Porcelain Figurines: Antiques or Reproductions?


These figurines could be 200 years old and worth quite a bit, if they were genuine. Actually, these two pieces were made by Cybis, a Trenton, N.J. company in the mid- to late-1940s

No one item is more misunderstood than porcelain figurines. The trouble starts, I suppose, from the fact that certain styles have been reproduced since European porcelain was made for the first time early in the 18th century.

Often, we see pieces our clients are sure must be 200 years old, because they resemble pieces seen on television or in antique price guides. In many cases, the truth age of these pieces can be determined by the company markings on them. But in some cases, manufacturers used paper labels, which have long since disappeared or the stamped marks too obscured to read.

This is where the appraisers’ past experience from examining both modern and original pieces comes into play. To properly identify unmarked pieces, an appraiser first works much like a detective, examining the piece for clues, checking things like construction methods, glaze colors, and materials used only during certain time periods and companies.

After a time of manufacture is determined, the more difficult job of identifying a possible maker is the next step. This is accomplished by comparing the piece in question to similar items produced by known companies, based on the appraisers past experience, auction catalogues and specialized reference sources.

In the case of the pieces pictured at the top of the column, they came across our desk, mistaken by their inheritors for much older pieces, first made in the mid 18th century and again in the second quarter of the 19th century. At first glance, these pieces do appear to be 19th century European pieces and carry no company markings, which was sometimes the case with pieces made prior to 1891.

In fact, these busts actually date from the 1950’s and were made by a small Trenton, N.J., company called Cybis, founded by Boleslaw Cybis in 1942 and operated until about the mid 1950s. The majority of Cybis pieces were marked with molded numbers and signatures, each being hand-decorated and marked by the artist. But some, like examples above, were not. In the case of these pieces, exact matches were found in reference material published about the company and in recent auction catalogues.

Mike Wilcox
Wilcox & Hall Appraisers

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