Marbles

Everyone loves a marble. They are lovely little artistic glass balls brimming with nostalgia. Marbles of the Victorian glass variety are very popular with collectors, particularly the German handmade ones produced from the 1860s until the outbreak of the First World War. The handmade marbles can be easily identified by their pontil mark; a slightly rough area where the marble was removed from the pontil rod.

The German swirls were the most common handmade marble but within this category there are five different types; the latticino core as the name suggests with a lattice core, the solid core which was either cylindrical or ridged, the divided core which had multiple strands in the middle, the ribbon core which was usually a single ribbon but could be two and finally the complex core so named because it used more than one technique within a single marble.

What makes the area of marble collecting so interesting is that within these five types of swirls there lie other categories and sub-types. For example, there are mists which are created by overlaying colours near the surface of the marble, mica which denotes marbles with designs incorporating silver flakes, or onionskin where the marble typically has a white opaque layer covered with panels of colour. One very desirable subcategory is Lutz marbles, those with goldstone decoration; flecks of gold within their designs made from ground copper. Marbles using this technique weren’t produced until the early 1900s.

Value often lies in complex, intricate and symmetrical designs as well as bright, multicoloured marbles, with certain colours such as blue and red more popular due to their rarity.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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

Marklin Trains

Early trains by the German toy manufacturer Marklin, like those of other makers, were simple and solid, but unrealistic. However, in 1891 at the Leipzig Toy Fair Marklin introduced standardised gauges, which was a major development in the manufacture of trains and was to change how they were produced in the future.

The early 1900s were the first ‘golden age’ of Marklin trains. The simple early designs were superseded by a range of realistic, detailed trains with a superb, thickly lacquered finish. The larger lll gauge was particularly popular in this early period, but by 1910 the demand for the smaller l and 0 gauge models was growing too. It was at this time that Marklin introduced a range of rolling stock and accessories.

1895 Marklin 0 gauge clockwork train set SOLD £3400

After World War One the heavy, thickly painted trains began to look old fashioned and by 1930 the I gauge was obsolete. All this led to the company, in the 1930s, investing in new tooling and launching a brand new range of trains.

In 1948 yet more changes, which included the launching of the smaller and instantly popular HO gauge. The die cast bodies were narrower with more accurate proportions, a slightly matt finish and a new type of coupling. By the late1950s the solidarity and quality of Marklin trains had firmly re-established the company’s reputation world wide.

Marklin trains are extremely popular and collectable today and many of the very early examples can realise impressive prices at auction.

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

Schuco Miniatures

Salerooms across the country are developing more and more specialist departments and our own saleroom is no exception. With more than most, one of ours which is particularly popular is the toy department. Within that department, tin plate in general and Schuco in particular always creates tremendous interest.

Schuco is well known for their beautifully made and mechanically clever tinplate toys. They managed to succeed in making mass produced toys that retained their quality of finish. They made cars, boats, animals, cowboys, clowns even Disney characters and a Charlie Chaplin who walked along twisting his cane.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

One of the popular ranges with collectors is their miniatures. First produced in 1924, these were tiny figures measuring from 2 to 4½ inches with metal-frame bodies covered in mohair completed with a tinplate face mask. Originally produced purely as a publicity item they were soon being manufactured for many different uses. Some were made to contain lipsticks, manicure sets or perfume bottles, while others were marketed as mascots for bicycle bars or as lapel badges or simply as novelties in their own right with the acrobatic and tumbling bears particularly popular.

The most popular miniatures tend to be the bears and monkeys with the brightest colours being most desirable. Miniatures were commonly made in green, lavender, red, blue and pink, with rarer colours like purple and orange realising higher prices. Cartoon characters like Felix the Cat, were made as well as many animals from elephants to ladybirds and a particularly collectable ‘Noah’s Ark’.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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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

Barbie

One of my granddaughters wants a “Barbie Car” for her birthday. I was thrilled for two reasons; firstly it is on offer at the moment and secondly that “Barbie” is still loved by the young. Barbie was developed by the toy company Mattel, run by Harold Mattson and Elliot Handler. Elliot’s wife Ruth created the idea and made Barbie a success.

By the 1950s Mattel was enjoying great success. Ruth’s idea to produce a plastic doll which would aid imaginary play, having watched her daughter playing make believe with paper dolls, did not go down well with her male colleagues. The costs and scepticism at producing a doll with explicit adult features also met with resistance, despite that Ruth had observed her daughter recreating adult like situations with her paper dolls.

It was in Switzerland on holiday that Ruth noticed in a shop window a doll similar to her own idea. However this doll was targeting a purely adult market. Eventually Mattel acquired the patent for this doll and after an analysis of every technical detail of the body design, the doll we know today was born, named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara, finally arriving on the American toy market in 1959.

The first Barbie ever produced measured 11.5” and was available in both blonde and brunette. She wore a black and white swim suit, black high heeled shoes, white sunglasses and gold earrings.

Barbie’s initial success and prevailing popularity is not in her adult features, but in her wardrobe, her ability to be transformed simply with a change of outfit. There are endless accessories on sale today and Barbie still has the ability to inspire children’s imagination, the essence of Ruth’s initial vision.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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Toy Soldiers

Toy soldiers, I had them as a boy, my friends had them and now some of my friends are acquiring them all over again.

The first commercial toy soldiers were produced in the mid 18th century on the continent, especially in Germany. They were small, solid, flat and made of lead.

By the beginning of the 19th century the lead soldier was becoming more rounded in figure (not unlike many of its present day collectors) and production was centering on France and Germany.

Throughout the 19th century demand increased and production spread, although still mainly in Europe. But all was soon to change. A very clever Englishman called William Britain developed the
hollow cast lead soldier in the 1890s. This sparked what can only be described as a toy soldier revolution as all the continental models lost favour.

The battle of the toy soldier continued however up to World War Two, with Germany, France and Italy still producing this solid model and William Britain and his fellow British manufacturers
producing their hollow cast version.

Production stopped during World War Two and when the War was over experiments began with plastic.

Production of the lead models ceased in 1966, with legislation regarding the lead paint and strangely enough that is when collecting hollow cast lead soldiers started to become fashionable.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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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

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Steam Powered Toys & Live Steam Models

Steam was used to power toys as an alternative to clockwork from the 19th century. By the mid 20th century it was largely replaced by electric or battery power. Steam powered toys are a keen collecting area for enthusiasts and some still build new models from scratch.

There are three main areas of interest. Firstly stationary toys made for children. Secondly moving steam powered models like trains and boats. However probably the most popular are the
demonstration models showing how different machines work. Larger models will always fetch a premium especially, if they are well engineered, particularly large demonstration models or trains
that could actually be ridden on.

Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine 'Mary'. Sold - £4,200
Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine ‘Mary’. Sold – £4,200

Generally the more sophisticated the mechanics the more desirable and hence the more valuable the model. The mechanics of the steam power was often very simple in the toys made for children.
This was usually with steam driving a flywheel that is attached to other parts with a belt, thus producing movement. Examples could be people working, playing or dancing, windmills, wells and
other novelty items. Far more complicated and true to life were the steam engines in the demonstration models, with some highly intricate and detailed designs.

A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives
A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives

Examples still containing original burners and other components are more desirable to collectors, but damage from both water and oil can be very common and will reduce value. Steam power was used by most of the main tinplate toy manufacturers, such as German makers Bing, Marklin and Wilesco, English manufacturer Mamod and American maker Jenson.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

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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