorways: silver foil and gold foil, with a matching slipcase; the book is softcover and the slipcase is heavy cardboard. It may be (though I haven’t confirmed this) that the gold-foil version may have been the one available for sale at the museum, and the silver foil one was sold by Cybis retailers.
The catalog size is 8.5″ square and printed entirely in black and white. The first eight pages are a medium-weight textured matte-stock paper and provide a timeline history of Boleslaw Cybis and the studio. This section is followed by 33 leaves of standard white slightly glossy paper stock. This catalog sold for $5 from all sources, at least through 1976.
A mysterious publication which I have never seen is this Mercer County College Exhibit Catalogue published in 1975. Supposedly only 1000 of these were printed, and sold for $3 according to a Cybis price list from the same year. It is described simply as “Dedicating the June 1975 permanent Cybis collection” with no indication of how many pages it contains. It does not appear on the next (Spring 1976) Cybis price list and so I assume that it may have been sold out. If anyone has one of these, I would love to see some photos; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page.
The only Cybis hardcover book is not a catalog per se, although it is illustrated entirely by photographs of their sculptures. Poems For Children and Other People was first published in 1975; it went to four printings between then and December 1976. This book sold for $6.45 in 1975 and 1976 but was reduced to $5.95 in 1979 as per that year’s Cybis price list…probably in anticipation of its “revised edition” that was published in June 1980. I once had the 1970s version and so do not know how (or if) the 1980 revision differs; this one debuted at $7.95 and increased to $8.95 in 1982.
The dust jacket of this 8.70″x11.25″ book depicts Eros. Described as “edited by George Hornby” each illustration is captioned with a poem relating to the sculpture pictured. The 110 pages contain 240 poems and 90 color photos. On the February 1988 Cybis price list this appears for $15. Because this was intended as a poetry book, it gives no information about the sculpture other than a page/name list at the end.
BOOKLETS AND BROCHURES
It was much more cost-effective for Cybis to create and distribute brochures than catalogs, and they supplied a generous number to their retailers. The studio introduced new sculptures twice a year – Spring and Fall – and created advertising materials to accompany them.
The earliest brochure I’ve found so far is this Z-fold from 1968, which naturally is in black-and-white but appears from the photo to have a gold-foiled “front cover”. The initial page, titled “Cybis Porcelains” reads exactly as follows:
The sensitive artistry of Cybis Porcelains reflects the techniques and devotions of the early master craftsmen. This is not surprising when one realizes that the firm’s originator, Boleslaw Cybis, an internationally known sculptor and painter, spent some of his formative years in the old Saxony countryside near Meissen. Dedicated to creating memorable sculptures for the connoisseur and collector, Cybis remains a small and disciplined group of American artists who understand and practice the European methods. In the Cybis studio each porcelain is individually crafted and no two are ever exactly alike. Each sculpture bearing the Cybis imprimatur, carries within it something of the pleasure and devotion of the artists who helped to create it. Whether in Limited Edition or non-numbered piece, a porcelain by Cybis is a memorable and lasting possession.
The photos in this brochure were all taken from the Cybis 1967 catalog printing.
For Spring 1974 Cybis introduced a staple-bound 16-page booklet called “The Phoenix” which is almost like a mini-catalog (the 1972 actual catalog was 62 pages) featuring a mix of color and black-and-white images. It sold for the very reasonable price of only 25 cents. The Fall 1974 issue of The Phoenix was slightly smaller at only ten pages.
For 1975 the title of the booklet was changed to “Porcelain Enchantments” and it was further downsized to only eight pages; it is more like a multi-page brochure than a book, and had minimal text as compared to The Phoenix. It sold for 50 cents.
In 1976 Cybis further simplified these semiannual “intro-lits” by converting them to something like the original 1968 foldout but this time in color. These too sold for 50 cents but all of these booklet/brochures were typically mailed directly from Cybis’ dealers to their customer list for free….. usually about 60 days before the actual Spring and Fall introduction weekend (and, often, special dealer event.) Unfortunately my entire collection of 1970s and 1980s Cybis advertising materials was lost in a house move fifteen years ago and they have been almost impossible to replace, either physically or digitally; back in the day, most people did not think to keep them unless they were enamored of the excellent photography. 😦
Cybis stuck with the foldout format permanently. This Fall 1986 brochure shows the seven new introductions: Three limited editions and four open/non-limited ones.
To introduce their new Classical Impressions series in 1986, Cybis “went retro” by using black-and-white photography except for small accents of blue-green.
The inside of the Spring 1987 brochure. Notice how the studio is introducing their four Christmas items (an angel ornament, a bell, a holiday-themed rose, and a bas-relief decorative plate) in plenty of time for collectors to place their orders.
