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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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DELIGHT IN DOLLS

DELIGHT IN DOLLS
Theriault's sold this Simon & Halbig 28" fashion lady doll for $30,000. Photo courtesy of Theriault's
When I was 7-years-old I had a vinyl doll resting on my bed with almond-shaped sapphire eyes that I swore followed me as I walked around the room. If you ask most women to remember back, I'm betting there is one doll that stands out in memory.

Dolls rank second as the most popular collectible in the world. First place goes to stamps, and third to coins. More than half a million American collectors are out there combing through yard sales and auctions for dolls and a third of them are men.

The most valuable dolls are those made during the golden age of dollmaking. Between 1860 and the early-1900s bisque and unglazed porcelain dolls made in France are considered to be the choicest.

French dollmakers Leon Casimir Bru and Pierre Francois Jumeau crafted some of the finest dolls in the world. Slightly lower in value, yet still aristocratic in the doll world are German dolls made by Armand Marseille and the Kestner family.

The bisque doll heads these manufacturers produced closely imitate the color and texture of human skin. The Victorian notion that children should been seen and not heard is reflected in early doll construction. Faces were unemotional, sedate, and anemic looking. Dolls were portrayed as miniature adults.

The golden age of dollmaking lasted from 1875 to 1925. The next era began in 1920 and extends until 1950. In these more modern dolls, clays, fibers, and sawdust replaced bisque.

Practical dolls were produced that were not only more natural looking, but could also withstand the constant handling of children. By the 1940s plastics were introduced and most contemporary dolls today are made of some form of plastic.

Theriault's auction house in Annapolis, Md., specializes in antique dolls and childhood ephemera. At their Jan. 8, 1994, sale, a 28-inch rare German bisque fashion lady by Simon & Halbig sold for $30,000. This large German doll company operated from about 1870 until the 1930s.

Factors to consider in valuing old dolls are rarity, age, condition, manufacturer and detailed workmanship.

You can get a free doll identification guide by sending a SASE to Theriault's, Box 151, Annapolis, Md. 21401.



Q. Please advise me as to the value of a doll made by J.D. Kestner. Markings are 154, 1-17. Enclosed is a detailed description and photo. Her clothes were made from my mother's baby dress around 1896. J.G. Library, Pa.

A. Johannes D. Kestner was one of the few German manufacturers in the 1800s to make complete dolls and not just body parts for dolls. In 1860 he purchased a porcelain factory and produced doll heads of wax, porcelain, bisque, cardboard and other materials. His trademark of a crown was registered in 1895 in the U.S., and he considered himself to be the king of German dollmakers, which he probably was.

Of the bisque dolls made in Germany, Kestner's are some of the more expensive. The difference in quality between fine German and French dolls is minute.

To tell the difference, you need to look for the maker's mark. Marks can be seen on the back of the neck, or on the front or back of the shoulders. If no mark is shown then look at the part of the head where the wig is glued.

The Germans used cardboard and the French used cork. Also, French dolls have unusually large eyes which collectors applaud.

Dolls are most valuable when dressed in their original clothes, even when the clothes are worn and faded. However, your doll in good condition is still worth about $600.

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