Porcelain China Dolls: Antique Treasures
Antique Porcelain China Dolls
My grandmother has an antique china doll that everyone in the entire family absolutely covets. Her cheeks are not quite as rosy as they used to be - probably from years of love. If she was like The Velveteen Rabbit , I'm sure she'd be a real girl by now. I've often wondered how old this doll is, and desired to learn more about china dolls in general. The history is quite fascinating.
China dolls were not made in China (as the majority of their doll cousins are these days). In fact, most were crafted in Germany in the mid-1800s. Others were created by manufacturers in Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Denmark and Sweden. The dolls are characterized by their glazed porcelain heads, arms and legs, and soft bodies. They were most popular in the late 1800s, although they were still being produced in the early 20th century. Porcelain is created by firing special clays in a kiln over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Collectors of the dolls enjoy the variety of hairstyles created on these little toy ladies. The styles themselves give some indication to the period in which the doll was created. For example, the "covered wagon style," popular in the 1840s, is basically straight hair on top, with sausage curls around the face. Later, the "Dolly Madison" style became more popular, with all-over curls tied up with a ribbon. The vast majority of china dolls are white females, with black or dark brown hair. Those that have blonde hair are quite rare. A few male dolls were created, as were a number of black china dolls.
Dolls with intricate hairstyles and decorations are, obviously, more valuable. The dolls that have glass eyes and a head that swivels can fetch upwards of $1000 at auction sites!
By the 1880s, china doll heads and limbs were sold separately so that owners could create their own bodies and design their own costumes. Its kind of creepy, actually, to view photos of these decapitated heads, so delicately painted and beautiful.
Who Makes Porcelain China Dolls?
Manufacturers of porcelain china dolls include the following companies: KMP Berlin, Meissen, Royal Copenhagen of Denmark, and Rorstrand. Dolls created by these outfits are of high quality and can be distinguished from look-alikes by their authenticating signature on the inside shoulder plate.
Other creators include A.W.Fr.Kister, Kestner, Schlaggenwald, Limbach, Kloster Veilsdorf, C.F. Kling, Dressel & Kister and Conta & Boehme.
If you discover a porcelain china doll stamped with the word "Germany" on it, that doll is no older than 1891. This is due to the fact that the McKinley Tariff Act was passed in 1890, requiring goods to be marked with identification of the county in which they were made.
If your doll says "made in Germany," it cannot date earlier than 1921, when the law was revised to require the phrase "made in."
In the mid-20th century, china dolls came back into style after fading from view for about 50 years. Among some of the newer manufacturers include some from Japan. Although the more recently-made china dolls may be listed as "antique" on auction sites, they often are actually of low quality, with little value.
When is a Porcelain China Doll a Precious Antique?
Indications of high quality porcelain dolls include: lack of cracks in the glaze, undamaged shoulders, no flaking paint (glazed on colors do not peel or flake, but hand-painted repaired areas will), no rub wear to the face or hairline, and body age, size and quality. These are considerations to make before investing money on an antique doll through an auction. Additional information about marking and manufacturers can be found in the books listed below.
If you are lucky enough to inherit a porcelain china doll, it may be most prized for its sentimental value. Then again, you may discover a treasure worth hundreds of dollars in your grandmother's attic!
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