Vintage French and German dolls headline Oct. 23 auction

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – A single-owner collection of more than 125 rare and vintage dolls – nearly all of them made in France and Germany between the late 19th and early 20th centuries – will be sold at auction Saturday, Oct. 23, by Browne Auction Specialists at the American Legion Hall in Blue Springs, just outside Kansas City. The sale will begin at 1 p.m.

The collector passed away a year ago and her identity will not been revealed for security reasons until the day before the sale, per the wishes of her family. “But if we were able to give her name, it would be recognizable to people in the doll collecting community; that’s how highly regarded she was,” said Ron Browne of Browne Auction Specialists. “This is a rare opportunity to acquire some great dolls.”

The collection was amassed between 1970 and 1990 and includes manufacturers such as Armand Marseille, Borgfeldt, Heinrich Handwerck, Hertel Schwab & Co., J.D. Kestner, Heubach, Simon & Halbig, S.F.B.J., Cuno and Otto Dressel, Kuhnlenz, Bahr & Proschild, Unis and others. In addition, several Kewpie dolls made in America will be offered as a single lot.

Online bidding will be facilitated by Phone and absentee bids will also be accepted. Previews will be held Friday, Oct. 22, from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 23, the date of sale, from 9 a.m. until the first gavel comes down at 1 p.m. Lunch will be provided on auction day. “I encourage all doll collectors to attend this sale,” Browne said.

Quite possibly the most plentiful dolls in the sale will be those made by the German manufacturer Armand Marseille, one of the world’s largest and best known producers of bisque doll heads. The firm started in the mid-1890s and between 1900 and 1930 they reportedly made 1,000 bisque head dolls a day. The very popular 370 and 390 molds will be featured in the sale.

Hertel, Schwab & Company is another German manufacturer from the period that will be represented in the auction. Some of their dolls were made just for the American market (like Bye-Lo Baby for George Borgfelt, Our Baby and Our Fairy for Louis Wolf & Company and Jubilee Dolls for Strobel & Wilken). They also made bisque heads for other German doll firms.

The aforementioned George Borgfelt was based in New York City and was an importer and assembler of dolls for the American and Canadian doll markets. They were not doll makers themselves. But they did hold the distribution rights to many dolls from European manufacturers. Some, like the nice 25-inch bisque head doll with blue sleep eyes in the sale, are marked “GB.”

The Dressel family toy and doll business in Sonnenberg, Germany, operated for a long time and passed from one generation to then next before finally becoming known as the Cuno & Otto Dressel Factory in 1873. They purchased bisque doll heads from several manufacturers. An example in the Oct. 23 auction is a 17-inch doll with a kid body, bisque head and big sleep eyes.

Heinrich Handwerk dolls were produced in Germany from 1876 until 1902, when the company was bought by Kammer & Reinhardt. They were best known for their bebe dolly-faced bisque heads, child dolls and babies, but they also made celluloid dolls. Featured in the auction will be lovely 24-inch and 26-inch dolls with composition bodies and bisque heads.

J.D. Kestner, also from Germany, began making papier mache and wooden dolls as early as 1820. The firm became such a major employer in the region it became known as “King Kestner.” Many examples of Kestner dolls will cross the block Oct. 23, most of them ranging in size from 24 to 36 inches and featuring composition or kid bodies, bisque heads and sleep eyes.

SFBJ stands for Societe Francaise de Fabrication de Bebe & Jouets and represents a renowned French doll dynasty consisting of Pierre Francois Jumeau, his original collaborator (a man named Belton), Jumeau’s son Emile and the bisque head supplier Eugene Barrois. Their earlier dolls were considered works of art. A 12-inch SFBJ doll will be featured in the auction.

Simon & Halbig (S&H), founded in Germany in 1839, began making dolls in 1869 at two factories and became known for their fine bisque head doll heads and innovations in the doll industry. They also supplied doll heads to other well-known manufacturers. The firm was sold in 1920 to Kammer & Reinhardt. Bidders will have a nice selection of Simon & Halbig dolls to choose from.

The Bahr & Proschild doll company began in 1871 as a porcelain and doll factory and quickly earned a reputation as a maker of high-quality dolls. They discontinued operating about 1919, when they were acquired by the Bruno Schmidt Doll Company. Most Bahr & Proschild dolls are 7 to 24 inches tall. One in the sale is an 18-inch bisque head doll with bent limbs.

Hertwig & Company manufactured porcelain dolls and figurines in Germany from 1864-1941. They are best known for their all-bisque Snow Babies and Nanking Dolls, with bisque heads and limbs and cloth cotton-stuffed bodies. Also, exclusive to the American market were the Pet Name china head dolls, several examples of which will cross the block on Oct. 23.

The Heubach family of Germany operated a longstanding porcelain business before getting into dolls in 1910. They made character bisque socket or shoulder head dolls, either molded hair or wigged, with sleep eyes or their famous painted intaglio eyes. In the sale will be a 9 1/2 inch Gebruder Heubach doll with composition body, bisque head and molded blond hair.

Other manufacturers that will be represented in the auction include Theodor Recknagel, Porzellanfabrik Mengersgereuth, Schoenaw & Hoffmeister, Hamburger & Co., Rheinische Gummi und Delloid Fabrik Co., Gerbruder Kuhnlenz and C.M. Bergman-Wafterhausen.

Browne Auction Specialists, LLC has been selling items at auction for over 30 years. Headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., the firm has partners in all 50 states to insure client satisfaction. Company founder Ron Browne graduated from the Missouri Auction School in 1979 and has the prestigious Certified Estate Specialist designation from the National Auctioneers Association.

Browne Auction Specialists, LLC is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign an item, estate, or collection, you may call them at 918-629-3739, or you can e-mail them at The firm’s next big sale after the Oct. 23 doll auction will be a vintage toys auction slated for the end of this year (late December) or early January.

For more information about Browne Auction Specialists, LLC, and the firm’s calendar of events, to include the upcoming Oct. 23 doll auction, visit Images of the dolls to be sold Oct. 23 may be viewed online. Click on the company site, and that will let you link to a partnering site, at


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