Speaking of Dolls: Schmidt, Schmidt and Schmitt

Confused? When people call me with questions concerning a Schmidt doll, the first thing I ask is, “How do you spell the name?”

According to The Encyclopedia of Dolls by Dorothy, Elizabeth and Evelyn Coleman, there were 19 doll firms with the name Schmidt or Schmitt. Most were small firms in the highly competitive doll business and did not last long. Others we know very little about and examples of their work have never or seldom been seen. We know of their existence through tax records and patent records only.

There were three firms that have remained notable in the doll world. They are Bruno Schmidt, Franz Schmidt and Schmitt & Fils. While the names are similar, their work was very different and the value of their dolls is even more different. Because of how different the dolls can be, it is very important to know which “Schmidt” or “Schmitt” you are talking about.

The Bruno Schmidt firm was located in the Waltershausen area of Germany. The firm produced dolls with heads of bisque, celluloid, papier mache and half dolls. They were in business from about the turn of the century until the late 1920s. Most of the bisque heads the Bruno Schmidt firm sold on their bodies were produced by Bahr & Proschild. They were of very fine quality and the characters distributed by Bruno Schmidt are some of the finest we see, especially the Wendy mold #2033/537 and the Tommy Tucker mold #2048, 2096 and 2094.

The Bahr & Proschild firm was eventually taken over by Bruno Schmidt which assured the continued high quality Bruno Schmidt was known for. The Bruno Schmidt’s registered trademark was a heart shape often containing the letters “BSW.”

The Franz Schmidt firm was also located near Waltershausen, Germany, but unlike the Bruno Schmidt firm, Franz Schmidt distributed undressed dolls and doll parts as well as complete dolls. Records show that most of the bisque heads used by Franz Schmidt were produced by the Simon Halbig firm but under the direction of Schmidt designers. Because of the direction from talented designers and the fine work produced by Simon and Halbig, Franz Schmidt dolls are typically of high quality. The Franz Schmidt firm is slightly older than the Bruno Schmidt firm, beginning the business in 1890 and continuing into the thirties.

Advertisements show us that the Franz Schmidt firm also sold bodies, parts, shoes, wigs, socks, marottes, composition and wooden doll heads as well as dolls with bisque heads. They are particularly well known for their character babies with pierced nostrils, a patent applied for in 1912, and a movable tongue (1913). Patents were also taken out for body improvements which helped the Franz Schmidt dolls survive hard play. The Franz Schmidt trademark was “F. S. & Co.”

While both Bruno and Franz Schmidt made high quality German play dolls, their dolls remain affordable to the collector. Except for a few very rare characters such as the Bruno Schmidt Wendy that can be $20,000-$30,000 or the unusual 1266 character baby by Franz Schmidt that sells for $4,000, most of the dolls from these two firms are under $1,000.

Schmitt & Fils dolls fall into a very different category. Maurice and Charles Schmitt produced a doll that stands alone in the doll world. Located in Paris in the mid- to late- 1800s, Schmitt & Fils dolls have few equals in the doll world. While the brothers produced dolls of composition covered in wax which are rarely found today, it is the pressed bisque heads on unusual bodies with flat bottoms that are prized today. The huge almond-shaped eyes surrounded with a fine line of eyeliner give the eyes a depth that is breathtaking. The blush over the eyes, the cheeks and the blush on the ears in contrast to the pale bisque and the closed mouth with the lips appearing slightly parted exudes an innocence that makes collectors sigh.

The body of the Schmitt Bebe is sturdy and stocky with straight wrists and a unique flat bottom that should show the Schmitt trademark, a crossed sword and a SCH inside a shield. If perfect, these highly prized dolls seldom sell for less than $10,000.

What’s in a name? Maybe the difference between $300 and $30,000. Prices gathered from doll shows, doll auctions, Internet sales and individual sales over the past 60 days. Prices may vary in different regions of the country depending on interest and economic conditions.

7-inch Simon Halbig Little Women 1160, original wig and underwear $100

5 1/2-inch French all bisque Mignonnette, original wig $1,800

18-inch American Tip Top Toy composition head on leather body, circa 1910 $125

32-inch Tete Jumeau, open mouth, Jumeau body $2,500

21-inch Kestner 260 child, original clothes, replaced wig $550

28-inch dome head Kestner baby, blue eyes, antique christening gown $800

16-inch Kestner 245 Hilda, all original and in mint condition, mohair wig $2,200

8-inch K*R child on fully jointed body, open and close eyes $375

8-inch Gebruder Knoch child on five-piece body, glass eyes, original ethnic outfit $75

5-inch black painted bisque baby, Japan, painted features, marked “Souvenir of GA” $50