|A complete guide to
determining the values of Sebastian collectibles you are purchasing or
selling. Condition, age, quantity issued, labels, artist signatures,
variations, obtaining appraisals, etc.
Much of the information herein contained is adapted from the Sebastian Exchange Value Register and is used with permission of the Sebastian Exchange.
Sebastian Miniatures Guide
For nearly twenty years, Sebastian collectors relied on the Sebastian Value Register, a publication originally developed by Paul J. Sebastian and issued by the Sebastian Exchange. This invaluable tool served, in effect, to both organize and stabilize Sebastians collectibles, especially for the secondary market. Values for all known Sebastian items - figurines, pewter items, plates, etc. were included in a logical logical arrangement according to a catalog numbers. Values were periodically reviewed and updated by a group of knowledgeable collectors and dealers who together formed the Sebastian Advisory Council. Useful background information relative to identifying and evaluating Sebastians was included.
Valuations were last updated in 2003 and appear in The Official Sebastian Miniatures GUIDE (fully illustrated) issued that year. Valuations are currently being updated and a new publication will be released in the near future. Check back here for the up-to-date status.
As with nearly all collectibles, condition is a very important determinant in placing a value on an individual Sebastian collectible. The Sebastian Exchange has issued the following guidelines when determining value; these are generally applied by professional Sebastian appraisers.
Sebastian Miniature from an authorized Sebastian dealer's stock, in
original condition, never owned by a collector.
age and value
As with most collectibles, there is a correlation between age and value, although not as close a relationship as one might suppose. Figures from the Arlington Studio era tend to be somewhat more valuable than the same figurines made during the later Marblehead Studio era. However, the value of both is much less than that of many of the later "commercial pieces." Other factors tend to be more important to most collectors.
Many Sebastian figurines were continued over a period of many years with the number actually created unknown. However, many other figurines (as well as other items) were limited for one of the following reasons:
AN UNPOPULAR DESIGN. The figure simply never became popular so it was dropped relatively soon after it was introduced. The figures produced for the "Children's Band" series - SML-42 to SML-47 fit into this category. (These are among the most sought-after and valuable Sebastians today.)
FRAGILITY. Even if large numbers of an item were made, it did not stand the test of time. Sometimes these were made for a utilitarian purpose. The highest volume item ever made was the Jell-O Cow Milk Pitcher (LC-13) - 100,000 made in Japan in 1956. This was created as a premium - $1.00 and a Jell-O coupon. Today it is quite scarce and commands a price of several hundred dollars, simply because nearly all of them broke and were discarded.
LIMITED BY NUMBER. Virtually all of the large number of items produced for commercial interests were limited in number. They were intended to be distributed to selected customers, employees or some other relatively small group, often as an award or incentive. These commercial pieces in particular are highly sought after today partly because of their scarcity and partly because they are often among the most attractive or unique Sebastians created. Pieces created for organizations such as the Sebastian Exchange or a Masonic Lodge have always been limited to a specific number. When a piece is limited by number, it will often include information such as 120/500 signifying that it is the 120th piece in a limited edition of 500.
LIMITED BY DATE. Sometimes a production end date is specified with all orders received prior to that date then fulfilled. Some of the most popular series where handled this way. These include the "America Remembers" series, the "Woody's First" series, the Washington Irving Series done for the SMCS and many of the Christmas theme pieces. If a piece is limited by date, it will often have a serial number assigned. If an item is part of a set, all pieces in the set may have this same number.
TRIAL ITEMS. A small number of Sebastians were created as models or prototypes and therefore only a few were ever made. A classic example is Speedy Alka Seltzer. Prescott Baston created two dozen miniatures depicting their trademark. Miles Laboratories management was sufficiently impressed that it ordered 250,000 of them - a contract Baston could not reasonably fulfill. The project was dropped and the few copies in existence command a price today in the thousands of dollars.
Note on "Discontinued Forever" Items. Certain figurines have received the designation "DF" or "Discontinued Forever." Unless a figurine has specifically been so designated, it must be considered that the design may, at some day, be brought back into production. Historically, this has actually been done on numerous occasions. However, whenever this is done, distinctive imprints are used or some clearly identifiable change is made. Normally when an item is given the "DF" designation, the original mold is destroyed.
subject matter and value
The subject matter of a Sebastian may have considerable impact on its value, particularly if it may appeal to collectors who have a specific interest in that subject. An important example here are the "Commercial" pieces. Many Sebastian collectors want them because they are scarce and generally very attractive when displayed. However, non-Sebastian collectors may also be very interested because of their commercial association with a company or product. Sebastianworld has identified many collectable topics and matched up Sebastians with each of these topics.
Labels and imprints on the bases of Sebastian
Miniatures are important indications of value. They usually
indicate the time period and place where a particular item was
manufactured. This information is of value primarily when
distinguishing Arlington and Marblehead figurines and the later Lance
versions, the latter often having considerably less value. To be assured
of good value for your money, it is a good idea to be acquainted with
imprints and labels.
