A sports theme probably isn’t the first that comes to mind when thinking about Cybis porcelains but in fact they did produce more than a dozen pieces in that genre, starting in the mid-1980s. Two of them were special commissions but the others were all available at retail. Some were human figures and others were animals; however, only one of the “sports player animals” was an original design rather than an adaptation of a prior piece. Let’s take a look at the human studies first.
The three figure skaters are profiled in detail in their own separate post but will be summarized here. The first was introduced in 1984. From left to right: A Star is Born from 1984, Encore issued in 1986, and Figure Eight from 1985. They were each priced at $625 at introduction with a declared issue of 750. However, for some reason the current Cybis website lists them as open (non-limited) editions priced at $799 each. I suspect this may be a website error because all of the examples I have seen for sale in the secondary market have been numbered.
Lance, the Jogger was introduced as an open edition in 1980 at $245; he is 14″ high. He’s rather a puzzlement because despite his issue date, which is confirmed via two contemporary Cybis advertising sources, he does not appear on Cybis retail price lists from 1982 onward… yet he was on the Cybis retail website in the early 2000s as an open edition for $395! His 13″ high female companion was also introduced in 1980, probably in the autumn; a contemporary retail newspaper ad shows her at $345 with the caption/name simply as Lady Jogger. Why she should have debuted at $100 higher than Lance is also puzzling. In the early 2000s the Cybis site re-titled them as Jogger, Male and Jogger, Female with the lady still priced at $345. In any case neither of them are on the Cybis website anymore which means that both have jogged off into the retirement sunset together.
The child sports figures are likewise difficult to date as regards retail introduction year, and none more so than the Soccer Player. The best I can do at this point is to say that he appeared after 1988 because a retail price list that year does not include him. The colorway shown above, with yellow shorts and a black-trimmed shirt, is the photo that appears on the Cybis site, priced at $395.
However, the mold impressions and signature on this alternate colorway (with light green pants and a green-trimmed shirt) sold at auction in 2013 clearly indicates that this design was copyrighted in 1982 but possibly not released until a full decade later (1992, as shown by the date to the left of the Cybis signature.) Despite being marked as a photography-sample piece, it seems this colorway was not the one ultimately chosen for their advertising. These are the only two photos I have of the Soccer Player and would be interested to see a third piece to view the actual colors and retail markings; there is a direct-contact form on the About the Cybis Archive page if anyone has an image to share.
Another sports piece is the Baseball Player who is 8.5” high. An old auction listing cited it as being “signed 1984” but without a photo of the mark, so I have no idea whether he was actually issued in that year. He doesn’t appear on my 1988 retail list so this might be a similar situation to the Soccer Player. His issue price is unknown but he is shown on the present Cybis site at $395.
This example differs from the official Cybis photo, and from the others I have seen online, in that the trim on his collar and sleeves is red rather than blue. Was this a one-off or did the trim color vary in production?
Little Gymnast is another sports child. She does appear on a 1988 Cybis sculpture list at $225 and is on the current Cybis site under the name “Gymnast (young girl)” at $399. She is 10” high. I am always somewhat puzzled by the parenthetical gender names because – considering that the gender is readily apparent – it seems to suggest that an additional version was planned, although none of them ever were produced as boy/girl counterparts.
Football Player (young boy) is 8.25” high and sells for $395 currently; prior pricing and issue year are unknown.
Swimmer (young girl) matches the other sports designs but is slightly taller at 8.75”. She is currently $295 on the Cybis site; prior details not known at present.
Gone Fishing is 9.5” high and currently sells for $275 which is a bit puzzling because it appears to be a bit more detailed than the other sports children who are all smaller and simpler in design and yet are priced $120 higher. Perhaps the $275 is a website typo.
(The non-sports-themed Cybis child sculptures are shown in Cybis ‘Children to Cherish.’)
So at this point we’ve covered eight sports: figure skating, track/jogging, soccer, baseball, football, gymnastics, swimming and fishing. The remaining sports pieces add three more to this list: horse racing, skiing and golf. The two non-retail pieces belong to the golf category and will be shown last.
I may be stretching the definition of “sports sculpture” a bit, but since horse racing is indeed a sport it would be unfair to not include Nashua in this compilation. This piece is 16″ high including the base upon which it sits (unattached.) Introduced in 1971, it also has the distinction of having probably the biggest edition-size reduction in Cybis history: originally declared an issue of 500, it was closed after only 100 were made. Production problems reportedly abounded with this piece. It is also (possibly) the only Cybis piece that actually bears the name of the freelance artist who designed it: James Nelson Slick, the noted equine portrait painter. Nashua sold for $200 during its five-year production run.
