The Cybis porcelain studio did indeed create a collectors’ club but unfortunately it existed for only three years during the late 1990s. This coincided with a period of great upheaval in my personal life and so I’m not surprised that it had completely escaped my attention – particularly since by that time I was no longer actively collecting. So 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.
I learned that there was a special sculpture issued during each of the three years that the club operated. 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 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”.
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.)
Although the first special Collectors’ Society figurine was designed and created especially for this purpose, the other two are special variations of previously-introduced sculptures. This brochure may have been the first one issued describing the Collectors’ Society because of the photo of the Golden Princess alone.
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.
Ms. Farrar, having a Golden Princess and several Golden Princes among her stock, was kind enough to take photos of the markings on each for comparison purposes. 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-year (1996-97) membership piece was the Golden Prince which was a re-issue of a piece named The Prince that had been introduced in 1987 and since retired (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 collectors’ club was to replace the original Prince’s hat with a crown, andchange his clothing from shades of green to plain white bisque with some gold decoration added so as to match the Golden Princess who had been the previous year’s club piece.
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 (1997-98) collectors’ club piece, the Little Princess, she is an adaptation of the Flower Girl 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 Little Princess is this Flower Girl decorated in gold and without her basket and flower elements.
The Comanche Chief Medallion
What was almost certainly the joining-up “freebie” for the Society’s first year 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 mold and it was produced in white with gold accents.
The reverse shows that this was designated for the second (1995-1996). One online seller cited it as “having originally cost $55” which ties in with another report of that amount being the membership fee. It was common for the various collector clubs of the 1980s and 1990s to provide a small item to new members when they first signed up.
The Small Crown
This small crown, 2.25” in diameter and about 1.25” tall, in white bisque with gold decoration was probably the new-member sign-up piece 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.
I have not yet found any other small piece marked as a Collectors Society item, although there may well have been one for the third/final (Little Princess) year. If anyone happens to have such an item, I’d love to add it here; there is a contact form on the About the Archive page.
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 have 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.
The Cybis Collectors Society was discontinued after its third year. However, it would be very interesting to know what literature Cybis sent to club members (was the brochure illustrated above one of them?) or even to know how people joined; did they have to sign up at one of Cybis’ authorized retailers, for instance, or could they join by mail? And what were the perks of being a member? Could someone who joined in year #3 only purchase the Little Princess, or could they also purchase one or both of the previous pieces as well, if any were still available?
It is possible that the membership fee was $55 but this is unconfirmed; in any case, it would have not included any of the three available-to-members-only sculptures. The prices of the “royal trio” are unknown. It’s also not known whether the membership fee was one-time-only or had to be renewed on an annual basis. I’d be happy to hear from anyone who might have any information to share; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page. In any case, it is unlikely that very many of these “little royals” were produced and their limited distribution should make them of interest to serious collectors who missed their initial offering.
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