Three winter antique doll shows uncover surprising rarities and new arrivals

This winter has been a long one, but it is now time for buyers and sellers to be able to get out and do what they love to do — buy and sell. In the South, this process is beginning to happen. In the north, it might take another few weeks. 

Since the last week in January, I have participated in the IDEX Premiere (a doll and bear trade show), the Leesburg Doll Show, the St. Petersburg Doll Show and attended the Renninger’s Extravaganza in Mt. Dora. Because many of the people who do these shows and who attend these shows are from colder climates throughout the United States, by talking to them you can get a “feel” of how business is going in areas other than Florida. Last year was not so good, but what we have been seeing so far might bring smiles back to the faces of collectors and dealers.

Recent Doll Prices

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

1. 18-inch Kestner 154, re-dressed and re-wigged, no shoes: $100

2. 21-inch Bru Jne on leather body with wooden limbs, appropriate clothes: $26,000

3. 12-inch all-bisque Simon Halbig character baby, open/close eyes, wig: $60

4. 21-inch Alexander Cissy, perfect hair and coloring, tagged short dress: $500

5. 21-inch Alexander Cissy, played with, some lashes missing, no tag on dress: $125

6. Antique bonnet for 24-inch doll, straw with silk ribbon: $65.

7. Cruet set with all bottles and tops, child size: $85

8. French leather shoes to fit 18-inch doll, good condition, not marked: $95

9. K*R 403 child on German walking body, antique clothes: $425

10. 20-inch Bru Jne composition body, stamped and paper shop label, head broken: $4,000.

The IDEX Premiere Show was held Jan. 27-31. IDEX is a doll and bear trade show, but it is open to the public the last two days. It is a place for doll and bear artists and manufacturers from around the world to show their lines for the coming year. Sponsored by Madavor Publishers, it is the event wholesalers and retailers look forward to. For collectors, it is a place they can express their opinions directly to the artists and manufacturers they support. This year, dealer participation was down slightly, partly because of the weak economy, but also because of nasty weather everywhere north of Florida. Several artists and manufacturers could not get to the event because of snowed-in airports and transportation problems. Despite this fact, attendance was still good, and sales were brisk. Artists and manufacturers I spoke with seemed optimistic about 2011.

The first week in February brought the Leesburg Doll Show sponsored by the Orange Blossom/Hills and Lakes Doll Club. This is a show that has weathered the good and bad times and remained a fixture in central Florida. I volunteer to do their doll identification at the show, and I was busy all day. Show Chairwoman Betty Brelsford said that all of the dealer tables had sold out by early January, and there were several dealers on the waiting list. She also said that the attendance was the best in three years.

Dealer Audrey Fanning stated that Leesburg was the best show she had had in many months, including the Eastern National Antique to Modern Doll and Toy Show and Sale in Gaithersburg, Md.

Feb. 19 was a very busy weekend. The St. Petersburg Doll Club opened its doors to a long waiting line of eager customers. Chairwoman Ilene Delk reported that the tables sold out early, and there was a long waiting list. Attendance also was better than last year, and, while there were some “lookers,” most people had come to buy. Popular items were accessories, including hats and dresses both antique and contemporary. Lots of inexpensive antique dolls were changing hands, but several very rare examples also found new homes. A great Alabama baby with bare feet will go north to New York, and a rare Armand Marseille character will go south to Naples.

Feb. 18-20 saw the Renninger’s Extravaganza in Mt. Dora, Fla. (see the Feb 16 edition of Antique Trader for full coverage). Manager Doyle Carlton was excited when I spoke to him by phone after the event. He said that he was thrilled to report the best three-day event in years. Renninger’s is a general Antique Market with a little of everything. During the winter season and especially the Extravaganza in February, many dealers bring their wares to this event. One of my fellow collectors found a box of antique clothes and lace, perfect for making a doll’s wardrobe. Another found some early hand-carved furniture for her dollhouse.

What does all of this mean? Hopefully, a positive note for antique shows this year.  Sadly, the economy has forced many people to sell but, it has also provided an opportunity for buyers. There is a lot of new merchandise on the market, and much of that new merchandise will be found in the shows this year. Doll and toy collections that have been unseen for years are now becoming available. Items that were hidden away in closets and attics are now being pulled out, because there is a market for them.

I recently had a family contact me about two dolls that had been put away and forgotten for years. Recently, house repairs were needed, and money was not available. They contacted me concerning the dolls and asked if they had any value. Fortunately, they did. One was a Kestner Oriental doll and the other a beautiful Parian. I pointed them to a reputable buyer and they now have $4,000 to spend on house repair.

Note of caution

The Internet offers great opportunities, but always practice caution when buying. Recently, a fellow collector purchased a very rare German character. When it was received, she felt that something was wrong. After very close examination, it was decided that the head was old but had probably been retrieved from one of the digs around the doll factories in East Germany and had no color. Some very talented person had painted the necessary facial coloring and was now selling it as the original doll. The doll body had also been chemically aged to match the period of the head. It was very good and will fool a lot of collectors. Best advice — know who you are buying from, either personally or by reputation.

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