By contrast, the 1987 Fall/Winter brochure has no holiday items. The Liberty Bell had actually been introduced separately earlier in the year, along with their new “Constitutional Collection” celebrating the 200th anniversary of that document. I would like to one day see the special brochure for that one (Cybis did sometimes do that when launching a new ‘genre’.)
For the Spring of 1988 the studio returned to this completely black-and-white format, probably as a cost-cutting measure. In my humble opinion this was far from a success. In fact, color images of these sculptures did exist (Swan Lake’s Odette and Siegfried, for example, graced the cover of Collector Editions magazine that year) and so this format, while cheaper to make, really did the pieces a great disservice.
Because 1989 was the studio’s fiftieth year (if counted from the year that Boleslaw Cybis first came to America, instead of the year in which he actually established a permanent studio) they designated their Spring brochure items as the “Golden Anniversary” and/or “50th Anniversary” Collection. Notice that for the first time in their history, the brochures do not show the price of the sculpture. Apologies for the incomplete images of some of the page sections.
The brochure shows 17 new sculptures, ranging in price (as per a separate paper list) from $75 – for Bunny ‘Bunnykins’ or the Preening Baby Swan – to $2400 for Scheherazade who was one of only three limited editions offered. The other two were the busts of Cleopatra and of Mark Antony, issues of 1000 each at $575. The brochure’s wording regarding the special 50th Anniversary stamp is a bit murky; although it states that “each sculpture released during 1989 will bear” the stamp, in fact they were only applied to pieces that were actually shipped to retailers during that year. This is why examples of these 17 designs are found without the 50th stamp.
Cybis issued a separate brochure for the religious-themed sculptures introduced in 1989. In addition to the five items shown in the lower half of this composite image, the studio also added a new colorway – white bisque with gold – to their Nativity series which was launched five years previously. The addition of the white/gold versions brought the total colorway options to three, but a few years later Cybis eliminated the all-white colorway, leaving the full-color and white/gold as the only options. Of the five “new” non-nativity introductions, four were taken from previous Cybis releases; only the Holy Family Plate is completely different, and even then it was cast from the same base mold as their Victorian Santa Plate from 1987.
The only post-1989 brochure I have ever seen a photo of is this one from their short-lived Collectors’ Society which launched in 1997. Unfortunately I’ve found no photo of the inside of the brochure or any other literature that may have accompanied it. If anyone has scans of any Cybis brochure(s) from the 1990s, I’d love to be able to add them here; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Archive page.
Cybis also provided this informational leaflet for dealers to give to customers when a sculpture was purchased. It contains a short history and overview of the studio as well as advice on “Caring for your Cybis porcelain.” It is undated but the photograph of an artist working on Fleurette, a 1981 introduction, indicates that it was distributed during the 1980s.
Cybis also provided text-only retail price lists twice a year. Their catalogs never showed prices, except within the 1978/79 editions’ Appendix.
This Spring 1963 list is the earliest one that I have discovered. What’s even more interesting is that no subsequent lists used photography until 1982. It features the 1960 Ispanky-designed Flight into Egypt on the cover. It is also unusual because the Cybis logo is in script, to match the sculptures; all other Cybis publications I’ve found have used a block font for this. This list includes several sculptures that for some reason were never mentioned in either the 1971 Cybis in Retrospect or the 1978 catalog Appendix, despite the fact that those pieces clearly were made and sold!
This list uses seven ‘collection’ categories … a concept that would subsequently disappear from price lists until about a decade later. There was no “Children to Cherish” heading, and so those are listed in a category called “Objects D’Art” that also included Moses, one of two crucifixes, and two horse studies! Why those were not placed into the Religious or Animal collections utterly baffles me.
The late-1960s price lists were a single sheet of paper printed on both sides, giving all the necessary information: current limited editions and their issue size, and current retail price; completed editions are shown below. Open editions (still called “non limited” here on this August 1967 list) are shown on the reverse, and there are no “collection” categories. The numbers in the extreme lefthand column are the Cybis design numbers. The book referred to at the bottom (A History of American Art Porcelain) was not a Cybis publication but it featured their Juliet as one of the three items on the dust jacket and discussed the studio in the text.
In the 1970 price list the newly released sculptures are given their own section at the top of the list of currently available items. On the reverse side is a list of limited editions that are “Fully Subscribed” meaning that Cybis had already taken retailer orders for the full complement of that design. An asterisk next to a name means “completed”, indicating that actual production has ceased. The list also shows the studio’s new address on Norman Avenue.
