As I visit doll shows, museums and collections around the United States, one observation stands out: Male dolls are in the minority. When I say male or men dolls, I am referring to true male dolls, dolls that can be only men or boys. Through the years, many dolls have been dressed as males or they have been given a boyish wig but the face can be either male or female. True male dolls are a scarce breed.
Little girls preferred having girl dolls, dolls they could dress and undress. They might want one male with their girl dolls but the male dolls were always outnumbered. Collectors today are not that much different. Many collectors have some male dolls in their collection but the girl dolls usually far outnumber the males. Why is this true? There are several reasons. One reason for their absence in collections today is that true male dolls are much harder to find than female dolls. Because the male was less popular in the market place during the years of production, fewer examples were produced.
Almost all of the German and French doll makers produced at least one true male example but the demand for the production of female dolls far exceeded the demand for true male examples. Another reason is that the clothing for male dolls is more limited. The male can be dressed as a soldier or a gentleman and that is about it but the imagination is the only thing that limits female dolls.
Doll manufacturers found it much more profitable to produce a doll that could be dressed as either a male or female. This was much easier when dolls with wigs became more popular than dolls with molded hair. Molded hair was more limiting and a hairstyle that could be either male or female was more difficult to design. With chinas, parians and molded hair bisque dolls, we rarely find examples of true male dolls. When found, they usually have short, smooth hairstyles, often with brush strokes around the face. A few are rarely found with molded sideburns, beards and mustaches. Through the years, many collectors have also accepted the primes that any molded hairstyle that is short and has exposed ears can be dressed as a boy or a girl but true male dolls with molded hair remain a treasure for a collector to find.
When bisque dolls with wigs surpassed the earlier molded haired dolls in market popularity, a doll’s sex was much easier to change. The very popular bisque head on the kid or ball joint body could become a boy with a short human hair or mohair wig and a boy’s outfit or it could become a pretty girl with long curls and a frilly dress. Examples of this are very common. Armand Marseille sold small dolls with five piece paper mache bodies, bisque socket heads with glass eyes dressed as a pair in elaborate ethnic outfits. Even though these dolls represented a male and a female, the mold numbers, usually AM 390 were the same. Examples of using the same mold number to represent a boy or a girl was very common and examples can be found from every doll manufacturer. In my collection, I have a Simon and Halbig 1079 is his original Santa Clause outfit and a 1079 in her original dress and bonnet. I also have a pair of tiny ethnic dolls marked SFBJ 60 representing a boy and a girl.
These dolls that could be dressed as girls, boys, men or women were the “bread and butter” of the European doll manufacturers. They were produced in very large numbers and, while examples dressed in original male clothing are much more difficult to find than the same example dressed as a female, none are considered extremely rare. A true male doll from any firm, especially in his original clothing, is very scarce in the doll market, and to see one at an auction or on a sales table is certainly a sight that demands a second look from a true collector.
Examples of prices gathered in the last 60 days from doll shows, auctions, Internet sales and individual sales. Prices will vary throughout the U.S. because of economic conditions and regional interests.
14-inch Schoenhut carved hair male, baseball player $2,500.
21-inch male china, original body and military outfit $2,000.
4-inch German all bisque soldier with molded hat, beard and mustache, glass eyes $425.
18-inch Kamkins in excellent condition, all original, one owner $2,100.
22-inch Heinrich Handwerck 109, ball joint body, redressed $285.
24-inch Horsman Dimples, all original, composition and cloth $175.
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 email@example.com.
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