The Ski Bunny, who is also included in A Bonanza of Cybis Bunnies, appeared in 1987 at $250. He is 6″ high and still schusses the slopes of the Cybis website for $395, albeit renamed “Bunny with Ski”. His original name was Ski Bunny, however.
The other sports bunnies are all golfers, and the “invasion” began in earnest in 1989 with the introduction of the Golf Bunnies. Because that was Cybis’ 50th anniversary year, any of these that were physically produced in 1989 had the special anniversary stamp added to the backstamp. There are four golf bunnies, all made from the same (rabbit) mold but differing in accessory colorway, golf club position, and name. Their 1989 issue prices are unknown but they are on the present-day Cybis site for $175 each. All are 5.5″ high.
The orange hat/club version is Golf Bunny ‘Gimmie’; the green hat/club version is Golf Bunny ‘Mulligan’; and the blue colorway is Golf Bunny ‘Bogie’. Unfortunately I have no photo of the fourth bunny and only know that the name is Golf Bunny ‘Bunkie’…no clue as to the color of his hat and club handle. Perhaps it is red or purple?
Cybis later added a holiday/holly version to each of the Golf Bunnies, probably in the mid 1990s or later. For those pieces the name is extended by “with Holly”; ergo, they become Golf Bunny ‘Gimmie’ with Holly, Golf Bunny ‘Mulligan’ with Holly, Golf Bunny ‘Bogie’ with Holly, and Golf Bunny ‘Bunkie’ with Holly. Lacking a photo of any of these, I have no idea where/how the holly was added but my guess would be an attachment to the front or side of the cap. Maybe someday one will come up for sale online and we’ll know for sure. 😉
Traveling from the woodlands to the southern continents we have an adaptation of the 1986 Hippo ‘T.G.I.F.’, introduced sometime during the 1990s as Hippo, Baseball Fan ‘Play Ball’. (The copyright impression on the baseball version will likely still say 1986, however.) He is on the current Cybis site at $475, which is a $300 upgrade from the current price of T.G.I.F. and reflects the addition of his cap and popcorn. No height is given for the baseball hippo but a good guess is between 5.6″ and 6″ because of the cap which the original (TGIF) does not wear.
There are two golfing bears, one a retail edition and one a special event piece. The retail one appears – but without any photo – on the Cybis site as Golfer Bear with Holly at $575, and being 6″ high. The name suggests that (like the Golf Bunnies) there was previously a Golfer Bear without holly which has since been retired; but what did the Golfer Bear look like? The 6″ height may offer a clue.
This bear cub was originally one of three included in the Mother Bear with Three Cubs group circa 1983, and offered separately as an open edition on its own in two colorways (brown and white) plus the with-holly version shown above; all of the Cybis bears can be seen in Bulls and Bears in the Cybis Market. It is possible that this sitting cub was used for a golfer bear but that begs the question of whether he was – like the Golf Bunnies – given a hat? If so, the 6″ height would be incorrect because the hatless bear cub is 6″ tall. Perhaps the Golfer Bear was/is simply holding a club (borrowed from the Cybis rabbit warren?) This is another Cybis mystery that awaits one coming up for sale to solve via a photograph!
The final two sports Cybis were special event “golf” pieces. This is called Chi Chi and The Bear and was made for a charity event benefitting the Chi Chi Rodriguez Foundation, to which Joseph Chorlton, director of the Cybis studio, belonged. The “bear” in the name refers also to Jack Nicklaus who was in attendance at the event. A limited number of these were made from the Cybis open edition Woolie Bear mold, with the special hat added and the colorway changed from the standard white to a light golden brown. At first I thought this may have been a one of a kind auction piece but I have since seen a second one for sale that the buyer had autographed by Rodriguez and Nicklaus so it appears to have been an event issue – perhaps 100 or 200, as was typical for Cybis. The event price for Chi Chi is not known. (The autographed one was missing its hat and so I am showing this one instead, even though the hat does have damage.)
To round out the known Cybis sports designs there is the Ryder Cup Trophy which was commissioned for the 1987 match played at the Muirfield Golf Club. Details and additional views of this piece (only about 20 of them were made) are found in its own post. It is 15″ high (with lid) and about 8″ across the handles. At least three of these have subsequently been re-sold at auction since their original presentations in 1987.
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