As befits America’s oldest* porcelain art studio, Cybis produced no less than 17 sculptures that celebrated the history and patriotism of the United States. Some were portraits, some were representations of our national bird, and some were giftware items. They appear below in order of retail introduction within each of those categories.
The first Cybis patriotic portrait was Columbia, a limited edition of 200 possessing several unique characteristics. She was introduced in 1967 and was completely sold out by the end of 1968. The 1979 Cybis catalog lists this as “Columbia 1776 through 1976, Commemorative issue of 200.” She was priced at $1000 which was higher than usual for a limited edition during the 1960s. The sculpture is 15” high overall and sits on a 7.5” square wood base.
The brass plaque affixed to the base of each Columbia commemorates a different event in American history from 1776 to 1976.
Another unique trait of this sculpture is the numbering, which rather than being the typical 1-200 instead runs from #1776 to #1976; thus, the piece that normally would have been #1 is numbered #1776, and the piece that would have been #200 is numbered #1976. This is very confusing/misleading if you don’t know that there were actually only two hundred of these made for retail sale!
This photo shows Cybis director Marylin Chorlton with the #1889 Columbia.
In addition to the retail production run there were three additional sculptures made in 1969 for presentation by President Richard Nixon to the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. The plaque on those three Columbia sculptures reads: “Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind.” A second shield, round and bearing the symbol of NASA, was also added near Columbia’s feet. A photograph of this sculpture appears in Cybis in Retrospect. The brass plaque that is affixed to the retail #1969 sculpture says simply “COLUMBIA Apollo 11 Mission 1969”
Unfortunately there is no existing list of what the 200 commemorative events were, and so the only alternative is to glean them piecemeal from whatever sculptures happen to appear for sale in the online marketplace. The list below will hopefully be expanded as time goes on. If any reader has a Columbia that does not appear below, I’d love to be able to add your “event” to the list; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page. As you can see, there are more “missing” events than not!
1776 Declaration of Independence
1778 Battle of Monmouth
1793 Citizen Genet Affair
1798 Alien and Sedition Acts
1806 Monroe Treaty
1808 African Slave Trade
1809 Monroe-Pinkney Treaty
1825 Erie Canal Completed
1828 Andrew Jackson Elected as President
1829 Workingmen’s Party Organized in Philadelphia
1859 Pike’s Peak Gold Rush
1864 Sherman’s March Through Georgia
1867 Granger Movement
1883 Centennial Anniversary of the Society of the Cincinnati
1888 Benjamin Harrison Elected President
1889 Washington State Admitted to the Union
1917 Peace Without Victory
1922 US Paid Inter Allied War Debts
1928 Clark Memorandum
1934 Decline of Dollar Diplomacy
1943 Struggle for the Aleutians
1952 Austrian Treaty Negotiations
1958 Alaska Admitted as 49th State
1969 Apollo 11 Mission
These next two examples are both of our first President. The George Washington Bust was an open edition, originally commissioned by the Bicentennial Council, produced for five years (1975–1970). Sculpted by William Pae, its retail price went from $175 to $275. Height is 13” including the base.
Mr. President is a limited edition of 500 standing 17” tall, issued in 1987 to commemorate the signing of the Bill of Rights which the sculpture of George Washington holds in his hand. Issue price was $1987. The 1988 Cybis price list included him under their “Constitutional Collection” heading for $2075; his edition was closed or completed before 1993.
Also introduced in 1987 as part of the Constitutional Collection was First Born, Virginia Dare representing the first child born in America of British parents. Although a nonlimited edition, this piece is a bit special because the ones that were produced during the summer of 1987 (May through August) are numbered; the later ones were not. So if you have a numbered sculpture, you now know when it was made. Number 86 is the highest one I have seen but would like to know how many there are; if you have a higher number, do let me know! The piece is 8″ high overall and had an issue price of $450. (The only other summer-numbered piece in the collection was the Golden Eagle, seen among the Later Birds.)
Liberty was an edition of only 100, standing 17.5” tall and was priced at $1875. She is also one of those Cybis sculptures with a confused issue date. Many assume she was issued in 1986 because she was advertised as commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, but in fact an equal purpose was to help support the Liberty Park Monument Committee in connection with the restoration of the Statue. The restoration began in mid-1984 and the statue was reopened to the public amid great fanfare during its centenary year in July 1986. Shreve Crump & Low advertised ‘Liberty’ for sale in 1984, and Caldwell’s (of Philadelphia and Washington D.C.) advertised it in mid-1985. A portion ($50) of the retail price was donated to the Liberty Park organization.