The type of label used generally corresponds with the "era" in which a particular Sebastian was made. These eras and time frames are: (1) Arlington Studio (1938-1945); (2) Marblehead Studio (1946-1975); (3) Lance Production (1976-1996); (4) Hudson Creek Production (1996-1997); (5) Spoontiques (1997-2000); (6) Sebastianworld (2000 -)
ARLINGTON STUDIO: In 1938, Prescott W. Baston identified his work by casting into the underside of the base of each figure the imprint "COPR. P. W. BASTON U.S.A." In 1939, he changed the imprint to read "Sebastian Miniature P. W. BASTON U.S.A." After 1940, the Carbone Company which distributed Mr. Baston's line insisted that he remove all marks. Therefore, identifying marks of the Arlington Studio vary. One telltale sign however is that Mr. Baston did not cast into the base the title of the figure as he did later in his Marblehead Studio.
MARBLEHEAD STUDIO: In 1946, Prescott W. Baston moved to the Marblehead Studio on Bassett Street in Marblehead, MA. His work at Marblehead was always inscribed with the name of the figure. Some figures were labeled with the "Marblehead" label while figures were shipped without labels applied tot he base. It is therefore sometimes difficult to identify the figures actually made in Marblehead.
LANCE PRODUCTION (Hudson, MA and Lee, NH): In January, 1976, Lance Corporation began production and distribution of Sebastian Miniatures. Each figure was catalogued and a four-digit number on a while label was placed on the bottom of each Sebastian for positive identification and inventory purposes. this plain label was replaced in May, 1976 by an elliptically shaped olive green label with white letters "Sebastian Miniatures." Since some collectors had difficulty reading the white on green label, Lance switched to an olive green label with black lettering, keeping the elliptical shape, in December, 1978. Beginning in 1979, Lance changed the color of the labels each year. Also the artist who paints the costume marks each piece with her initials and a code for the year.
From 1976 to 1982,Lance issued a label of a different color for each year and continued the elliptical shape. Starting with 1983, Lance added the year on the colored labels as a code letter. The table below summarizes how labels worked.
Lance studies are indicated (together with the artist's initials and a code letter) by a number as follows: #1 Lee, NH; #2 Hudson, MA; #3 Martha's Vineyard, MA. For example, in the image below, the gray Lance label (1983) contains this additional marking on the base: JF/E/1. This means the artist's initials were "JF", the figure was painted in 1983 ("E") and that the artist worked in or from the Lee, New Hampshire facility (1). In this case, the information is confirmed by the dated signature of the artist (Woody Baston) and the date Woody signed the piece - 5/14/1993. (Click on the picture to see an enlargement.)
Both Prescott W. Baston and his son, Woody Baston very frequently signed their figurines for collectors, especially those sold through normal retail channels or fairs or festivals where the artist was in attendance. In fact, most pieces distributed at Sebastian collector gatherings were signed. Obviously, signed pieces are preferred by most collectors over comparable unsigned pieces. Pieces were normally signed on the bottom of the base or, if a plaque-type figurine, on either the bottom or the back.
Unlike early toys, games or other items, Sebastian
boxes do little to enhance the value of the contents. Most of the
early boxes were rather nondescript, brownish boxes that bore black
lettering. Identification information was stamped or written on the
side or top. The principal value of such a box may be to suggest
that, because the box is still around, the item it contained was well
treated - or possibly stored in the box rather than being displayed.
It is recommended that you keep boxes in a safe place if you have the room
to store them. They are particularly useful for keeping Christmas or
other "seasonal" Sebastians safe when not being actively
displayed. If a seller wants more because the box goes with a
Sebastian, suggest he or she keep the box and reduce the
MAGNETS. Some figurines had magnets included in their base. This may have been so they could have been mounted on a car's dashboard, not practical for most modern automobiles. Such figurines are usually identified by a sub-classification under the SML system and will have a higher value because of their scarcity, not because of the magnets per se.
RESTORATION WORK. If a Sebastian has been professionally restored, it may be difficult to determine such work has been done unless the restorer identifies his or her work. For example, professional and highly competent restorer Beth Haley or Marblehead, MA designated her work with a tiny "ladybug" label. A well-restored item will have about the same value as an untouched piece in comparable condition.
NUMBERS, NUMBERED SETS. Items limited by total number or final date of issue will often be numbered. Low numbers are more desirable than higher ones to many collectors. If a group of Sebastians is issued as a set, the value of the set is somewhat increased if all numbers are identical. This situation is common to many types of collectibles.
May people are willing to appraise your Sebastians for you including antique dealers, auctioneers and others who may see an occasional figurine or group of figurines. However, to obtain an accurate appraisal, especially if a larger collection or more valuable items are included, it is highly recommended to contact a competent, experienced, impartial appraiser who is familiar with current Sebastian values.
An appraiser should not have a vested interest in the outcome. A knowledgeable Sebastian dealer may be very well qualified to give you an excellent appraisal. However, remember that dealers will often pay fifty percent or less of the retail value.
To see a list of Sebastian appraisers recognized by Sebastianworld, click here.
You may own imperfect Sebastian Miniatures in your collection; many people do. You may prefer to leave it the way it was found. However, if you are thinking of having it restored, consider the following when selecting a restorer as recommended by the Sebastian Exchange:
Note: Sentimental considerations aside, you normally you do not want to have a figure restored if the cost to do so will exceed the value of the completed piece.
Sebastianworld lists only those restorers in whom it has a high degree of confidence. To see a list of these individuals, click here.