Effanbee’s composition Patsy was a real trendsetter. Debuting in the 1920′s, she was one of the first American made dolls who was truly modern. She reflected the big changes that were occurring in fashion and society – flappers, bobbed hair, short skirts for little girls. Patsy was a smash hit and Effanbee took the opportunity to put out a whole series of similar dolls in different sizes. Among them were Patsy Ann, Patsy Lou, Patsy Mae, Patsy Baby, and this little sweetheart, Patsyette. At 9″ tall, Patsyette was the perfect size for a little girl to take everywhere. This darling set in the original cardboard case holds a dressed doll and three extra outfits. Photo courtesy of Debbie’s Dolls.
It took awhile for spring to get to us here in Maine, but it’s finally here! In this part of the country, spring and fall are the busy seasons for doll related activities. Doll clubs, doll shows and doll auctions all kick into high gear.
One club that I belong to, the Granite State Doll Club based in Concord, NH, recently held our annual Spring Luncheon. The theme was “Tea Time” and we brought our dolls dressed for the occasion. Our club doll is Denis Bastien’s LeeAnn, but all other dolls are welcome too. This year Queen Anne (a UFDC souvenir doll) attended to invite LeeAnn to the upcoming Royal Wedding.
We hold our luncheons in the function room of a local restaurant and enjoy a good meal with good friends, show off our dolls, win raffle prizes and generally have a great time.
The other club I am a member of, the San-D-over Dollers, recently held its annual doll show in Dover, NH. We rent out the Elks Club and have dealers of all types of dolls from antique to modern. We have a good time, everybody goes home with a new treasure, and our club’s charitable donations get funded for another year.
Toni is our club doll, and this year we had a display of vintage Tonis by Ideal and American Character, and reproduction Tonis by Effanbee/Tonner.
What’s your club been up to? You don’t belong to a doll club? Why not?
My friend Pat gave me a stack of little doll newsletters called “Milady in Miniature” which were published by Rae Walker of West Virginia (later Maryland) back in the ’60s and ’70s. In the era before the internet, it’s interesting to see how collectors communicated and shared information. These little newsletters contain an article or two, perhaps a pattern, a poetry page, classified ads, and info on newly released dolls, which today are our vintage favorites. The covers are often hand drawn and the mimeographing is sketchy. (Anybody else remember the smell of that mimeograph fluid??) But I can imagine how eagerly anticipated these little booklets were to those who were starved for doll information and somebody to share their hobby. I have come across other of these little homegrown publications from time to time – a little piece of doll history.
This week I received an inquiry from an advertising broker who wanted to place an ad on the VDC website and pay me some money. With visions of early retirement, I asked for more info. Turned out they wanted to pay me $50 to insert some text into the description of the vinyl Mother of the Bride doll to the effect that a smart collector would want to contact such-and-such an insurance company to protect such a valuable and delicate item. (This text was to be placed in the sentence directly after I described the doll as “poor quality.”) After I got done rolling on the floor and laughing, I politely declined the offer. Oh well, early retirement will have to wait a while longer.
Yesterday I did a program for the doll club on the topic “Researching and Appraising Your Own Dolls.” It went pretty well, the members asked a lot of questions which is a good indication of interest.
In preparing my talk I had boiled it down to a series of questions that need to be asked, and hopefully answered, in appraising a doll. The first five questions deal with identifying the doll:
1. What material is my doll made from?
2. When was my doll made?
3. Where was my doll made (which country)?
4. Who made my doll (which manufacturer or artist)?
5. What is my doll’s name?
Not all of the questions can be answered for every doll. If a doll is unmarked and has no unusual characteristics, only the first two or three questions might be answerable. If the doll was artist made, the first question might even be a challenge. One member brought an unmarked artist doll of Whistler’s Mother, complete with rocking chair. We could not agree on whether her head was made from a type of composition or wood. Since her outfit was sewn to her cloth body and fitted closely around her neck, we couldn’t see the unpainted edges.
I had a handout on Timeline of Doll Production showing which countries made dolls in which materials from 1820 to 1980. I left out cloth and wood and more unusual materials. There was also a handout on the best books for doll research. It was hard to limit it to one page!
The remaining questions deal with the appraisal of the doll:
6. What is my doll’s condition?
7. How original or appropriate are my doll’s wig and clothing?
8. What is the range of values for my doll?
I stressed that the doll’s value depends on who is selling and who is buying. A top dealer or auction house selling to a well heeled collector will get more money for the same doll than you or I selling it on eBay. Value should therefore always be expressed as a range, unless the type of buyer and seller are known. I talked about using price guides and the impact that eBay has had on doll values.