By 1974 the Cybis price lists have received a complete makeover, and not only from the single-sheet to a folded format. Now all the sculptures are again grouped according to the studio’s “collections” (particular theme) with limited and non-limited editions placed together within each. It is interesting that the flower collection is here headed “Porcelain Gardens”; this group would later be merged with the bird studies into the “Birds and Flowers” collection. The new introductions are shown in all caps as the firm item/section, and each collection/paragraph also lists recently retired and completed editions – a change from the 1970 list in which they were all placed in one section at the end. The 1974 price list cost 25 cents.
The following year (1975) Cybis eliminated the separate sections for new introductions and for closed and retired editions. New pieces are now distinguished within their collection heading by an uppercase italic font, as well as an asterisk next to the design number….a change from prior lists in which the asterisk indicated a closed limited edition. Here, limited editions nearing completion are indicated by an adjacent dagger symbol † while retired open (non-limited) editions are flagged with ǂ . The list of available publications has grown to ten, not including the American Art Porcelain book.
Cybis price lists were sometimes used to alert collectors to changes in the production specifics of certain pieces. For example, the Spring 1975 list contains this footnote: “Effective September 1975, wooden bases will not accompany Buffalo, Magnolia, and Wood Wren with Dogwood.” Collectors today who see these pieces for sale without a base, but have only seen the ‘official’ Cybis catalog photo, may assume that the original base is missing – but that might not actually be the case, because all three continued to be produced (sans bases) until 1978 (Buffalo), 1979 (Magnolia) and the mid-1980s (Wood Wren.)
Although the 1976 list follows the same general style, new introductions are now identified only by an adjacent star symbol (no more uppercase or italic font.) On the back pane, beneath the list of available publications, there also appear two new accessories for sale: a Cybis name plaque (3.5″ h x 4″ w) for $25, and a vitrine/display case described as a “clear lucite case, carrying the Cybis logo, designed to enhance and protect your sculptures.” Only one size was available (10″ square x 16″ high) and it sold for $53. This would be an appropriate size for most of their Portraits in Porcelain. (All of the Cybis display signs are shown here.)
The Fall 1977 price list contains two new features: The ‘sketch collage’ cover design featuring various sculptures, and an alphabetical sculpture list in addition to the usual by-collection groupings. This was the first price list to be issued after the death of Marylin Chorlton (the Spring 1977 list would have been compiled at the end of 1976.)
Their Spring 1978 price list took this one step further and completely eliminated the “collection sections” in favor of a strictly alphabetical listing. Instead, each piece’s category was added to the alphabetical list as a fourth column.
The list of completed and retired sculptures was reduced to only those that took place since the publication of the previous price list, and is found as a footnote at the end of the alphabetical list. The publication of the 1978 catalog with its included Appendix is probably what made that price-list information redundant. The Fall 1978 and Spring 1979 price lists followed the same format.
Unfortunately I have no copies of the Fall 1979 price list, nor of any price lists published during 1980 or 1981. (If anyone has any of these and is willing to share scans, I’d be grateful.) At some point during those two-plus years, though, the format of the Cybis price list changed dramatically once again.
As shown by this 1982 list, Cybis has now returned to their original ‘separation by collection’ format. Sculpture status tags now changed to a lowercase r for retired, nc for “nearing completion”, and c for completed. The issuance of a “summer” price list is also a departure from their traditional Spring and Fall publication schedule. The sketch-collage art is also gone.
This 1988 list is a full 8.5″x11″ sheet with printing on both sides of two pages and is odd in several respects. Dated February 1, 1988 and titled “Alphabetical Guide by Collection”, it shows only their available pieces; the status-indicators have all gone away. It also shows, for all 59 of the limited editions, two issue sizes: one for the USA and another for ‘international’ …..something that had only once before been done, with the original 1970s North American Indians series. Cybis never used the dual edition allocation after that, until this list. The edition sizes are shown in a split format; e.g., 200/20 for the foxes Chatsworth & Sloane, indicating that Cybis intended to make 200 available for sale in the USA plus an additional 20 for export. In all cases the “international issue” is 10% of the USA availability.
I don’t know exactly when this revised USA/International edition split was added but I suspect it was merely a marketing ploy. Why? Because by that time Cybis either was losing or had lost many of their retailers for various reasons, somewhat but not entirely related to general market conditions. It’s true that it wasn’t as bad (yet) in the UK and Europe but Cybis never had a strong presence there even during the “heyday” of the late 1970s….so they certainly couldn’t hope to compete internationally now. Thus, despite the supposed “international mini-editions”, it’s likely the only such sales they actually made were to the occasional American ex-pat collector directly.
