Cybis had differing motivations when it came to doing color variations on certain sculptures, and it can cause considerable confusion when seeing (or selling) them in the secondary market. This is because a color variation may be done for any one of five different purposes, and the specific reason for the change has an effect on the color-variant’s value.
(Note: This article does not apply to the Hall of Fame sculptures which often have different colors, but they will also be a slightly smaller overall size than the original piece upon which it is based.)
Gallery Event Color Variant(s)
As touched upon in Making Sense of the Editions, one possible reason for a color variant is that it was a special edition produced for a retail gallery event. A fairly frequent production-run for this kind of special-edition color variant was 200 pieces; none of them appear in any official Cybis publications. Most of these special editions were not individually numbered, although there were at least three (that I’m aware of) which were. Some had a special name (such as “Patty Pink”) but others did not. Several examples do appear in this Archive and are duly noted as special editions in the descriptions; whenever possible, photos will compare them to their regular-edition counterpart.
This is the standard-color open edition called Young Rose, who is 9” tall. Introduced in 1987 and listed as part of the retail “Wedding Collection” in 1988, she still appears on the Cybis site at $395.
This is the blue variant that was done for a retail gallery Cybis event – year unknown – and made available to attendees as a special numbered edition named Roberta. Some (perhaps all?) of these were autographed “T Rose” (by Theresa Rose Chorlton, an owner of the Studio) on the underside. In terms of value Roberta should be worth more because only a limited number of them were made, and this special edition was individually numbered – unlike Young Rose for which, as an open edition, there is no pre-set limit to the number ultimately produced.
Another example is the circus elephant Alexander, He’s the Greatest! which is also an open (non-limited edition) standing 7.5” high and introduced in 1975 at $195. The normal edition coloration, shown on the left in both photos, has blue trappings and a red ball. But as you can see, Cybis produced a special edition color variant with pink/red trappings and a blue ball – although I have no idea who it was done for. This pair was offered at auction in the same lot and interestingly the description says that “one is dated 1975”; that would be the standard version color and the date is given as a mould impression, not painted on. But because the color variant is not dated, it seems likely that it was created some time thereafter for a special event and Cybis altered that run’s mould so that this issue would not be confused with the standard open edition one. Again the special edition variant should be worth more, because it is not part of the normal non-limited production run. We have no idea what the color variant elephant was called (might have been Alexander, might have been something entirely different, or he might not have been given a name at all.)
In a similar but more rarified category are the OOAK (one of a kind) special editions that were occasionally produced. The most extensive example of this was the group of 50 different special sculptures created for a Children’s Cultural Fund benefit auction in May 1978 at the Garden State Arts Center in New Jersey. The “base” sculptures were chosen from the small children and animal collections and boasted not only different colors but unique decorative elements and special names. One of them is described in the 1979 Cybis catalog mentioning this event as being “an elephant with lavender butterfly ears” which was renamed Papillon. This sculpture would certainly have been Alexander, because Cybis had not made any small elephants before 1975. Sadly, there seems to be no surviving complete list of this unique group of OOAK sculptures.
Same Retail Named Sculpture in Two Different Retail Colors
Cybis has, at least once, made the same sculpture deliberately in two different colorways, both of them for retail release, but kept the sculpture name the same, or virtually so. This was the case for the circus bear called ‘Barnaby’.
In 1975 this circus bear was introduced with the name Circus Bear, Barnaby, as an open edition (7” tall) at a retail price of $125. Notice that his trumpet bears the legend “200th”.
In the Spring 1976 introduction brochure Cybis offered this white version with the name Bicentennial Circus Bear, Barnaby which would be made in this colorway only during 1976 as part of the Bicentennial Collection. He is identical to the prior year’s Barnaby in every way (and now the 200th on the trumpet makes sense!) except for his fur color, and the two bears were priced the same. In 1977 the edition reverted back to only the original brown Barnaby (still with same trumpet) after which year the piece was retired; the closing price was $145. Significantly, the 1979 Cybis catalog does not list these as two separate sculpture names, but only as “Bear, Barnaby” having been made from 1975-1977.
So which of these two colors should be more valuable? Both were advertised and available to the general public (unlike the special editions) and both versions were priced identically at retail; if someone went to a Cybis retailer in 1976 and wanted the brown Barnaby, they’d have paid the same price as for the white version. Both pieces have the Bicentennial-related “200th” on the trumpet; there were no different marks or signatures on the white version. We have no way of knowing how many sculptures were made in each colorway. The only real difference was in length of production run for the colors: the brown Barnaby was available at retailers for three years (1975, 1976 and 1977) while the white version was supposedly only available for a single year (assuming no left-over white ones in retailer stock during 1977). This may give the white bear an edge value-wise but it probably is not a very large one. Personally I think the white Barnaby is more attractive but that’s just me. I do recall it being referred to colloquially by retailers and collectors as the “Bicentennial Polar Bear” at the time but Cybis never officially gave it that name.
