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.