Speaking of Dolls: Dolls and their wardrobes

Rather than collecting more dolls, many collectors are collecting more clothes and accessories for the dolls they have. The ideal find is a doll with its original trunk and wardrobe, but to find a doll in this condition is rare. The next best thing is to assemble a wardrobe for a doll.

While dolls still sell well at shows and on the Internet, accessories and clothes are drawing more and more interest from collectors. The prices of trunks, both old and new, continue to rise and the price of clothing in good condition goes up every year.SOD 1 AT 4-16.jpg Accessories are especially desirable, particularly those tiny things such as glasses, earrings, watches and gloves that were easily lost.

Bruno Schmidt German child with trunk and wardrobe.

Clothing and accessories for antique dolls are very collectible. Wools, silks and even cottons tend to suffer with age and to find clothing in good condition is a treasure. Dresses for French fashions from the second half of the 19th century can easily cost several hundred dollars each. Leather shoes of the same period are often dried out and brittle but in good condition range in price from $100 to several thousand dollars if they are from one of the desirable French firms such as Bru. Even simple pantaloons and slips are priced at $50-$150, and a pair of gloves can set you back $200.

SOD 3 AT 4-16.jpgDresses from French fashion wardrobe.

The clothing for the French child doll, or Bebe, is equally desirable and the costs are similar to the clothing of the fashion ladies. Dresses and shoes were only the beginning. Also available for the doll were all of the accessories that a living child or lady might have. These included eye glasses, sewing kits, snuff boxes, rattles, purses, compacts, playing cards and dice, dresser sets, books and too many more to list. The prices on all of these tiny accessories continue to go up and few can be found for less than $75.

Outfits were not complete without a hat. Stylish straw and fabric hats do not last long at a doll show. Prices vary depending on how elaborate, but a simple hat for $40 would sell quickly. Along with a hat, an umbrella is always a final touch. Doll umbrellas were often made of silk and silk does not hold up well but as long as the basic structure is there, the umbrella is still desirable. Prices range from $50 to several hundred dollars depending on the umbrella handle. Many were carved wood or ivory making them quite desirable.

SOD 2 AT 4-16.jpgE. Barrois French Fashion on leather body with trunk and wardrobe.

While clothing and accessories for French dolls seem to be the most costly in the doll market, German dolls also came with trunks filled with clothing and accessories. While generally more simple than the French fashions and the French Bébés, the German outfits and accessories are still in demand and bring high prices at shows and on the Internet.

This interest in dolls and their wardrobes can also be seen in dolls of the 20th century. The clothing with manufacturer’s tags continues to bring top dollar. Tagged clothing belonging to composition dolls such as Shirley Temple and Patsy sell for $100-$300 depending on style and condition. The hard plastic dolls of the late 1940s and early 1950s also had wardrobes of clothing and tagged Alexander, Vogue and Ideal clothing are some of the most coveted with few selling for less than $50. Shoes for these dolls also sell for $25-$75.

When speaking to Heather Hogan, a dealer who specializes in dolls from the ’50s through today, she states that she can often sell outfits without the doll for more than a dressed doll. Collectors of modern dolls seem to be following the lead of the antique collectors. You might not have room for more dolls but you can always squeeze another outfit into the trunk.

Tips for buying: If you love the beautiful Dolly face German dolls of the late 1800s-1920s, now is your opportunity to buy at very reasonable prices. While prices for large all-bisque dolls, German character dolls, French character dolls, French fashions, and chinas and parians with rare hairstyles continue to go up, the German Dolly faced doll prices have dropped considerably.

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

1. Armand Marsaille 401 flapper doll, redressed, $1,100.

2. Dressel and Kister half doll with arms away from torso, $200.

3. 15-inch Bru fashion on wood articulated body, $6,900.

4. 24-inch Bruno Schmidt with trunk and outfits, $1,200.

5. 24-inch one-of-a-kind American primitive cloth lady, stitched features, $1,500.

6. 24-inch Armand Marsaille 390, ball joint body, appropriate outfit, $250.

7. 14-inch Bye Lo baby, original body, appropriate outfit, $300.

8. 8-inch Simon Halbig 1078 on fully jointed ball joint body, no clothes, $350.

9. 9-inch all bisque 156, original dress and wig, glass eyes, closed mouth, $900.

10. 18-inch American bisque Fulper, leather body, original clothes, $150.