Dolls

Having had four children, three of whom were little girls, our house has seen its fair share of dolls and dolls prams. Distant memories of patrolling the neighbourhood on Christmas morning guiding children, prams, babies and bikes comes to mind. That was a very long time ago yet even then those dolls could talk, eat, cry and wet their nappies.

Looking back over the years doll development has actually been quite slow. The first walking doll was made as early as the 1820s while talking dolls took longer to perfect. Early examples produced sound due to the action of turning the doll’s arms or indeed the whole body with this exertion of pressure producing sound. Later from the 1880s, the pulling of a string became very common. However, these early talkers merely squeaked and it wasn’t until Edison’s invention of the miniaturised phonograph that the dolls finally spoke or sang. Dolls made in the 1890s containing the original tiny wax cylinder phonograph in their torsos are very rare today.

During this time, many new automata functions were being patented, not just the phonograph; one patent of particular interest was that of the ‘Mama Doll’ produced by Madame Hendren, the trademark of Averill Manufacturing Company. The ‘Mama Doll’ was a soft-bodied doll with composition head and composition lower arms and hands. What made her so unique was her voice box; when her body was tilted she cried out ‘Ma-ma’, hence the name. She is typically marked “Genuine Madame Hendren Doll”. These dolls became incredibly popular in America in the early 1920s, stealing the market from the previously desirable German bisque doll.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Heubach Bisque Dolls

This year on Christmas morning thousands and thousands of children will wake to the joy of a baby doll, brought down the chimney or through the door with a special key, by an over worked and underpaid Santa Claus. For generations parents have loved buying these wonderful creations and for generations Santa has worked his magic.

The Edwardian Christmas would see many of these dolls being manufactured by the Heubach factory which was established in Lichte, Germany in 1843, after brothers Georg Christoph and Phillipp Jakob,bought an existing porcelain business. They initially made porcelain dolls’ heads and other figurines, but later as the fashion for using bisque spread to Germany from France where they had been experimenting with it from the late 1860s, Heubach began to use bisque as their main material from about 1910.

While the porcelain dolls were glazed and therefore shiny, the bisque allowed for a much more realistic skin tone as they remained unglazed; initially fired and then re-fired after layers of decoration had been applied. It was very uncommon to find a doll made completely of bisque as it was so delicate and breakable, most dolls had bodies made of cloth or leather and later composition, a substance made by mixing glue with sawdust or wood pulp.

As with all bisque dolls of the period, some had closed mouths and fixed eyes and some more expensive models had sleeping eyes and open mouths with teeth. Oddly, a doll found now with broken teeth is often not a sign of neglect, but a sign of care, as the loving ‘child parent’ has tried desperately to feed their infant.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Early Wooden Dolls

Many doll collectors tend to concentrate on the late Victorian and Edwardian bisque dolls, but wooden dolls from the 18th and early 19th centuries can be much more exciting to acquire. Dolls made before c.1780 had a very distinctive body shape and this helps with identification. The head and torso were made in one piece and peg jointed legs and arms were attached separately. The face was round and the neck long and thin.

The heads of these early dolls were covered in gesso and painted with pink cheeks, herringbone eyebrows and a thin mouth. The eyes were black glass, without pupils and the hair was attached to a cap and nailed to the head. Unrestored examples with original clothes are very rare and create a big stir in the auction room.

Dolls made after c.1780 were generally of inferior quality and crudely shaped and carved. Although the head and torso were still carved from a single piece of wood, the torso was more skittle shaped with a high bust, very small waist and sloping shoulders. Facial features became increasingly crude and hair coverage was sparse. Eyes were generally close set and with pupils. Excellent condition in these wooden dolls can often mean restoration and this can reduce value. A
doll with a history is always a more appealing and valuable find. A doll from an important collection for example will realise more than an undocumented doll and original clothing will always make a doll more valuable.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items you’re thinking about offering items in auction or you simply would like a valuation, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Half dolls

Half dolls were essentially that, half a doll. They typically stood waist high with head and arms and were used as a decorative item. The upper bodies were usually attached to cloth skirts that were either stuffed to be used as a pincushion or used to cover household items such as teapots or powder boxes. Some later versions had separate legs which were attached to a base under the fabric skirt.

