Pre-War Dolls

Pre-War DollsOver the years, dolls have been made from many substances including cloth, clay, straw, wax, composition, celluloid, metal, china and plasic. Early dolls were made of cloth, and h ave been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. In the seventeenth century, elaborately- dressed wooden dolls were given to well-to-do children to play with. Some of these dolls, with black glass eyes and rather stern faces, are today referred to as ‘Queen Anne’ dolls.

Skilled doll makers such as Montanari and Pierotti pioneered poured wax dolls in the nineteenth century, and incredibly, the wigs were made by individually inserting hairs into the head with a hot needle. Some people
collect wax dolls, but they are not as popular as bisque china, because in odern, centrally-heated houses, there is always the danger of the wax melting or cracking.

Pre-War DollsThe most expensive bisque dolls were made by French makers such as Jumeau
and Bru. Often, these dolls were dressed as adults rather than little girls, and they had large glass ‘paperweight’ eyes, which were incredibly beautiful. Some of these dolls n ow sell for vast sums at auction. Most collectors of old bisque dolls look for those made in Germany. These tend to be cheaper than their French counterparts, not necessarily because they are of lesser quality, but because they are much more plentiful. Many German dolls are very pretty, and some hav e character-style faces, full of charm. These dolls were often dressed as little girls or babies.

Bisque dolls normally have bodies made from wood, kid or composition (a mixture of woodpulp, glue and rags), and their limbs are frequently ball-jointed at the knees and elbows, which makes them easy to pose in a chair. Children used to call these ball-jointed types ‘double-jointed dolls’. Later, baby dolls were introduced with curved, unjointed limbs, and the ball-jointed kinds were outdated. Many bisque dolls are clearly marked on the backs of their necks with a manufacturer’s name or code and a set of mould
numbers, which makes them easy to identify.

Pre-War DollsGerman doll manufacturers included Armand Marseille, whose ‘370’ and ‘390’ girl dolls were extremely popular during the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1920s they introduced ‘My Dream Baby’, which can be found with either an op en or a closed mouth, Dream Babies are quite common and are
often one of the first dolls a new collector will buy. Other German manufacturers included K mmer and Reinhardt, Simon and Halbig, Kestner, Max Handwerck and Heubach Koppelsdorf, and prices of their dolls vary depending on the mould number a nd also on the condition.

If a doll is undamaged, with its original wig and clothes, it will obviously be dearer than a redressed, rewigged, cracked specimen. Normally, dolls by these makers will cost more than those made by Armand Marseille. By the late 1930s, many manufacturers had switched to using composition for
dolls heads, as well as the bodies, and composition became the favourite medium until hard plastic was introduced in the late 1940s. Although composition dolls are collectable, many people dislike them as they have a habit of cra zing, futhermore they are difficult to clean, a s they must not be washed. However, in the last few years prices of composition dolls have risen dramatically, and one day better quality examples will no doubt become as sought after as bisque.

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