Cybis Porcelain - Making Sense of the Various Editions - Part 2 of a Series

To get the most accurate sense of a Cybis porcelain sculpture’s value it is critical to know the difference between the various types of  editions. You might see any of the following words used to describe Cybis pieces: Open, Closed, Retired, Variation, Special Edition, Numbered Special Edition, Limited Edition, Special Commission, Gift of State, and Artist’s Proof. What do they all mean? The edition type has a strong influence on a sculpture’s original retail price and its value in later years.

Open Edition: An Open edition is introduced and then continues to be produced until Cybis decides to stop making it. Individual open edition sculptures are not numbered. Some open editions have been around for many years; for instance the “Baby Owl” has been continuously produced since the 1950s and its retail price has risen during that time from less than $20 to $195 today. The production lifespan for an open edition can range from one year to infinity; it is entirely up to the studio and there is no way to predict when they may decide to stop making a certain piece.

Open Edition, Variation: This is an open edition that differs in some way from the original version – perhaps different paint colors or a decorative element added to the original mould, or both. A good example is “Bunny, Bon-Bon” , pictured below, which in the standard open edition is a plain white rabbit standing up on its hind legs with a retail price of $99. However Cybis also produces “Bunny, Puttin’ on the Ritz” which is the standard Bon-Bon with the addition of black bowtie and buttons, at a retail price of $195. One also finds “Bunny, Puttin’ on the Irish” which is again the basic Bon-Bon with the addition of green bowtie, green flower, and green straw hat, priced at $125; ‘Patriot Bunny’ with red white and blue hat, bowtie and flower at $125; and ‘Bunny with Santa Hat’ at $140. Technically, each one is a separate open edition because each is marketed by Cybis under a different name. Some collectors consider these to be only a “variation” of the original piece; however, the Cybis studio obviously feels that such changes are enough to justify a different name and higher pricepoint.

Bunny, Bon - Bon    Bunny, Puttin' on the Ritz

Retired Edition: When Cybis does decide to stop making an open edition (either standard or a variation) it is then said to be Retired (not “Closed”; that’s something else). Cybis does not give advance notice of the retirement of an open edition – it will simply no longer appear on the list of currently produced sculptures.

Special Edition: Just to make things more confusing (or fun, depending on your point of view), Cybis would sometimes create a Special Edition of a currently-produced open edition sculpture for a gallery or charity event. This special piece would be announced only to those people on the mailing list of the store or charity, as “A special edition of only [however many] sculptures that will only be available for purchase in person at this event.” The price would of course be higher than that of the standard edition. For example, in the 1970s  Cybis produced an special edition of the standard open edition “Betty Blue” (seen below) for a special event at Brielle Galleries. This special edition of only 100 sculptures was done in pink ribbon decoration and named “Patty Pink” – availability was first come, first served at the event itself.

Betty Blue 

Any of these special editions are hard to find because they were only advertised to a very small clientele and were never included in any of the price lists, brochures, or catalogs published by Cybis. These pieces were not usually numbered, but once in a great while the studio would indeed produce a …

Numbered Special Edition:  These sculptures were produced under same scenario as described above except that Cybis would individually number each sculpture. “Bunny Pat-a-Cake in white with Carrot” was one of these: a numbered special edition of 200. In March 2006 I sold one which was numbered on the piece as 144 / 200.  Note that not all such numberings included the edition size…in fact that is even more rare than having the special edition pieces numbered at all.  For instance, there was a numbered special edition of “Wendy” in which her dress has handpainted flowers and she is carrying a bouquet of flowers instead of the usual doll, bearing the sculpture number only. A numbered special edition is valued higher than an un-numbered Special Edition and, like the others, they do not appear in any published Cybis literature. 

Limited Edition:  These are the “top end” of the Cybis retail range. Sculptures in the Portraits in Porcelain series are always limited editions; many of the larger sculptures are as well. When one of these is introduced, its edition (issue) size is announced; it may be 500, 750, etc. Every limited edition sculpture is INDIVIDUALLY NUMBERED, IN PAINT, NEAR THE CYBIS SIGNATURE, AFTER THE FINAL FIRING. THE EDITION SIZE IS NEVER INDICATED ON A LIMITED EDITION PIECE.

example of limited edition numbering

What’s important to know is that the entire edition is not produced all at once as is done with a special open edition (numbered or not). A limited edition is produced at whatever pace the studio chooses and they will base that production rate upon retail interest and demand. Thus it is possible that the final issue size may be reduced, but it will never be more than was originally stated. It’s not uncommon for a limited edition sculpture to be actively produced for 10 or 20 years or more, although the retail price will steadily increase over time: “King Arthur” sold for $2350 when introduced in 1984 but by 2009 his retail price had risen to $5500.

Closed Edition, a/k/a/ Closed Limited Edition: When all of the sculptures in a limited edition issue have been produced, the sculpture is said to be Closed and the original moulds are destroyed. Cybis will indicate the piece is “Near Closing” on their price list when this status is reached. 

A brief word here about Cybis “collections” which some may accidentally confuse with “editions” or assume that it refers to a matching set or numbered series. Cybis assigns each sculpture to a particular category (general theme) to which they give names. Thus the limited edition sculptures representing figures from history, literature, etc are all part of the Portraits in Porcelain Collection. Other named groups/collections include Animal Kingdom and Woodland, Biblical, Nativity, and Children to Cherish. These categories are somewhat fluid and have changed in various ways over the years (and not always in a logical manner).  Some sculptures may appear in more than one collection: currently many (but not all) of the rabbits appear in both the Animal Kingdom and the Bunnies collections. Frankly it is best to disregard the various collection names because they are purely arbitrary and have no influence on an individual sculpture’s intrinsic value.