There is reference made to these pincushion dolls in the mid-18th century, however, it wasn’t until later in the 19th century and early 20th century that the half dolls were in popular demand and it was short lived as by the 1940s production had dwindled and eventually ceased altogether.

The majority of half dolls were made from porcelain or bisque but examples made from wood and wax can also be found. Key factories include Dressel & Kister, Goebel and Heubach. Some designs were very simple, while others were highly stylized, particularly the later 1920s and 30s examples when the half dolls were extremely popular and followed the clothing and hair fashions of the period. Some half dolls were even left completely naked and bald and clothes and wigs were fitted after.

Half Doll
Half Doll

The value of the half doll is placed principally in the form of the doll. If the piece is made all in one mould, with arms tucked close into the main body then these tend to hold the least value. More desirable examples will have gaps between the arms and bodies showing several moulds were used with the best having outstretched arms or even added accessories like handheld flowers. Large
examples and those still retaining original skirts are also desirable to collectors.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Automata Dolls

The height of interest in automata was from the 1880’s to the 1920’s. One of the key forms of automata from this time was the figures dancing on French music boxes. They were largely made for an adult audience by makers including Gaston Decamps, Fernard Martin and Leopold Lambert with designs such as flower sellers, acrobats and musicians being popular.

Clockwork dolls with moving parts and sound were also made for children. In fact the first walking doll was made as early as the 1820s while talking dolls took longer to perfect. Early examples produced sound due to the action of turning the doll’s arms or indeed the whole body with this exertion of pressure producing sound. Later from the 1880s, the pulling of a string became very common. However, these early talkers merely squeaked and it wasn’t until Edison’s invention of the miniaturized phonograph that the dolls finally spoke or sang. Dolls made in the 1890s containing the original tiny wax cylinder phonograph in their torsos are very rare today.

During this time, many new automata functions were being patented, not just the phonograph; one patent of particular interest was that of the ‘Mama Doll’ produced by Madame Hendren, the trademark of Averill Manufacturing Company. The ‘Mama Doll’ was a soft-bodied doll with composition head and composition lower arms and hands. What made her so unique was her voice box; when her body was tilted she cried out ‘Ma-ma’, hence the name. She is typically marked “Genuine Madame Hendren Doll”. These dolls became incredibly popular in America in the early 1920s, stealing the market from the previously desirable German bisque doll.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

Heubach bisque dolls

The Heubach factory was established in Lichte, Germany in 1843 after brothers, Georg Christoph and Phillipp Jakob, bought an existing porcelain business. They initially made porcelain dolls’ heads and other figurines but later as the fashion for using bisque travelled to Germany from France where they had been experimenting with it from the late 1860s, Heubach began to use bisque as their main material from about 1910.

Bisque Dolls
Bisque Dolls

While the porcelain dolls were glazed and therefore shiny, the bisque allowed for a much more realistic skin tone as they remained unglazed; initially fired and then re-fired after layers of decoration had been applied. It was very uncommon to find a doll made completely of bisque as it was so delicate and breakable, most
dolls had bodies made of cloth or leather and later composition, a substance made by mixing glue with sawdust or wood pulp.
Heubach made figurines completely in bisque, most famously their piano babies.

The piano babies were, as the name suggests, figurines of babies which many households sat upon their piano; perhaps just as decoration or more often than not
to hold in place the fabric that often adorned grand pianos as was fashionable at the time.

The babies were often nude but were also made with carefully painted clothes and bonnets. They ranged from about four to twelve inches in length and the babies posed in a variety of positions. They are difficult to find in mint condition due to the fragile nature of bisque. Other companies also made these ‘Piano’ babies but Heubach’s are all marked. Heubach marks include the word ‘Heubach’ enclosed in a square and more commonly on the ‘Piano’ babies, a sunburst.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website