Speaking of Dolls: Recession? What recession?

My husband and I attend or participate in doll shows, auctions and appraisal clinics throughout the United States and these past four months have been interesting. With the economy up and down and with politics consuming the papers and airways, there was fear that the doll market, like the stock market, was going “down the tube.” I am happy to say that we have not seen this happen.

We have participated as dealers in four shows and attended one as a customer in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Nevada. I have also spoken to dealers and promoters of shows and auctions in Texas, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia. Without exception, all reported that attendance at the shows and auctions was up from last year and most of the dealers said that sales were good. Another comment made by the promoters was that the shows were busy all day with people continuing to come in well into the afternoon.

During and after the shows, I spoke to both antique and collectible dealers about their sales. Even the dealers of modern dolls and accessories reported that their sales were better than expected. The dealers of modern and collectible dolls are the dealers hardest hit by eBay but with eBay’s new payment policies and with the higher shipping rates, dealers at shows where customers can see the item, pick it up, pay and take it home that day have seen a welcome increase in sales.

Antique and vintage doll dealers reported brisk sales of high end dolls. These dolls have proven to be sound investments in the past and in our uncertain economy, perhaps sound investments are what people are seeking. Other things not lasting long on the sales tables were vintage doll clothes, shoes and hats and any doll that was all original. With vintage doll dealers, again it was all original items and outfits from the ’50s that caught peoples’ eye. The damaged dolls, the repaired and repainted dolls, and the very ordinary dolls also sold, but only if the prices were very low.

Whether it was to get away from the politics on TV or just to visit with old friends, something brought collectors out in large numbers and that was good news for both buyers and sellers.

I had a question from a collector in Michigan about a doll she recently found in a thrift shop. She writes, “I recently found this little doll. The interesting thing about it is its head. The head is attached to the body with rubber and it has two faces. Are these unusual?”

What she found it called a “knotter” by many collectors or a “nodder” by some. The head is attached with rubber which is knotted at one end. This rubber passes through a hole in the top of the head, down through the body and out another small hole at the base of the derriere of the doll. There is another knot where the rubber exits. The dolls are usually small, about 3 inches and most of the more collectible ones were made by the Hertwig Company of Germany in the early 1920s. They were also produced in Japan. This one is unusual because most have only one face. Having two faces, one smiling and one frowning, makes it more collectible. Since it is also well marked “Germany,” it would be more collectible than one marked “Japan.” A collector would expect to pay $85-$125 for a knotter of this type.

The following prices have been gathered from the past 30 days from doll shows, auctions, individual sales and Internet sales. Depending on economic condition and interests, prices may vary in different regions of the country.

9-inch Kestner all bisque marked 150, open and close eyes, open mouth $550

25-inch closed mouth Tete Jumeau, redressed, original wig and pate $4,300

25-inch open mouth Tete Jumeau, redressed, original shoes, wig and pate $2,400

5-inch all bisque Bye-Lo, swivel head, open and close eyes, jointed arms and legs $500

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

27-inch Kestner closed mouth pouty, French type body, redressed $2,000

12-inch papier mache milliners model, long curls, original body, appropriate clothes $500

15-inch all original Hilda baby, original wig and lashes $2,100

14-inch Alexander composition Kate Greenway, all original $600

28-inch Superior type child, wig, cloth body with composition limbs, original finish $575

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