Speaking of Dolls: Similar names, different faces

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In the antique doll world, there are certain names that immediately pique your interest. Examples include the dolls produced by Bru, Jumeau, Schmitt, Steiner and Gebruder Heubach. But, the dolls from these firms can also cause much confusion, and, at times, much financial loss.

A reader sent a picture of her recently acquired tete Jumeau. She could not believe the bargain she got. Jan Foulke’s price guide stated that a 24-inch open-mouth tete Jumeau should be priced at $2,500. She had purchased the doll for $2,000 and was thrilled to share the good news with me. Unfortunately, my reply was not what she wanted to hear. The doll she had purchased was indeed stamped, “tete Jumeau” in red on the back of the head, but it also was incised with the letters “DEP.”

And this is where it gets confusing for the novice collector. The French Jumeau firm became part of the large SFBJ (Societe Francaise de Fabrication de Bebes & Jouets) conglomerate in the very late 1800s. In order to cut costs and try to be more competitive, the heads of the “tete Jumeau” models incised with the “DEP” mark were produced in Germany by the Simon and Halbig firm.

While very pretty and popular with collectors, these dolls are not to be confused with the earlier, finely crafted Jumeau models produced in France. The German-made “DEP” usually sells for about half of what an earlier “tete Jumeau” without the “DEP” would be priced. Rather than getting a bargain, our reader probably paid at least $500 more than the value of the doll.

Schmitt can also be a confusing name, and one letter makes all of the difference. The French Schmitt doll is highly prized by doll collectors. It is rare, very high quality and is very expensive, with most exceeding $10,000. The body is unique, with a flat bottom where the Schmitt mark is usually found. The head is sometimes — but not always — marked with the same shield and crossed hammers. But in Germany, no less than 17 Schmidt firms were also producing Schmidt dolls (note the one-letter spelling difference).

The firms of Franz Schmidt and Bruno Schmidt are the examples most often found, and they represent the quality of German doll manufacturing, but the prices — except for a few very rare examples — do not compare with the French Schmitt models. The “FS&Co.” mark used by Franz Schmidt and the “BS in a heart” mark used by Bruno cannot be confused with the “Shield” mark used by Schmitt, but the names are so similar that novice collectors can often be confused.

The Steiner name causes additional problems for the collector, because the French firm and the German firms — the German Doll Encyclopedia lists 18 firms producing dolls or doll parts under the Steiner name — spell their names the same way. Recognizing the markings and the doll quality becomes very important.

Markings for the German Steiner firms will vary, but the most familiar are the “EUSt.” in a diamond used by Edmund Steiner, the “S within an H” used by Hermann Steiner and the “AS” used by August Steiner. These German firms produced bisque-head play dolls and babies for the working-class market. Today, most are referred to as German “dolly face” dolls and are plentiful and inexpensive. The French Steiner produced by the Jules Steiner firm has a much higher price tag, with prices ranging from $2,000 to well over $20,000. The French Steiner marks vary, but most include the word “Paris” and “Steiner”.

The Heubach name is one found often in association with German doll head production. The most familiar name is Ernst Heubach, whose firm flourished by making sweet babies and children in all sizes but at very affordable prices. The dolls are often marked “Heubach Koppelsdorf” with a three-digit mold number. Another familiar name to doll collectors, especially character doll collectors, is Gebruder Heubach. This firm operated by several brothers excelled in producing character doll heads that featured very unusual expressions. Unlike its contemporaries, the firm also produced many examples with painted intaglio eyes and molded hair. The Gebruder Heubach mark varies but often includes a “GH,” a four-digit number or an incised square with the word “Heubach” in two lines.

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. At this time, economic conditions are seriously affecting the prices in the antique and collectible market of more commonly found items.

1. 21-inch 1959 Alexander Cissy, all original cocktail dress $300

2. 16-inch circle dot Bru, redressed appropriately, original wig and pate, no shoes $19,000

3. 23-inch Armand Marseille 390, period costume, original wig $150

4. 4-inch Armand Marseille 370, redressed, leather body in good condition $100

5. 14-inch head circumference Bye lo baby, original body and hands $275

6. 14-inch china with common low brow hairstyle, original body and dress $85

7. R. John Wright Lisa, mint in original box, circa 1980s $800

8. 18-inch Simon Halbig 1079, period outfit and shoes, replaced wig $300

Group of 20 3-inch painted bisque, Germany, dressed in original ethnic outfits $200

10. 17-inch FG French Fashion, redressed, original wig, early face, leather body $2,500

Bru — the prize of any doll collection. At least, that is what many collectors believe, but even the Bru has its pretenders.The German firm Gebruder Kuhnlenz produced a doll that is referred to as a Bru type. The face shares the characteristics of the beautiful early Bru, and the body on the Kuhnlenz Bru is a French type. The marking is a tiny “G.K.” at the rim of the head and can easily be overlooked. The German firm Kestner also produced a Bru pretender. The open-mouth model and the closed-mouth model very much resemble the French Bru, and there may be no marks on the head to help with identification.

The Kuhnlenz Bru and the Kestner Bru are very desirable dolls and may be priced for several thousand dollars, but a French Bru begins at $10,000 and goes steadily up. With dolls of this value, often sellers do not wish to undress the doll or take off the wig, particularly if the outfit is frail, but close examination is certainly warranted when this much money is at stake. While later French Brus are well marked, early Brus may only have a number or a tiny “circle and dot” or “half-circle and dot” symbol, and close examination is necessary.

Study doll markings and body types before making serious investments. Make sure bodies are “right” for the heads. In the ’60s and ’70s, much body and head swapping occurred. It didn’t seem to matter so much then, but to buyers and collectors today, it matters. Buy from dealers you can trust and who will stand behind their merchandise, but ultimately, you must accept the responsibility for your purchases. Continued research is the best way to be a wise buyer with few regrets.

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 dollypictures@aol.com.


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