Liberty holds a laurel sprig as symbol of victory. The flagstaff is 14k gold plated and the other gold accents are 24k gold leaf. Although the “official” advertising photography from Cybis did not show her on a base (this was sometimes done with other sculptures as well; see the discussion in North American Indians) the actual retail version was attached to one as can be seen above. (The sculpture presented by Cybis to Barbara Bush was an artist’s proof and did not include a base.)
The actual sculpture shown in the photo above was mis-identified as being the later Hall of Fame replica (see below) but absolutely is part of the original issue of 100. The auction house doubtless simply went to the Cybis website, saw only the HOF version listed, and identified it as that without comparing the height and decoration thoroughly to what they had in hand. As a result, the piece ultimately sold for only $50 plus the buyer’s premium – a great bargain for the purchaser! This original edition of Liberty was either completed or closed before February 1988.
And here indeed is Liberty II which is the aforesaid Hall of Fame replica edition which is 13” high overall and did not come with a base. Introduced sometime between 1990 and 1993, she was an issue of 500 with an issue price of $1075. Note the differences in coloration (dress and medallion) between this version and the original; also the flagstaff on the HOF version is not gold plated.
In addition, this single Cybis website text-only retail price list from late 2008 contained a second HOF piece named Liberty III priced at $975. No other information about it appeared on the site but because it does not appear on a 1999 price list, it must have been first offered in 2000 or later. It’s not known what the edition size is but it was probably either 750 or 1000 (if not a non-limited edition). Using their typical downsizing method described here, this second reproduction is most likely 11” high.
This sculpture, designed and sculpted in 1985 by William Pae, was originally offered for sale in 1986 only, as Little Miss America, as seen in a California retailer’s advertisement from that year. The ad text reads:
Cybis’ tribute to the countless children who have given their hearts as well as their pennies to the restoration of our nation’s symbol of freedom. Dressed in her own version of the famous Lady’s costume, she holds a torch inscribed with the dates 1886 and 1986. Available exclusively during 1986. 8” tall. $295
However, in the early 2000s Cybis decided to make their backstock of this piece available again, despite having previously restricted its purchase to 1986 only. They put her onto their website under the slightly revised name of Little Miss Liberty and priced her at $395. So here we have a case of the same sculpture having had two slightly different names in commerce: “Little Miss America” during 1986, and then resurrected in the 2000s as “Little Miss Liberty.”
At the same time (2000s) their website also offered Little Miss Liberty with Bow. For this piece the original book was replaced with a yellow bow – which I suspect may have originally been conceived or perhaps even issued in honor of the troops returning from the Gulf War/Desert Storm in 1991 – in her left hand. (The bow in the illustrated example is damaged and was noted by the seller as “having been repaired” although, as the photo clearly shows, it is broken.) I suspect that this too was unsold backstock from a prior decade.
It is an odd piece in several respects. First, although Cybis inexplicably listed it as a Hall of Fame piece which is always shorter/smaller, it is the same size as the 1986 original. Second, aside from the book-to-bow conversion, there is almost no difference in coloration other than dilution of intensity. For their whopping pricepoint of $975 (no, that is not a typo) compared to the $395 of the standard retail version they were concurrently offering, one would think it might have been a numbered edition…. but it is not. If the $975 price shown on the Cybis website was not a typographical error (and I have no reason to think that it was) it ranks as one of the most egregiously overpriced items of Cybis’ last decade. It is a charming piece — but not for that price, which I very much doubt anyone ever paid.
American Bald Eagles
The earliest Cybis portrayal of our national bird, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, was their American Eagle pair. These are also among the very first of the modern studio’s retail sculptures. As noted in Early Birds, the white bisque version was made from 1954 to 1960 and the color version – which I’ve never seen but would love to find a photo of – between 1955 and 1960. They are 14” high and originally sold for $60 and $90 respectively.
The Cybis eagle that was issued in 1987 was the Golden Eagle, not the bald eagle; it can be found in the Later Birds post.
