People have made dolls for thousands of years for use as religious objects, toys, and holiday displays. Many traditional dolls, like the Japanese Kokeshi, are still highly desirable today. Many early American dolls were made of rags, or cloth, and are a reminder of the simple life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 19th century, French and German dolls were the most popular and innovative dolls in the western world. In the early 1850s, the Bebe doll appeared in France, starting the custom of making dolls in the form of infants and young children (as opposed to adults). The Germans caught on, and soon both countries were producing porcelain-headed dolls.
Late in the 1800s, the French started making dolls with unglazed heads, and the unglazed colored clay more accurately represented a human skin tone. These dolls became known as bisque dolls, and they remain a staple of doll-making...
Shortly thereafter, German doll makers started experimenting with celluloid, a lighter-weight and less breakable material. Celluloid dolls were popular for a number of years, despite the fact that the material was flammable. Dolls in Europe, Japan, and America made of celluloid, such as the famous Kewpie doll, were eventually replaced by dolls made of plastic, or composition dolls, made of a mix of materials including glue and sawdust.
The early 20th century saw the launch of a number of famous doll-making companies, such as Ideal, which became known among other things for its best-selling Shirley Temple dolls. Another was Vogue, which produced the Ginny doll, and of course Mattel, which launched its blockbuster Barbie line in the late 1950s.
Though most antique dolls started out as toys, some dolls have been sought by collectors from the beginning. A good example is the Simpich Doll Company, which produced small numbers of limited edition Christmas and Americana-themed dolls for over 50 years.
Interviews & Articles
As a little girl, Samantha Knowles didn’t stop to consider why most of her dolls—her American Girl dolls, her Cabbage Patch Kids, … [more]
We have a very small team here at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, so we all have to do lots of different things. I do… [more]
In a New England parlor of the 1890s a doll of the period was perched on top of a high book case, well out of the reach of grimy c… [more]
This is a most unorthodox treatise on dolls as we are neither collectors nor authorities on their histories, but for the past thre… [more]
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Sew Simple by Terry KovelBuffalo News, June 14th
One way to celebrate Flag Day is to put a vintage doll with a flag in your window. An “Uncle Sam” bisque doll made about 1918 by Handwerck, a German company, sold at a 2012 Theriault's auction for $2,350. The doll was holding an American flag with 48 ...Read more
Photography on exhibit this month at Caldwell libraryNew Jersey Hills, June 14th
For the past 20 years, Libraty has been raising her daughter as well as owning and operating her own antique doll business with her husband, Frank Hechenberger. She has been featured in the New York Times and Eyewitness News. In keeping with the ...Read more
Creating Contemporary Homes in Europe's Castles and ManorsWall Street Journal, June 13th
Mr. Thenaers also is working on converting the orangerie into a private museum for Ms. Gillion's antique-doll collection. In planning the interiors, Mr. Thenaers emphasized styles associated with 18th-century France. The sprawling ground-floor salon ...Read more
Luxury staging tips that work anywhereHousing Wire, June 11th
6/11/13 11:09am. Remember: every seller thinks they're the expert on their home, even after hiring you. If you actually want their listing to close quickly, you need to be upfront with your feedback, writes Trulia. That antique doll collection over by...Read more
2013 Visual Art Genius Award FinalistsTheStranger.com, June 5th
It's Antique Doll Collector. When she studied art at the University of Washington in the 1970s, surrounded by conceptualists, minimalists, and artists excited by the relatively new medium of video, she appreciated what they did, befriended them (some...Read more
Toys stashed in attic worth an average £ 600 if soldMirror.co.uk, June 3rd
Most of the nine million Barbies gathering dust are worth nothing, but a 1958 vintage doll in perfect condition in its box would fetch £2,000. A Sports Series Action Man could make up to £500 if he still has his football – and an ulta-rare Mego Elastic...Read more
Teddy bear, doll appraisal to be held in GreeceGreece Post, May 31st
Doll and teddy bear verbal appraisals with antique doll expert Helene Marlow will be available at $4 each for up to two items. The Greece Historical Society will host a doll and teddy bear appraisal from 1:30 to 4 p.m., Saturday June 1 at its museum...Read more
Colleen Richardson, Doll DoctorPetaluma Argus Courier (blog), May 28th
Owner Colleen Richardson, left, and Donna Larsen work putting together an antique doll made by Simon Halbig sometime between 1890 and 1910 and valued at between $2,000 and $3,000. PHOTOS BY SCOTT MANCHESTER / The Press Democrat...Read more