Speaking of Dolls: Room for one more

“Smaller” is being heard more and more often at doll shows around the country. For a while, “cabinet size” was the size of choice. Collectors favored the dolls measuring 12 inches to 16 inches but today, we see collectors looking for dolls even smaller.

“Downsizing” is a popular term in society today. Get your life in order, get rid of the clutter, downsize; but doll collectors downsize in a different way. We don’t get rid of things, we just look for smaller things. Dealers are having more and more requests for dolls less than 10 inches. The great thing about this request is that there are many, many choices for the collector looking for small dolls. 

For many years, small dolls were overlooked. They stood in the shadows of their larger counterparts. But today at shows, small dolls have gained center stage. They are the first thing many collectors look for and the first dolls that sell. 

Other than size, what else makes small dolls so popular? Choice – all of the major doll manufacturers produced small dolls as well as large dolls and the quality usually remains consistent. If you see a small doll by a quality firm such as Kestner, Simon Halbig, Jumeau or Bru, it will be the same fine quality as its larger counterpart. 

The same is true of the firms who produced the more common “dolly faced” dolls. An Armand Marsaille 390 in an 8-inch size is going to be very similar in quality to a larger 390 model. Many of the German doll firms who produced babies also produced their models in very small sizes. Some of the examples seen most often are the babies by Armand Marsaille and the Bye Lo baby. The small dolls under 10 inches can be found on composition bodies, cloth bodies, leather bodies or can be all-bisque. As with larger dolls, the price of the smaller dolls is determined not by the type of body but by the quality of the head. 

The clothing will also influence the value of a small doll. Many of these small dolls were made as travel souvenir dolls in the early 1900s. As doll collectors know, travel dolls have been an overlooked area of collecting for many years but today, collectors are studying some of the early ethnic costumes and beginning to appreciate their artistry. They are also observing that some of the all-bisque dolls and the bisque head dolls on composition bodies used to model these ethnic outfits are very appealing and the desirability of these little dolls is growing along with their price. The tiny German and French dolls with bisque “dolly face” heads dressed in ethnic costumes seldom were priced at more than $75 but at shows today, $150 and up are more often seen. 

Collectors are also finding that doll manufacturers sometimes put very nice character heads on their small dolls. These are sometimes overlooked because people see them as just another ethnic doll but if you pause and study the face, a treasure could be hidden under the headpiece. When looking for the smaller dolls, look for character faces on dolls with composition, cloth and leather bodies. Look for original costumes and choose fired bisque over painted bisque. 

When looking at the all-bisque dolls, jointing at shoulders and hips is desirable. Jointing at the neck is even more desirable. Glass eyes, especially those that open and close are sought after and unusual molded shoes usually signify quality. 

All-bisque dolls, more than small dolls with only bisque heads, greatly vary in quality. Many of the very small all-bisque dolls were produced to be used as prizes and favors and the quality is poor. While small dolls are desirable, these dolls remain inexpensive and are readily available.
All-bisque dolls were produced well into the ’40s and quality and detail declined. Higher prices should be paid only for earlier all-bisque dolls with good facial painting. Three of the most desirable of the all-bisque dolls are the Wrestler all-bisque by Kestner, the model 886 by Simon and Halbig and the French Mignonnette, all priced at over $1,000. Keep your eyes open. 

Some antique shops and non-doll people still believe that price is determined by size. You still might find a bargain in a small doll and remember, there is always room for one more. 

Prices Realized

The following prices have been gathered from doll shows, flea markets, Internet sales and individual sales from the past 30 days. Regional prices will vary depending on interest and economic conditions.

5 1/2-inch French all-bisque Mignonette    $2,000

5-inch all-bisque Hertwig child, jointed at shoulders and hips, painted features    $65

8-inch Simon Halbig all-bisque 886    $1,300

9-inch Kammer and Reinhardt bisque head on five piece body, all original    $300

8-inch Armand Marsaille Dream Baby, cloth body, appropriate outfit    $125

4-inch all-bisque Betty Boop type, made in Japan, painted. features, jointed shoulders    $15

10-inch Armand Marsaille 390, all original, five piece body    $115

10-inch Simon Halbig 720, cloth body, all original ethnic outfit    $425

5 1/2-inch all-bisque Bye lo, molded hair, o/c eyes, jointed neck, shoulders and hips $500 Late 6-inch Gr. all-bisque, glass eyes, jointed shoulders and hips, molded shoes    $185

Click here to discuss this story and more in the AntiqueTrader.com message boards.