The within-collection sort method is also new: Previously the limited edition were listed first (alphabetically) and then the open editions likewise. In this simplified format the pieces are listed alphabetically without regard to their edition type.
Because 1989 was designated as the studio’s Golden (50th) Anniversary year, that price list has a couple of new elements. All of the 1989 introductions are identified in the “Year Released” column more elaborately, and the Nativity Set – having acquired a third colorway of white-with-gold – gets in its own front-page section where the different colorway pricepoints are set forth.
Because starting in 1989 Cybis no longer showed the retail price on their brochures, they instead included a separate pricelist/order form that could be mailed to the studio while being easily (and cheaply) revised whenever needed.
Updated October 30, 2017:
Thanks to a helpful reader of the Archive, I now have copies of three 1990s price lists to review; I’m very grateful!
This eight-page (four sheets, printed on both sides) list is dated November 1, 1993 which is three years after the studio began selling directly to the public for the first time. The first thing one notices is that this was obviously not professionally printed; for one thing, the column headings aren’t even centered. Worse yet, spelling errors abound: “bonnett” instead of bonnet, “chipmonk” for chipmunk (and the piece is without doubt a squirrel!), “artic” for arctic, “Rolly Polly” instead of Roly Poly (Woodchuck), “lilly” for lily, “sheperd” for shepherd, “Chic” for chick, “penquins” for penguins, “princly” for princely, and “emblished” for embellished. Clearly nobody proofread this before running the copies off on a Xerox machine.
The concept of named collections has now been carried to an extreme: not only are there now 24 of them, but there are also scads of sub-collections (19 under the “Animal Kingdom Collection” heading alone!) including far too many that contain just a single solitary item – such as “Bull Collection”, “Squirrel Collection” etc. The 1988 price list did have 21 named collections but there were no sub-categories at all. A new or recent (1991, 92 or 93) collection here is the New Jersey Collection which includes six non-limited sculptures that will be profiled in the near future with their own Archive post.
On this list we see the resurrection of the Bonbonniere/Baptismal Font that had been retired in 1977; it comes back here, in both original colors, as Baptismal Font. This, along with the appearance of the Hall of Fame series of reproductions, shows that the studio had decided to abandon their longstanding promise that retired and completed/closed editions “would never be produced again.” The only other possible reason for the reappearance of the Bonbonniere would be that the Cybis still had a significant amount of “old stock” of unsold pieces from almost twenty years ago. The page showing the Hall of Fame Collection is subtitled “Available to Collectors Club Members Only” which raises a number of questions, the first being “why restrict your customer base?” Because the Club did not exist during the 1980s, this too was probably a “1990-ish relaunch” concept.
One of the most surprising changes to the Cybis price list is the appearance of “pair” or “set” discounts on certain pieces. For example, the two Holiday Bells are $275 each or $500 if they were purchased together. Here is how it is explained on this list:
The language of this disclaimer is clearly aimed at a direct to consumer sale rather than via an authorized dealer as in the past. Nothing like this was ever included on the price lists during their dealer-network decades.
This price list covers the Fall 1995/Spring 1996 retail period. Thankfully it is more organized and easier to read than their 1993 effort! Most of the spelling errors have been caught but a few remain, such as “bonnett” and the repeated misspelling of all of the angels as “angles” (I suppose that because they were celestial beings, they must have been right angles…) and the harmonica-playing Huey becomes the “Humorous” Hare instead of the Harmonious one (but maybe he went into stand-up comedy as a sideline?)
The biggest change is that the “pair/set” discounts have been eliminated. I would like to find a 1994 price list to see if they survived into that year or died off in 1993. Some of open-edition color options have gone away, such as the various brown rabbits and bears. We see yet another formerly-retired piece has been resurrected: Wendy now joins Michael, who had never been retired, among the “Holiday Children”. The HOF page header still states that they are “available to Collectors Club members only.”
This list, dated May 1999, displays several changes compared to the 1996 version. For one thing, it is the earliest indication of when the studio launched a website! Some of the open editions display significant price increases over their 1996 levels, such as the Beagle Pups going from $750 to $995. The pricing on the Nativity pieces, which had always differed according to whether the piece merely had gold accents atop plain white bisque rather than being completely painted in full color, is one of the biggest changes. Now both colorways are priced the same, and all of them are more expensive. Here are two examples:
1995-96 Balthasar in color: $550
1999 Balthasar in color: $695
1995-96 Balthasar in white with gold trim: $475
1999 Balthasar in white with gold trim: $695
1995-96 Donkey in color: $275
1999 Donkey in color: $350
1995-96 Donkey in white with gold trim: $175 (same price as it was in 1993)
1999 Donkey in white with gold trim: $350
The wedding series received a resurrected piece in the limited edition Bridegroom, who had originally appeared in 1988 but is absent from the 1993 and 1995/96 lists entirely. But now he has suddenly shown up at the altar in 1999, although I suspect without the plinth that seems to have been part of the original piece (see Here Come the Cybis Brides for photographs.) Cad that he is, I guess he took off again because he was not offered on the circa-2000s Cybis website!
