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|Debuting in the early 1990s, Harmony Kingdom Box Figurines -- also known as Treasure Jests -- are small sculptural containers depicting animals, people, plants and flowers, fish, and other creatures, often with great humor. They range in size from just a couple of inches square to six inches or so square. They were originally created in 1989 by Martin Perry in the Cotswolds area of Great Britain and produced there as a cottage industry, gradually enlarging the line to include works by other artists.
Then Perry's company, Antiquark, contracted with the American Harmony Ball Company for boxes to hold the company's chiming Harmony Balls, which soon expanded into the Harmony Ball Company selling just the boxes to hold jewelry and other small treasures. In 1995, Harmony Kingdom was born.
They were deliberately designed to be a limited collectible, complete with introductory dates, retirement dates, specialty editions, different versions within the same edition, mold or paint variations, and surprise pieces such as the one-of-a-kind jeweled versions that show up in the ordinary wrapping of certain very special collections.
Each also contains "The Secrets Of The Kingdom": an ongoing series of storylines and artistic in-jokes that are explained on the company's website at http://www.harmonykingdom.com. For example, pieces by Peter Calvesbert always have a mouse on them somewhere, and pieces by David Lawrence always include an acorn. Under the supervision of Artistic Director Martin Perry, the whimsical and sometimes amazingly realistic animals of the Treasure Jest series, the beautiful blooms of Harmony Garden, and the entire Harmony Kingdom line all display the craftsmanlike attention to detail and quirky sense of humor for which Harmony Kingdom's artists are known.
Each prototype is hand carved, then a mold is made. The Box Figurines are poured from a special blend of crushed marble and resin that resembles ceramic, then individually painted by hand. Most of this production takes place in Wimberley Mills, in the scenic Cotswolds area of Western England, with all of the work done by local craftspeople as a traditional cottage industry. However, in recent years, some has been outsourced to China.
There are 26 collections listed altogether on the company website as well as 2 more collections produced by the Harmony Ball Company that are available on eBay as subcategories of the Harmony Kingdom category. We will discuss half of those collections here and the other half in Part 2 of this guide.
|Angelique is a series of a dozen or so angel figurines, carved mostly by David Lawrence with one (Tendresse) by Anne Richmond. Some are Timed or Limited Editions; some were made for the holiday season; some are from The Elusive Few subset; but all were made in fairly limited quantities and have long since been retired.
Buying Group Exclusives were offered only to certain retailers. Although they have not necessarily been formally retired, they were made in smaller editions and obviously had more limited availability.
The Black Box Series by Peter Calvesbert has been produced to the tune of one per year since 1998. Larger and more complex than the standard Box Figurines, each takes a social issue or cultural phenomenon and interprets it with an eye towards wit and irony. The Black Box Series are Limited Editions of 1000-5000 depending on the year, so they are very rare and increasingly valuable.
The Clair De Lune collection focuses on the adventures of four French courtesans -- Kiki, Colette, Justine, and Josephine -- and their fabulous feline friends. Each has a fanciful biography and a distinctly flamboyant personality.
Covets are whimsical yet functional figurine boxes by Monique Baldwin, combining three-dimensional carving and detailed etching. Each creature is depicted with something it covets, such as a cat box with two mice evading it on the exterior and a bird on the interior. Mousetrap is a Fixed Edition of 750 pieces worldwide, while other Covets were produced in editions of 2500.
The Disney Collection -- produced in collaboration with the Walt Disney Company -- depicts famous Disney characters such as Cinderella and 101 Dalmations as interpreted by various HK artists.
The Elusive Few, also by various HK artists, is a collection of 3 angels and 6 animals produced in editions ranging from only 43 to 659. Originally released in the U.K., they were removed from circulation in January 1996. In April 1997, the Harmony Ball Company offered a limited release of 300 pieces.
Event Pieces were specially produced for and only available at Harmony Kingdom tours, gift shows or conventions.
The Garden Party is a collection of 12 whimsical Treasure Jest animals by Peter Calvesbert and David Lawrence, all of which were carved starting in 1995 and retired by 2001. They were produced in small editions of several hundred to several thousand starting in 1995 and were retired by 1998.
Harmony Circus is a collection of 19 themed pieces by David Lawrence -- including various performers such as Bozini the Clown, The Great Escapo, Henry The Human Cannonball, Madeline of the High Wire, The Ringmaster, and Olde Time Carousel -- plus a circus ring, circus arch, and The Audience.
Interchangeables is a unique collection of seven Treasure Jest animal Box Figurines made of three parts each that can be mixed and matched. They were carved by Adam Binder in 2001, made in very Limited Editions of 2700-3000, and retired by 2003.
Made by the Harmony Ball Company and technically not part of the Harmony Kingdom, Jardinia cachepots are elegant and imaginative vases, urns and boxes that are visually compelling and functional. They range in size from two to six inches tall and are produced in China. At least one piece was produced in a Fixed Edition of 350 worldwide, but most of the Jardinias are Open Editions, meaning they still are in production.
|Two kinds of hallmarks are found on Harmony Kingdom Box Figurines -- the carved hallmarks and the Crown Stamp -- indicating each item's authenticity and origin. Here is the official rundown on HK hallmarks.
