Speaking of Dolls: Simon & Halbig left legacy of variety and unfailing quality

Carl Halbig and Wilhelm Simon in 1869 founded a porcelain factory for the production of toys and dolls in the Waltershausen (Grafenhain) area of Thuringia, Germany. The production of dolls could be found in many areas of Germany but the Waltershausen area had a reputation for quality doll production. Here could be found the raw materials necessary for doll production such as Kaolin for porcelain, abundant forests with wood for the kilns and for doll parts and, most important, much inexpensive labor both skilled and unskilled.

Recent Doll Prices

The following prices are based on recorded sales from the past 60 days from doll shows, auctions Internet sales and individual sales. Prices will vary from region to region because of interests and economic conditions.

1. 23-inch head marked S & H 1010, pull string to open and close eyes, leather body: $525

2. 6-inch all bisque with long molded stockings, #886. Open mouth: $900

3. 7-inch bisque shoulder head marked S & H, molded blonde hair in curls, glass eyes: $800

4. 24-inch Simon and Halbig 1079, composition body, vintage clothing: $450

5. 21-inch 1920 American bear, long legs, gold mohair, glass eyes, good condition: $95

6. 4-inch papier mache hen on nest candy container, Germany: $20

7. 34-inch Armand Marseille, composition body, eyes set, replaced wig and clothes: $450

8. 13-inch composition Shirley Temple, all original, tagged dress, minor eye cracking: $425

9. 23-inch flat top china, original cloth body, leather lower arms, vintage clothing: $285

10. 22-inch Kestner 154, leather body, bisque arms, mohair wig, vintage clothes: $275.

Not only was the Simon and Halbig firm located in this area of Thuringia, but also the firms of Kestner, Alt Beck and Gottschalck, Kling, Bahr and Proschild, Max and Heinrich Handwerck, Bergmann, Kammer and Reinhardt, Franz and Bruno Schmidt, Kley and Hahn, Konig and Wernicke and others.

Simon and Halbig’s unique identity in this region was that they only produced bisque heads, all bisque dolls and bisque lower arms and legs for their early dolls. Other than their all bisque dolls, the Simon and Halbig firm did not produce complete dolls or doll bodies.

With so many firms in such a small area, there was much trading, swapping, sharing and probably stealing of ideas, techniques and workers but the Simon and Halbig firm was somehow able to attract the best. The doll heads and all bisque dolls of this firm are always superior in quality. The painting techniques are delicate and stand apart from others of the period. The coloring and detail are distinctive and cause the collector to “take a second look.” The modeling of the faces is finer than the “cookie cutter” faces which encompassed the doll industry at this time and their very unique character faces are without comparison.

The quality of the Simon and Halbig head was not only consistently of the highest quality but the variety of facial models and the slight differences that could be found in even the more basic models is something that attracts the collector today. This ability to be very creative was necessary to Simon and Halbig’s success in the business. They created heads for many different firms and all wanted their own identity.

At times, the Simon and Halbig name or the initials “S & H” can be found on a bisque head along with the name of the company for whom the head was made. We find the name or initials of Simon and Halbig very often with the names of Heinrich Heinrich, Kammer and Reinhardt and C.M. Bergmann.

The “look” of Simon and Halbig can also be seen in many of the heads of Kley and Hahn, Konig and Wernicke, the German Schmidt firm and even the late Jumeaus. According to research done by Jurgen and Marianne Cieslik for the German Doll Encyclopedia, Simon and Halbig manufactured heads for 20 doll firms. The name Simon and Halbig is not always a visible mark on the head but the techniques are evident and the tie to Simon and Halbig is undeniable.

While the Simon and Halbig firm produced many heads for other doll firms, they also had their own line of heads. These included early (1870) bisque shoulder heads with elaborately molded hair, some with ribbons molded as part of hair. These can be found with glass eyes or with painted eyes. A shoulder plate with a swivel head was also produced as a fashion doll and sold on the French market.

In the 1880s, the child doll gained popularity and Simon and Halbig created some beautiful closed mouth dolls with soulful eyes and almost character-like expressions.During the 1880s, we also are introduced to the all bisque children of Simon and Halbig, many with long molded stockings and very French looks. This period was followed by the so-called Dolly Face era but even the open mouth doll heads from Simon and Halbig had a more distinctive and individual look then those of their competitors. While the early dolls are sometimes marked with only a mold number or only S&H, the later dolls are usually marked more completely. Some molds often seen are S&H 1079 or S&H 1078.

By the early 1900s (1909), the baby doll with the bent limbed body was introduced to the doll market. The baby heads Simon and Halbig created for other firms are fairly commonly found, but the baby heads marked only Simon and Halbig or S&H with a mold number are much less common and much more unusual. During this period, Simon and Halbig also created some of the most unusual and most rare of the character dolls. The children, such as the 150 and 153 and the 1388 and 1398, surpass many French dolls in rarity and desirability, as do the mature models such as the 1303, 1308 and152.

While the history of these German companies is often confusing and the mold numbers are never consistent, there is one thing a collector can be certain of – you can always count on the quality of any head made by the Simon and Halbig firm. ?


Sherry Minton has served as president of three clubs belonging to the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Inc. She is a senior member of the American Society of Appraisers with a Designated  Specialty in Dolls and Toys.

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