Speaking of Dolls: Some dolls worth a second look

Recently I was asked to look at a collection of foreign dolls left to a daughter by her grandparents. The daughter had inherited all of the grandparents’ possessions and was overwhelmed. She needed some advice, “What should I toss and what should I try to sell?”

Doll prices realized

Based on prices at doll shows, auctions, Internet sales and individual sales from the past 30 days.

Prices will vary in different regions depending on interests and economic conditions.

3-inch pair of all bisque, swivel head, jointed shoulders and hips, glass eyes, original costumes: $400

17-inch SFBJ character, original Greek guard costume: $1,400

8-inch low brow china with printed map body: $65

14-inch Kestner open mouth on kid body, appropriate clothing: $175

15-inch ball joint body only marked Heinrich Handwerck: $125

17-inch FG French fashion in original regional costume: $1,600

9-inch German celluloid marked with the turtle mark, all original: $65

23-inch Armand Marseille 390, redressed, human hair wig: $200

15-inch composition Shirley Temple, original Little Colonel outfit: $700

6-inch Goebel half doll, arms away from body, nude, mohair wig: $225

She called several doll shops but, as soon and she said “foreign dolls,” the shop owners lost interest. She had also gone on several auction sites and had even spoke with an auctioneer but he told her that foreign dolls had little value and that he sold them in box lots. With this gathered information, the owner had decided to throw away the dolls that were in pieces and donate the others until a fellow appraiser suggested that she let me have a look.

Generally, foreign dolls do not get much attention from doll collectors. Most were made to be sold as inexpensive souvenirs to travelers and could be purchased from street vendors, at train stations, airports and ports. When traveling by ship was very popular, dolls could even be purchased on board dressed in nautical suits with the name of the ship printed on the hat.

The foreign dolls we see most often are from the mid 1950s to the present and generally their value in the doll market is very limited. Rather than the doll being manufactured in the country of origin and dressed to represent the regional clothing, most souvenir dolls of this period were made in Hong Kong, Taiwan and now China. They are manufactured in huge numbers, sold to companies throughout the world, dressed to represent a region and sold as a souvenir of that region. The dolls have no individuality and their costumes lack detail. Hand crafted dolls can still be purchased in countries such as Mexico, South and Central America and the Caribbean Islands but they, too, are inexpensively produced for the tourist with little care taken in design and detail.

Unlike these foreign dolls from the second half of the 20th century, the foreign dolls manufactured in the late 1800s through the first half of the 20th century deserve a second look. As early as 1870, French fashion dolls, especially from the Gaultier firm, were being dressed in regional costumes. Probably sold to the wealthy tourists traveling on the luxury liners, the regional costumes these lady dolls wore were made with great care and detail. Today, these regionally dressed fashions do not bring as high a price as a fashion doll in a French couturier outfit but they are still quite desirable.

German character children from the firm of Kammer and Reinhardt can often be found dressed in German regional costumes and small all bisque German and French dolls were often dressed to represent the regions of Germany, France and Holland.

German character dolls are always quite collectible but to find one in an original regional costume is even a greater find. The small all bisque dolls were manufactured and dressed by many German and French firms and the quality of the bisque doll will determine its price. Ladies in the towns surrounding the doll firms were paid to sew clothing and the pride they took in their work is evident.

In the ‘20s, ‘30s and early ‘40s, celluloid became the material of choice for making inexpensive foreign souvenir dolls. Some of the most beautiful examples are from the firm Rheinische Gummi und Celluloid Fabrik Co. (turtle mark). Following the tradition of the earlier regional dolls, these examples wear wonderful authentic costumes. By the end of the ‘40s and into the early ‘50s, hard plastic took the place of the highly flammable celluloid.

The collection I was called to see was like a travel time line. There were three elaborately costumed French ladies from the late 1800s whose value is no less than $1,000. A diminutive Simon Halbig with a Hungarian multi layered costume and large headdress was valued at $325. A pair of German painted bisque dolls complete with hats and wooden shoes would sell for $125 and the beautifully detailed celluloid could be sold for $45. At the end of the time line, we have the commercially produced plastic dolls. Produced primarily in China, these dolls with glued or stapled costumes made from inexpensive textiles seldom sell for more than $5.

Was it worth a second look?

Absolutely! ?

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. Minton can be contacted at dollypictures@aol.com.


Great books, CDs, price guides & more

Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles 2011 Price Guide

Interact with other antique collectors in Antique Trader’s online forum

Browse hundreds of FREE online classified ads

Sign up for your FREE AntiqueTrader.com email newsletter

For more columns and features for antique dealers, restorers and collectors, get your own subscription to Antique Trader magazine