Carved Hallmarks: The carved hallmarks are usually located on the exterior of Harmony Kingdom Box Figurines, although sometimes they are on the lid of the Box Figurines. These include year of creation hallmarks, artist hallmarks, and edition numbers. Hallmarks do not follow any set sequence in their appearance on each figurine. The copyright symbol © has appeared on all Harmony Kingdom pieces since 1994, and the Harmony Ball Company treble clef has appeared as a hallmark since 1997.
Another hallmark is the clock face, used to indicate the month carving was completed. The clock may have hands or dots to indicate the month. This hallmark was used from 1995 to 1997.
Year of Creation Hallmarks: The year of creation hallmark indicates the year the carving of the piece was completed.
1995: Apple/Bomb. The bomb pays tribute to the Oklahoma City tragedy
1996: Diamond/Coffin. Commemorates Martin and Corinna Perry’s tour of a morgue on New Year’s Day, 1996.
1997: Heart. The heart shows the excitement over the introduction of Lord Byron’s Harmony Garden and Lord Byron’s search for love.
1998: Star. Stars appeared on Sneak Preview, the first Box Figurine produced in 1998.
1999: Half Moon. The half moon represents the eve of the millennium.
2000: Double diamond/MM. Two capital letter “M"s in mirror image indicate the year 2000. M is the Roman numeral for 1000.
2001: Smiley Face. We made it to the new millennium! Also references the smiley faces, or “emoticons”, used to show emotion on the worldwide web.
2002: Peace Sign. This symbol indicates hopefulness for world peace.
2003: Yin-Yang Symbol. A well-known symbol from the East.
Artist Hallmarks: Each artist uses a special hallmark to sign their work.
Peter Calvesbert: P and C intertwined. This hallmark looks like a snake curled around a staff. Peter Calvesbert began using this hallmark in 1995.
Peter Calvesbert: PC in circle. In December 1995 Peter Calvesbert began using this hallmark.
Monique Baldwin: Eye. This unique hallmark belongs to Monique Baldwin, artist for Harmony Garden.
Adam Binder: Gecko. Adam Binder created this hallmark after observing a gecko in his yard.
Mark Ricketts: R. Mark Ricketts carves his "R” in various places on his works.
Sherman Drackett: S in circle.
David Lawrence: DL in circle.
Martin Perry Studios: M in circle.
Ann Richmond: AR. Ann Richmond’s “R” appears under her larger “A”.
Version Numbers and Infinity: From 1997 to 1999, special hallmarks indicated the version of the piece. In 1999, these edition hallmarks were replaced with an infinity symbol after the first 5000 boxes. The first 5000 pieces produced retain the “1” hallmark. Some Limited Editions may only have edition number “1.”
For pieces produced from January 1997 through January 1999: 1 - first 3000 boxes; 2 - second 3000 boxes.
For pieces produced from January 1999 through 2001: 1 - first 5000 boxes; infinity symbol (∞) - all pieces after the first 5000.
Crown Stamp: Harmony Kingdom’s crown stamp appears on all pieces from mid-1995 to the present. The crown itself remains consistent, but the small icon at the top of the crown changes from year to year. Thus, the crown stamp indicates the year of production. This is sometimes different from the year of creation, as artists may finish carving their work in one year but the piece may not actually be produced until the following year or even later. The crown stamp may be found on the base of the box or on the bottom of the lid. If your Box Figurine has no crown stamp, it probably was produced sometime before July 1995.
Year of Production Crown Stamps
1995 and 1996: Crown stamp with treble clef
1997: Crown stamp with heart
1998: Crown stamp with five-pointed star
1999: Crown stamp with half moon
2000: Crown stamp with double diamond/double M
2001: Crown stamp with smiley face
2002: Crown stamp with peace sign
2003: Crown stamp with yin/yang symbol
EBay is a great secondary market for retired and/or otherwise unavailable HK pieces, but it's also a good place to find rare brand-new items, still in their original boxes with all documentation. Others have been carefully displayed, but all are suitable to be treasured by their lucky new owners. Look for listings that depict the actual pieces being sold, not just stock photos from the Harmony Kingdom website.
As previously stated, Harmony Kingdom pieces are available in several subcategories: Garden Party, Jardinia, Lord Byron's Harmony Garden, Picturesque, Pot Bellys, Roly Polys, and Other. There usually are a couple of thousand HK pieces available on eBay on any given day.
You also can search for pieces by name, production number (although not many sellers list them that way), or by keywords such as the type of animal you're looking for or the type of figure along with "Harmony Kingdom".
In fact, searching just by "Harmony Kingdom" (with or without quotes) is a great way to pull up miscategorized items that won't show up in a search of any of the Harmony Kingdom categories. Miscategorized items can be great bargains since less buyers tend to find them.
You might also do well to search by keywords Harmony Circus or Harmony Garden. Searching by Jardinia, Garden Party, Picturesque, Pot Belly, or Roly Poly without the keywords "Harmony Kingdom" or at least "Harmony" will pull up too many non-HK items.
Check our listings at The Acquisatory for a good selection of rare and retired Harmony Kingdom collectibles, most of them brand new in the original box along with all documentation and all of them kept in a non-smoking environment.