All of the HOF pieces are still shown as for Club Members Only; the three special Collectors Club pieces are available to them as well but only at “Secondary Market Price Prevails” rather than a stated amount. The Cybis website placed no restriction on the purchase of HOF pieces, and a Collectors Club was never mentioned there.
A real shocker is the price hike for the Cupid Bowl, which is shown on this list at $1975, after being $850 on the 1993 list, and $975 on the 1995/96 list. That is, frankly, an insane price for a 6-inch-high open edition. It is possible that the 1 in $1975 is a typo and in reality it should have remained at $975. The 2008 website did show it at $1975 but if the website person originally copied most prices verbatim from the 1999 price list, that would have perpetuated the error – if error it was.
This May 1999 price list is the most recent one that I have obtained. If any reader has a later one, please contact me via the form at the bottom of the About the Cybis Archive page.
The majority of Cybis’ advertising was done by retailers, although Cybis provided the basic materials as created by the New York City ad agency that they utilized. Dealers received a generous supply of the semiannual booklets/brochures to mail to their customers, as well as catalogs to sell or provide gratis as the dealer chose.
Cybis began providing promotional photos to their dealers in the early 1960s. This assortment introduced retailers to the Thoroughbred (1966), the Iris (1963) and Beatrice (1965.) The studio address shown on the cover sheet is still the original location at 314 Church Street.
Eventually these promotional photos were supplied in full color. The retailer would then customize the photos with their own information before publishing in the venue of their choice.
Dealers could also arrange for their own photo shoots from the advance shipments they received, although those may have had to be approved by Cybis before publication. This 1973 ad from one of their largest Kentucky galleries introduced the Carousel series.
Cybis often provided what I call a “promo pair” to their higher volume retailers: an 8″x10″ photograph plus a promo sheet in typewritten format with the studio name and address along the top. Usually these items were given to a customer along with their purchased sculpture. Some promo sheet texts were quite short; for example, this one for the Carousel Horse in 1973 reads simply: Traditional mount on the ever-changing carousel, the Cybis Carousel Horse is ready to charge with his rider into the faraway realm of fantasy. Flashing eyes and flaring nostrils are sure signs that this spirited steed is able to surmount any obstacle to reach his goal.
However, the promo sheet for the 1981 Carousel Bull and Carousel Bear takes up the entire page and goes into detail about the different types of carousel animals (standers, prancers, and jumpers) and the difference in the decorated (“beauty”) side between American- and European-made examples. I have only seen these promo sheets for limited editions, which may indicate that the studio didn’t bother with them for the open edition items.
Not every dealer could afford budget-busting color ads. Cybis also provided black and white art, such as these 1979 line drawings of Pip, the Elfin Player and Christopher the Sea Listener, for use in newspaper advertising. Both were drawn by freelance artist Cyndy Bohonovsky.
The studio’s most effective outside advertiser, by far, was Brielle Galleries. An arrangement was entered into whereby Brielle placed full-page, full color ads in the most high-end magazines (Architectural Digest, Town & Country, The New Yorker, etc.) at their own expense but in exchange they received a larger allotment of sculptures from Cybis. This was a definite advantage during the super-hot art porcelain market of the 1970s.
In addition to magazine ads Brielle published its own full-color catalog, A Quest for Excellence, at least twice a year. Their Spring 1980 issue (the second year of Quest‘s publication) not only featured the Polish Bride on the cover, but the first seven pages were also devoted entirely to Cybis.
During the first half of the 1980s Cybis always received at least a two-page full-color spread in Quest; this is from the Spring 1985 issue. By this time the catalog’s customer-base circulation had grown to almost 500,000 copies. Unfortunately I do not have any late-1980s copies of Quest but I do have a 1993 and a 1995/96 copy; Cybis appears in neither of those. (It would be interesting to find out the year in which Brielle stopped carrying Cybis.) In fact, even other retailers’ newspaper ads for Cybis dropped off dramatically after 1986; most of them were from stores advertising deep discounts (20%-40%) on sculptures, and did not include art.
This assortment of tearsheets, brochures, and price lists is an example of the materials produced from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
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