Recently, we auctioned a beautifully curated doll collection over two Saturdays that also coincided with World Doll Day on June 8th. We didn’t plan it that way, but the timing certainly didn’t hurt.
Dolls can be tricky in the secondary market. There are many dolls that just don’t hold value, but the ones that are highly coveted can do very well at auction. There are many categories for collecting…some people focus on a time period, such as antique, vintage or modern. Others may expand their doll collections to include toys, miniatures and bears. Even books, accessories and parts can do well at auction, depending on demand.
Some dolls that are in demand right now include:
Madame Alexander Dolls: The Alexander Doll Company was founded in New York City in 1923 by Bertha “Beatrice” Alexander Behrman and her sisters, and it became the first manufacturer to make dolls based on living people. The sisters initially started with cloth dolls, then switched to porcelain and later, plastic. On June 1, we sold a hard plastic, 18-inch Madame Alexander Glamour Girl doll with a “Margaret” face for $4,500. In that same auction, a 1949 Margaret O’ Brien Madame Alexander Doll realized $1,600. The following Saturday, a 20-inch Madame Alexander Cissy doll with stand hammered at $600. This treasured item included a tagged red velvet dress, stole, hat, hat box and red heels.
Jumeau Dolls: Started by Pierre Francoise Jumeau in the 1840s, this French dollmaking firm initially created papier mache dolls. A decade later, they were making porcelain dolls and specialized in dolls with bisque heads. The dolls that put French dollmaking on the map were the French fashion dolls, known as poupees. Jumeau became renowned for these dolls, and later enjoyed even more success with their bebe (child) dolls. To give you an example of how coveted these dolls are, a 16-inch antique Jumeau E7j French doll, unclothed with no accessories, sold for $2,750 at our June 8 auction.
Kestner Dolls: When Johann Daniel Kestner Jr. (JDK) began making papier mache and wood dolls in 1816 in Germany, he had no idea that his company would grow so large that he would earn the nickname “King Kestner.” He was an early proponent of porcelain heads and added bisque heads to his line in the 1850s. One of the firm’s innovations was a leather body with riveted joints that allowed the limbs to move naturally. The firm also created Googly-eyed dolls, which refer to dolls with side glancing or rolling eyes. These are also coveted by collectors. As an example, we sold an antique googly-eyed Kestner doll on June 8 for $900.
Miniature dolls: While you might think these dolls and dollhouses were made for children, it’s the adults who are collecting and paying top dollar for them. Not long ago, we sold a lot of four miniature dolls that included one made by popular artisan Marcia Jo Backstrom for $900. Another miniature doll by popular artisan, Liz Staryk, sold for $225. That auction also included a ‘Gone with the Wind’ dollhouse that fetched $325.
Whether you’re collecting or selling, do your research, and consider joining a local club. To find a club near you, visit www.dollclubs.com.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.