A second important point concerns “companion” or “mate” designations. Neither of these words mean that a sculpture is part of a pair. Cybis produced very very few “pair” sculptures – meaning that the price of the sculpture includes two pieces rather than just one.  A sculpture described as “mate to” (as in Berengaria being the “mate to Richard the Lionheart”) or “companion to” (as in Psyche described as “companion to Eros”) simply means that there is another different sculpture that relates directly to it. The value of a piece is neither increased nor lowered by the presence or absence of its companion or mate.

And finally a word about Hall of Fame editions, which will be discussed in detail in a later instalment. Although technically a “collection”, they need to be regarded also as a sub-group of the editions. In brief, a Hall of Fame edition is a re-issue by Cybis of a previously retired or closed sculpture with sufficient alteration to enable it to be designated as a “different” sculpture. The alteration is typically one of size, with the Hall of Fame edition being slightly smaller. Hall of Fame pieces can be either Open or Limited editions and should be characterized as such. The problems arise when one is attempting to properly identify a piece as the original or as its ‘Hall of Fame’ re-issue.

Returning to the list of edition types…..

Special Commission: In the 1940s, 50s and into the early 60s Cybis sometimes created small sculptures of saints, madonnas, etc for local churches. Most of them were glazed, many in color rather than plain white bisque, and were usually created to commemorate something connected with the church: perhaps a milestone anniversary of its age, a significant addition or renovation, or for a fundraising event. Because they were intended to be distributed to a group larger than only 100 or 200 people, in order to be cost-effective to produce they were usually small in size (4” to 6” tall) and may lack the labor-intensive applied decorations such as flowers, ribbons, lace, etc. It is also possible that occasionally one of the larger religious-themed open editions was produced in a special variation as a gift to one or more notable members of a church’s hierarchy as a commemorative. None of these pieces will appear in any of the Cybis literature because they were not intended for the general public. They are great finds for the serious Cybis collector. Another kind of special commission is a sculpture created for a specific organization’s memberhip. For instance, in the 1970s the Rolls-Royce Owners Club commissioned a sculpture of the Flying Lady (Spirit of Ecstasy) to celebrate the car’s 75th anniversary. It could only be purchased by registered Rolls-Royce owners and does not appear in any published list.

Gift of State: It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see an actual Cybis “Gift of State” offered for sale, although you may see a sculpture advertised as having been one. Such a description simply means that one of these (usually limited edition) sculptures – usually an artist’s proof – was once presented to a president or monarch as a ceremonial gift. An actual Gift of State always bears very special markings and other authentications clearly indicating what it is, and spends its life in the recipient’s private collection unless it gets donated to a museum. An artist’s proof of the small limited edition ‘Mother Bear with Three Cubs’ shown below was presented to Queen Elizabeth by the state of California on the occasion of her visit there. Thus, although you might see a sculpture described as a “gift of state to so-and-so” it won’t be that actual sculpture if the asking price has less than five or six figures.

Mother Bear and Three Cubs

Artist’s Proof:  If a Cybis sculpture is marked “A.P.” or “AP” (Artist’s Proof) this means it is one of very few exactly like it… and often it’s literally one of a kind. Most artist’s proofs are created in the early stages of production when decisions are being made as to what colors and decorations to use. An accidental color change during firing can also result in an artists’s proof, if the artist liked it. Cybis has also been known to do a single sculpture in a custom color decoration at a collector’s request and at a premium price; that sculpture is also marked Artist’s Proof because it is one of a kind.

Serious collectors will argue that an Artist’s Proof sculpture must contain only that designation and nothing else: In other words, if it is a limited edition piece it should not also have a sculpture number on it because the A.P. takes the place of what otherwise would have been the sculpture’s assigned number. It is always best to ask for more details if you see an A.P. sculpture that also contains a painted sculpture number as well; for example, exactly how is this sculpture different from the standard colors, decoration colors, or applied decoration? If there is truly no difference, then knowledge of the piece’s provenance becomes critical…. it isn’t difficult for someone to have added two letters in the proper color of paint (a later installment in this series will discuss fakes and forgeries). However, I have seen pieces on which the Cybis studio itself added an A.P. designation to an already-produced-and-numbered standard-color limited edition, usually if the piece is being donated to a charity auction. My personal opinion is that a sculpture is either an A.P. from the time of creation (in which case it is not part of the retail production of that piece and should not be numbered as those are) ….or it is not; and that to artificially convert what was clearly an already-finished piece to an “Artist’s Proof” is misleading at best.

Thus, a rough guide to the respective values of different Cybis edition types is (from lowest to highest):

- an Open edition of either type (standard or variation) which is still being produced

- a Retired edition (i.e., an open edition no longer being made)

- a Special edition (i.e., an edition with very limited quantity and availability)

- a Numbered Special edition

- a Special Commission (a small edition designed and created for a specific group of people)

- a Limited Edition which is still being produced

- a Closed Limited edition

- an Artist’s Proof of an open edition or a retired open edition

- an Artist’s Proof of a Limited edition still being produced

- an Artist’s Proof of a Closed Limited edition, especially if it is one of a kind.

This last (one-of-a-kind AP of a closed limited edition) is probably the most valuable Cybis piece likely to be found for sale, other than an actual Gift of State or one of the extremely low-edition pieces such as the Knight in Shining Armor of which only 25  are being made at a price of $35,000 each. Also, some of the very early Retired pieces may well be as valuable as a current Limited Edition, simply because so few have survived intact. Naturally a piece must be in absolutely mint condition to be worth the maximum amount for its type; even a professional repair can be detected under a blacklight.

The next instalment of this Cybis series will discuss research and resources for determining the value of a sculpture.

(all images not watermarked with the Chatsworth name are copyrighted by the Cybis Studio)

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