This is the American Bald Eagle with Base which is an imposing 24” high! It appears on their 1988 price list as an edition of 300 at $3595. However, five years later (autumn 1993) it is on their price list offered in two colorways: in white for $3975, and in color (shown above) for $4975…. but not showing separate edition sizes for each color. It still gives the edition size as 300. My hunch is that the “white” was one that simply would not be painted, and I have never seen a photo of a white one.
The next several eagle sculptures were all cast from the same mold but given different treatments as to bases, colors, and names. All are non-limited editions and were available in either plain white bisque or color. Exact introduction years are unknown but the Bald Eagles were definitely between spring 1989 and fall 1990.
The Bald Eagle was available in two colorways and with two base options. The “no-base” version is 8″ high; in 1993 Cybis asked $195 for the full color bird above, and $95 for the same piece in plain white bisque.
The addition of the 1.25″ wood base increased the pricing for both colorways. In 1993 the plain white eagle on base was $175, and the color one sold for $275. So when sculptures such as these are seen in the secondary market without a base, it’s helpful to know that some were actually made that way rather than the base having “gone missing.”
Cybis produced a special edition of the no-base Bald Eagle for the Trenton Savings Bank in 1994 for the bank’s 150th year celebration. From this photograph it appears that this edition is somewhat lighter in color, being more of a golden brown.
This eagle was introduced after 1999. Although this is definitely the Bald Eagle mold, this one is named the Noble Eagle. Nevertheless, it is simply the plain white Bald Eagle placed upon the base taken from the late-1980s closed limited edition Mr. President shown earlier. A good height guesstimate would probably be 9” or 9.25” overall. The only difference between the white version at $695 (2008 website) and the “color” version at $795 is the paint added to the eagle’s eyes, beak and feet, plus the addition of the laurel leaves atop the base.
There was also a special edition eagle made in 1976 for the New Jersey Bicentennial; it is shown in the Later Birds post.
All of the patriotic giftware items were non-limited editions; however, the two Bicentennial pieces below were available for purchase only during 1976.
The Egg Vase with Eagle Lid is 5” high including the lid and was priced at $110. A Bicentennial issue, it was only available during 1976.
The Bicentennial Lidded Heart Box was a special red, white and blue colorway of Cybis’ long-running ‘Thinking of You’ heart box. It is the same mold, of course, which measures 3” high and 4.5” x 4”, and the underside of the lid has the standard inscription/decoration for all of these boxes. Like the Egg Vase, it was only offered in 1976. (The other iterations of this heart box appear in the Giftware post.)
The Liberty Bell dates from 1987 and was originally part of the “Constitutional Collection” that year. It was sculpted by William Pae and is 4″ tall by 3.75″ long and 3.5″ wide. It was originally offered in two colorways: plain white bisque for $200 and in color as shown for $250. Both versions were retired before 1993.
The Stars and Stripes Heart Box is also from 1987; it is entirely different from the ‘Thinking of You’ series. It is 2” high and 5” long and wide. The names of the two ‘patriotic heart boxes’ are constantly confused with each other by online sellers, with this 1987 heart sometimes being called the “Bicentennial heart” (despite the mold being marked 1987 rather than 1976) and the 1976 heart being miscalled the “stars and stripes.” Originally priced at $235 and, like the Liberty Bell, was retired before 1993. However, during the 2000s the studio began offering them again on their website, resurrecting it from backstock for $495.
The Eagle Bowl measures 4.75″ tall by approximately 8.75″ long and 5.5″ wide. This was also originally part of the Constitutional Collection in 1987 and offered in both white bisque ($275) and color ($450.) The inside of the bowl is decorated with stylized feathers and thirteen stars to represent the original states. The design was a collaboration beween Stephen Zuczek and George Ivers, with Steve creating the basic design and George adding the fine details. Likewise retired before 1993, it too was resurrected in the 2000s and placed on the Cybis website for $495 but only as the color version.
*In one respect, an argument could also be made for the Edward Marshall Boehm Studio having the title of “oldest American porcelain art studio.” The Boehm studio was incorporated in 1950, whereas Cybis did not become so until November 1953. However, Boleslaw Cybis began hiring artists for his studio and selling pieces stamped/marked “Cybis” in 1940, even though he didn’t register it as a business until 13 years later. This is why the modern Cybis studio counts its anniversary decades starting in 1940 rather than 1953, and celebrated its’ golden (50th) operating anniversary in 1990.
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