Collector's Corner: Figurines, Part 1: Sebastian Miniatures and Bing & Grondahl Figurines
By Michele Alice
Hummel, Lladro, Hagen-Renaker - all are well known names in the world of collectible figurines. Here's a look at a few others that have developed devoted followings over the years. Part 1, below, covers Sebastian Miniatures and Bing & Grondahl. Look for Part 2, covering Precious Moments and Josef Originals, in the next issue.
Sebastian Miniatures had its birth in early 1938 when Prescott Woodbury Baston was commissioned to design a set of figurines for the Shaker Glen House restaurant in Woburn, Massachusetts. The pieces, depicting a Shaker couple, so impressed the owner of the restaurant that she ordered four dozen to sell and give away to guests, and a short time later ordered a thousand more! The success of the figurines led to the launch of Sebastian Miniatures in March of 1939. (Why "Sebastian" and not "Baston"? It sounded better!) By the time Baston passed away in 1984, his son Prescott "Woody" Baston, Jr. had taken over as designer.
Between 1938 and 2008 an estimated 1000 different figurines had been marketed. The hand-painted pieces can be grouped according to "topic" - historic personages, literary characters, different occupations, pets, holidays, etc. - or "series" - Dickens, Civil War, Lighthouse, etc. Many were withdrawn from production, only to be reissued several years later with variations in color and markings.
In the secondary markets today, most Sebastian Miniatures can be found in the $20 - $150 range, but collectors are willing to pay several hundred dollars for some of the rarer pieces, like the Jell-O series' cow milk pitcher. Issued by General Mills in 1956 as a "$1 + coupon" premium, over 100,000 were made, but few have survived.
Bing & Grondahl
Between its founding in 1853 and its merger with Royal Copenhagen in 1987, Bing & Grondahl produced over 1000 porcelain figurines. Appreciated by collectors the world over for charmingly rendered depictions of children and animals, the Danish firm was also noted for its dinnerware, coffee sets, and Christmas plates, all of which have become collectible in their own right.
Over the decades, Bing & Grondahl employed a number of noted artists to design their figurines. One of the most famous of these was Lauritz Jensen (1859 –1935) who was considered one of the finest animal sculptors of his day. The 34 figurines he produced for B&G are avidly sought after by collectors who are constantly on the alert for his LJ signature on the pieces.
Today, Royal Copenhagen still produces new Bing & Grondahl items, but collectors are willing to pay up to several hundred dollars or more for vintage pieces, especially by artists like Jensen.
The Art of Dating Bing and Grondahl - Link - Great website offers numerous pics of figurines, artists' signatures, and the many B&G marks used over the decades.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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