A common complaint often voiced by doll collectors is, “Why did I buy this?” This is especially true of early acquisitions. When we start collecting, we often are tempted to buy anything and almost everything that has two arms and two legs. Hopefully, with research, reading, observation and networking with other doll people, this frenzy will quickly pass.
In the 1950s and 1960s, antique dolls were relatively inexpensive and buying something you later regretted was not such a problem; but with prices of good dolls rising, making a mistake today could be very costly. But today, collectors have an advantage. We don’t have to wait for that one yearly doll show to buy our dolls. We don’t have to feel that the one doll show is our only chance to buy a doll this year. Today we have many more opportunities to compare and buy; 24 hours a day, we have access to hundreds of auction sites, eBay, online stores and Web sites from around the world. We can compare dolls and prices and we can wait for the perfect doll to come along.
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.
21-inch closed mouth tete Jumeau, stamped body with voice box $4,800
17-inch Greiner with trunk in near mint condition $1,500
21-inch Armand Marseille 390, redressed $150
13-inch Kammer and Reinhardt 114, wig pulls on head, painted eyes $1,800
5-inch all bisque, German, painted eyes, original outfit $85
21-inch pink tint covered wagon china, original body $700
23-inch Kammer and Reinhardt 126, flirty eyes, appropriate outfit $525
18-inch Kestner 154, leather body, appropriate outfit $225
8-inch all bisque, German, swivel head, jointed arms and legs, glass eyes $1,200
One such “perfect doll” came to me recently. She is a Greiner. Produced by Ludwig Greiner in Philadelphia starting in the 1840s, this papier mache doll head has a paper label dating her March 30, 1858. Her head is perfect with no chips, cracks or repaint. Her paper label has not been damaged. Her cloth body has leather arms, all in excellent condition.
She comes in her original hump back trunk complete with a lift out tray. The doll fits in the bottom of the trunk and the complete wardrobe is displayed in the tray. She is dressed in pantaloons and chemise but also has two slips, additional pantaloons, a blouse, a silk dress, socks and wonderful red leather shoes. Attached to one article of clothing is a note written in mid-1800s script stating that this doll belonged to Julia Forsyth Lee of Deering, N.H. To find a doll this perfect is always exciting, but to find a papier mache is even more exciting. Papier mache is easily cracked, rubbed, chipped and broken. These dolls were meant to be played with and to find a papier mache in near mint condition is almost unheard of. To remain in this condition, this doll had to have been a treasured possession of its owner.
With dolls more easily available today because of Internet access, serious collectors do not have to settle for less than they are looking for. We cannot all collect the very high end French and German dolls, but we can seek out the best that we can afford. Recently, I was brought a pair of Herm Steiner ethnic dolls. To many, these would not be too exciting.
They are fairly common and their price is usually under $100, but these two were exceptions. The pair is 10 inches tall with Dutch outfits, hats and wooden shoes. Their eyes open and close and they are still tied in their original gift boxes. They have never been removed from their boxes and we can only wonder why. Perhaps they were a souvenir from a trip or a gift to a child that was too old to play with dolls. No matter, they were worth the wait. They were inexpensive but they are the best example one could have of this German doll.
Antique dolls can be wonderful investments but condition is very, very important. It is “worth the wait” to try to find the best example available. In the early days when dolls were thought to be very scarce, we accepted more imperfection; but with more choices available to us, it is important to try to buy what is “right.” Beware of repaint, damage and replacement parts. Vintage clothing and shoes add to the value and should be considered. Know who you are buying from and establish a rapport. Always ask questions and read, read, read.
A great doll is “Worth the Wait.”
Photos courtesy Sherry Minton
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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