Same Retail Sculpture in Two Different Colors and with Different Names
We have at least two examples of situations where the identical sculpture was made in two different colors and each one was given a different retail name. One is a limited edition and the other is not.
The first example is from 1976, when Cybis introduced the same turkey in two different colorways under different names. The brown version was listed and sold as American Wild Turkey, and the white bird as American White Turkey. This is a different situation than being in “white bisque” and “color” because it is only the bird’s plumage that is done in the differing white. The edition size was 150 for each name; the sculpture is 12.5” high and 13” long. The retail price depended on the color: the Wild Turkey was $1950 and the White $1450. These were sold as two differently named sculptures, not as white and color versions of a single design name.
In this case the value of each piece does not depend on the color at all, because the individual colorway is the normal one for each. It would be incorrect for a seller to claim that either turkey is a “special color” version of the other.
The same situation applies to Cybis’ dormice sculptures. In 1977 the 5.75” open edition Dormouse ‘Maximilian’ was introduced at $250; the following year (1978) his white counterpart Dormouse ‘Maxine’ appeared. She is identical to Maximilian except for fur color. As with the turkeys a couple of years earlier, Maxine’s white-fur version was slightly less expensive ($195). Again the colorway makes no difference in value except for the fact that Maxine started at a lower pricepoint than did Maximilian – because they are completely separate retail issues – and again a seller would be wrong to say that either dormouse is a “special version”.
However, Maximilian was also one of the special OOAK benefit auction pieces mentioned earlier; he acquired a pair of scholarly spectacles and a book, and may have been named The Professor. That particular sculpture, being one of a kind, would be special indeed!
Limited Edition in a Different Colorway, But is Not Marked as an AP
Here we get into a bit of a sticky wicket, valuation-wise. What about a limited edition that definitely differs from the normal color version of the sculpture but is not marked AP (for artist proof)??
This is the usual color version of the Folk Singer, a numbered limited edition introduced in 1967 and made only until 1974. The original declared edition was 500 but the edition was closed after only 283 were made. At introduction it retailed for $300 but when closed in 1974 this had risen to $650 – a significant increase.
I have seen this yellow-pants version only once. Normally I would expect this to be an artist’s proof due to the difference in the color of the pants and in the subtle paint differences on the shirt and on the guitar. However, the listing photo showed it to be numbered as #15 with absolutely no mention made of an AP designation.
Is it possible that some of these were produced with blue pants and others with yellow? Possibly, especially if the yellow color was proving to be problematic, especially given that this was a limited edition and a “shortened” one at that. It would absolutely not be a special-edition gallery event piece, because Cybis never used limited editions for that purpose. An artist’s proof that was not marked as such? Very possible. It’s also possible that the sculpture was originally intended to have these yellow pants but for some reason after introduction the color was changed to blue…. because the sculpture numbers on the blue versions have all been in the 100s and 200s. Cybis publications were not printed in color during the 1960s and so a color change would have been relatively simple as far as advertising was concerned.
The only thing certain about this yellow variant is that it definitely is worth more than the ‘standard’ closed limited edition with the blue pants. Its only shortcoming is that it doesn’t appear to be marked AP, even though it probably is one in reality. But even without the AP it is clearly above the standard edition in terms of collector value.
Limited Edition Piece in a Different Color, and Marked as an AP
This category is thankfully straightforward: a limited edition piece done in a non-standard colorway and marked as an artist’s proof.
This is the normal color of Lady Godiva, a limited edition of only 200 sculptures, 13.5” tall, introduced in 1982 at a price of $1875 but now a completed edition.
This is an artist’s proof of the same sculpture, done in a different colorway and marked as an AP. It is one of a kind. The sculpture was sold by Cybis Studio in 1993 for slightly more than twice the price of the standard color Lady Godiva being produced at that time.
An AP of a limited edition sculpture such as this, which because of the different colorway is one of a kind, will always be valued much higher than any other type of variation. It will be more valuable than an AP that was done in the standard colorway, and also more valuable than an alternate colorway that is not marked AP (but the value difference there would lie only in the absence of an AP designation, which is the factor nudging the piece’s value somewhat lower).
Thus the color of a Cybis piece can have a very different impact on value, ranging from none at all to quite a significant amount. One of the reasons I believe that a permanent informational database is important is to be able to provide insight into the reason for any particular color difference that may be found.
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