I am happy to report that the doll world is alive and well. I have just returned from the annual United Federation of Doll Clubs convention in New Orleans. The weather was hot and humid but that did not stop doll lovers from doing what they do best: shop!
There were plenty of temptations in the Big Easy. Theriault’s held a two-day doll auction and the National Doll Festival held a four-day show. At the same time, the U.F.D.C. Convention was taking place at a nearby venue with more than 1,000 attendees. Not only is this convention the perfect place to find that special doll or accessory, but it is also the perfect place to attend programs and seminars presented by the most knowledgeable people in the doll world.
The convention also offered workshops for everything from shoe making to bonnet making and educational exhibits provided a chance for attendees to see displays of Vogue dolls, dolls representing Queen Elizabeth, two Japanese Friendship Dolls and dolls of Louisiana. The competitive exhibit, consisting of more than 1,700 modern and antique dolls is always exciting for the attendees. Not only do they get a chance to compete with other members from throughout the world, but they also get a chance to see dolls that they have never had the opportunity to see before.
The U.F.D.C. salesroom is something members look forward to all year. Dealers come from far and near and bring their best. All ages and types of dolls and related accessories are made available to eager attendees during the five days of the convention. On Thursday, the salesroom is open to the public.
Dealers were pleased this year with the attendance. There was a line waiting to get in and the flow was steady all day. Business was brisk throughout the convention, and most dealers expressed that the sales were much better than they had been prepared for.
There was no one type or age of doll that seemed to be the best seller, but there did seem to be one common thread: Collectors were looking for quality. Whether it was a dress for a 1950s Toni doll or a sterling purse for a rare French Fashion, condition was very important.
Collectors are looking for the most complete and the most original.
Dolls of all ages that are plagued with lots of damage and missing or inappropriate parts are now being sold as “parts” and are not being added to collections as they once were. Dolls in this condition are also carrying much lower price tags.
Another thing that I noticed about the show inventory was that there was more variety. Dealers who once carried only high-end dolls now have added accessories and smalls, still high end but with smaller price tags. I know many collectors who attended the convention and bought nothing but clothing, shoes, hats and accessories. The individual prices were much less than a high-end doll, but for the dealers, it all adds up.
While today’s technology has made doll research so much easier for collectors, there are still mysteries. At the convention this year, members had the opportunity to bring a mystery doll, one that they could not identify. With so many doll experts present, this would be the perfect place to find help. Attendees, dealers, appraisers, judges and auctioneers were all able to leave written information and suggestions for the owners of the mystery dolls. At the end of the convention, approximately one half of the dolls brought in now had an identity. The others can try again next year.
One of the favorite dolls in the competition was a cute S.F.B.J. 234 toddler. She is an example of the characters produced by the Societe Francaise de Fabrication de Bebes & Jouets in Paris from about 1910 through the 1920s. The SFBJ doll firm resulted from the merger of many of the French 19th century doll firms who could no longer financially compete with the German market. Their aim was to merge and to produce a quality product more economically. They had some success, especially with the character children. These character children’s expressions mimicked human expression. SFBJ produced dolls with crying faces, laughing faces, screaming faces, smiling faces and many others.
This little example is especially appealing. She has the qualities collectors seem to be looking for at this time. She is a small size, perfect for a cabinet. She has her original body and body finish. She is dressed appropriately in a vintage outfit with her original shoes. She has no repair or repaint and her head has no damage. She wears her original wig. Lastly, she is a rarely found mold number 234. All in all, she is the perfect package and captured a first place ribbon in the competition.
Dolls sold in the current marketplace, including doll shows and Internet sales
- 23-inch Hertel Schwab 151 baby $300
- 22-inch round face early Steiner gigoteur $2,600
- 14-inch Kestner 154 $140
- 12-inch all bisque character German baby $485
- 18-inch Nancy Ann Style Show, MIB $575
- 14-inch Ideal composition Mama doll, mint condition $160
- 19-inch closed mouth pouty Kestner with early body $1,700
- 19-inch key wound French mechanical with five movements $5,500
- 23-inch china with deep curls around face, circa 1870 $250
- 5 1/2-inch bisque Kewpie, Germany, standing with jointed arms $85
Doll-related items well worth the search:
- Vintage lace, ribbon and fabric for dress making
- Vintage sewing findings including hooks and eyes, fasteners and buttons
- China and bisque heads with unusual molded hair styles. (Does not need to be a complete doll.)
- Vintage doll shoes and hosiery
- Vintage doll house accessories. Doll houses are again becoming popular.
- Vintage doll clothing including clothing from the 1950s and ’60s
- Dolls’ hats
These are all small things that are often overlooked at flea markets and estate sales.
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[AT]aol.com.