The convoluted subject of the various Cybis porcelain ‘collections’ will be addressed in a future post, but a particular one recently aroused my detective instincts. The ‘New Jersey Collection’ first appears on Cybis price lists during the early 1990s. Clearly these pieces were intended to appeal to a local/regional customer base. I have found no illustrated advertising materials (as noted in the Publications post, Cybis drastically curtailed such efforts during the 1990s) and so must try to identify the sculptures via other means. There were seven pieces in the series but all appear to have been adaptations or reissues of previously-released items.
The pieces in this collection are unusual in that it is one of only two retail series in which the pieces received a decal-applied backstamp; the other instance was the 50th Anniversary Collection in which only the pieces physically produced during 1989 had a special backstamp.
This is the Made in New Jersey, USA decal stamp that supposedly appears on all of the New Jersey Collection pieces. (The decal was applied upside down, on this example.) A November 1992 article in the local Trentonian newspaper, describing a public tour of the studio, mentions
..the moderately priced New Jersey Collection…Each of the Garden State-related sculptures contains a ‘Made in New Jersey, USA’ logo, a promotion of the State Department of Commerce’s division of international trade.
However, a Google search does not show this exact logo among the official ones. The example above is on an Eagle Atop the Palisades.
The pieces below are titled as they appear on various 1990s Cybis price lists.
New Jersey Animal, The Horse
This is noted as being design #6146 on the price lists, with dimensions of 7.75” high and 7.5” wide and priced at $195.
The only known Cybis horse that matches this exact size is Black Beauty which was issued in 1988 as design #6094. He was retired before 1993 because he does not appear on that price list (I am missing the price lists between early 1989 and late 1993 and so cannot pinpoint his actual retirement year.) It seems obvious that Black Beauty was retired so that he could be re-introduced as the New Jersey Collection piece.
Black Beauty himself was actually a slightly modified version of the unicorn Lord Bentley who was introduced in 1987. The only difference between Black Beauty and Lord Bentley is the horse’s head position, which of course makes Lord Bentley slightly “shorter.” Because Lord Bentley was still being offered by Cybis during the 1990s, my guess is that the New Jersey Horse probably has the upright/forward-looking Black Beauty head position. What I don’t know is what color the New Jersey version is. It would not have made sense to have done him in either black or white – the originals having been those colors – and so probably he was brown or gray. If anyone happens to have either of these Cybis horses with a Made in New Jersey USA stamp on it, I’d love a photo; there is a contact form link at the end of this post.
The horse was declared the state animal of New Jersey by Governor Brendan Byrne in 1977, who declared that “The founding fathers of our state thought so highly of the horse that they included it in our State seal.”
New Jersey Finch with Violets
The price list dimensions (6” h x 5” w) plus the design number (#3001) clearly identify this NJ piece as identical to the same Goldfinch with Violets, shown above, that had been already introduced in 1988. At some point between 1989 and 1993 the piece was simply removed from the general Birds category, shifted over to the ‘New Jersey Collection’ and renamed the New Jersey Finch with Violets. (After the studio discontinued the NJ Collection during the 2000s, he flew back to Birds and resumed his original name.) In the first name/incarnation this piece sold for $425 but after the New Jersey appellation was added the price jumped to $675 (1993), $750 (1995) and finally $795 thereafter .. even after the removal of the state name from its title.
The Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) has been the New Jersey state bird since 1935.
New Jersey Bird, the Goldfinch
This is undoubtedly the same goldfinch mold from the piece above but instead placed on a low, probably very plain, base because the dimensions given are only 4.25” high x 4.5” wide. The 6” height of the original piece is a result of the vertical branch extending higher than the bird. Because of the elimination of the flowers, this adaptation was given a new design number (#3004), a different name, and a lower price ($275.) It appears on the 1993 price list but disappeared from the Cybis offerings in the 2000s. If anyone has an example of this version, I’d love a photo.
New Jersey Flower, the Violet
This piece invites speculation because the size shown on the price list is 4.5” high x 4” wide. My first thought was that the studio simply eliminated the goldfinch from the New Jersey Finch with Violets and added a few more blooms to the branch…. but that would result in a 6” height. What I think they probably did was to utilize the same base and lower flowers but reduce the length of the vertical branch by about half, and perhaps add a third flower. That would give three flowers on the base and another three rising above.
This adaptation was given design #20561 which may appear out of the norm for a Cybis flower piece; those design numbers normally begin with 5. (The 2xxx design numbers had always been reserved for the religious pieces.) However, if one drops the first two digits (20) the design number becomes 561.
The price history of this piece is identical to that of the Goldfinch sans flowers: $275 and then $295 before disappearing into the mists of the 2000s, never to be seen again.
The violet (Viola sororia) had a tough time becoming the official flower of New Jersey. Originally proposed as such in 1913, the legislation failed. Another attempt was made in 1963 but had no better luck. Finally in 1971 (third time’s the charm?) it succeeded!
The New Jersey Vase with Violets
One of these finally turned up in a 2022 auction house sale; before that, I had no clue what this looked like because the Cybis website had no photo of it. It is 5.25” high and 4.25” wide. The design number is #938 (technically #00938 but initial zeroes in Cybis design numbers are typically ignored.) This is actually their 1983 Daisy Vase but with the boss of flowers in the front changed from daisies to violets. The back of both designs are identical. The foliage on this vase does not match that of either daisies or violets, and looks more like an iris than anything else – except that the flowers shown on the back are not iris. The price of the New Jersey Vase with Violets was $295 in 1993 and 1995, and rose to $375 in 1999.
The final two New Jersey pieces are also reissues or variants of former releases.
The Eagle Atop the Palisades was originally issued in 1976 to commemorate the New Jersey State Bicentennial. It was advertised as being available for sale during that year only, for $150. The base was adorned with two medallions: one showing the New Jersey State Seal and slightly in front of it, the official New Jersey Bicentennial Logo. This piece disappeared from the Cybis offerings in 1977 as they had promised. When Cybis later resurrected the identical piece in 1992 for the New Jersey Collection they set its new price at $575. Whether they omitted the Bicentennial seal/mold from the 1990s casting is unknown, but it would seem logical for them to do so.
The eagle has an indirect connection with New Jersey in that its population of bald eagles had been pushed to the brink of extinction by the early 1970s. The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, together with various conservation groups, worked tirelessly to rebuild the eagle population for the next 40 years until as of last year there were more than 170 nests recorded.
I honestly have no idea why Hippo ‘Play Ball’ was added to the New Jersey Collection in the Fall 1995 price list. In subsequent lists the name was changed to Hippo ‘Baseball Fan’ and priced at $195. He is the original Hippo ‘T.G.I.F.’ from 1986 but with a baseball cap and container of popcorn added. Not only is there nothing on this piece to identify it with New Jersey, but New Jersey does not even have a major league baseball team! This incarnation of the hippo was given design #6126 which is different from TGIF’s #6057. If this piece only appeared under the New Jersey heading on a single price list I would put it down to a clerical error, but he shows up on the 1999 list priced at $475 and continued at that level. After the New Jersey Collection was eliminated in the 2000s he was sent to the Animals and Sports categories of the Cybis web site and listed with the combined name of Hippo Baseball Fan (Play Ball).
If any readers happen to have photos of the New Jersey Horse, the New Jersey Goldfinch (no violets) or the New Jersey Violet, I would be grateful to be able to add those images here; acknowledgments will of course be given! There is a contact form link below.
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