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Antique Half Dolls Are Hard Working Doll

Updated on April 27, 2017



The half dolls are hard working dolls, and have such an interesting history ...

Article By Sharon Stajda

These small bottomless pottery or porcelain doll known as the "half doll" were produced from the late 1800's to the early 1920s. The half doll is a doll that has over time collected many names. Such as," pincushion dolls"," tea-cozy doll," and "dresser doll". It has also been referred to as "tops", pin-head" or "whisk broom dolls". However, most often they are referred to as" half dolls". These wonderful little dolls have one thing in common, they are all void of a bottom, and have tiny waists, and are very finely sculptured figurines. The sweet half dolls were produced by the thousand in Germany, France, Bavaria, Japan, and America. They were designed to be made into dolls that stood to disguise or decorate a variety of household objects. Such as, whisk-brooms, pincushions, and also to be added over tea pots to help insure a warm pot of tea. The dolls were made often made of Bisque pottery, and others were made of fine porcelain. The earlier half dolls were adorned with beautiful wigs, made of mohair , some dolls hairstyles were accomplished by the molding process. In regards to the doll's joints,some half dolls had movable joints at the arms, the less costly had fixed arms. Some dolls were produced to be adored, a home decoration. However, most half dolls were produced to have a life of toil. Destine to work hard at removing lent or keeping a lady's pins in a safe cushion.

Wonderful German Half Dolls


Origin And History Of The Half Doll

German Pottery Companies Where The First To Produce Half Dolls

Some of the most beautiful porcelain half dolls were produced in Germany. One of the first pottery companies to produce the half doll was the popular German Pottery company "Dressel" & "Kister". which was located in Passau, a town that is located in Lower Bavaria, Germany . Artists used portraits of their subjects to create personal half dolls, they also produced half dolls in the likenesses of on legendary characters from history, and present day the theater. The German half dolls stood to show the great skills of the doll artists, with delicately sculptured hands, arms, and tiny waists. The dolls were faultless, showing minute lines on the palm of the hands, and wonderful facial expression.

The half dolls were produced by the thousand in Germany, later in the early 1900s France, Japan, and America pottery companies produced their own lines of half dolls. Although, In the world of collectors, no other country produced as fine of a half doll as Germany.

Well Known Companies That Produced Half Dolls:

Dressel & Kister

Karl Schnider

F. W. Goebel,

Ernst, Bohne & Sohne,



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Variety of Half Dolls


A Doll For Both Sexes

There were half dolls made strictly for a lady, and half dolls made strictly for men Only ...

The variety of half doll styles varied greatly. The most popular half dolls are the dainty little ladies, and the animal heads from Germany. The ladies were delicately arranged in alluring poses, and from the waist up their costumes were of the latest fashion, many will wear wonderful ornate hats. Many ladies were left in the all-natural, to be later dressed in cloth costumes. The half dolls were designed so as at the waist or just below the waist one could add a voluminous skirts, a useful broom or perhaps a pincushion. As mentioned many half dolls were simply used just as a decoration for the home.

I must mention, gentlemen also made good use of the half dolls, mostly in the form of a lint broom. The half dolls fashioned for the gentleman, would have more masculine motifs. As a rule the motif would be that of animals, such as rabbits, cats, dogs, birds, and soldiers.

The dolls arms were produced in different styles. Such as touching its hair or held close to the body. There were also half dolls that were created with one hand holding an object, such as a flower or mirror. This type of half doll took the artist more time to assure the anchoring of the arms, hands and fingers. This process took great skill, making sure to preserve the dolls delicately graceful pose. The more difficult poses were the half dolls with their arms held away from the body. This took great skill in the molding process. These intricate figure positions involved using many separate molds, and the fragile parts would then be fastened onto the unfired figure in a semi-moist state using "slip" as an adhesive. A half doll that has separated fingers are the more costly, and harder to come by in today's marketplace.

La Belle Chocolatiere The Chocolate Girl


What Half Dolls Are The Most Sought After By Collectors? - Waitress In Vienna

What half dolls are the most sought after by collectors? One of the most sought after half dolls is "La Belle Chocolatiere The Chocolate Girl"

The most sought after half dolls is the likeness of a waitress in a Vienna chocolate shop, holding a chocolate pot and a cup and saucer on a tray. This wonderful sought after doll was produced by the Goebel porcelain factory in Germany. It was designed to advertise Walter Baker chocolate in 1975. It is said to have fetched the highest price ever known for a porcelain half figure doll. Half Dolls of fine quality are now commanding very high prices . The half doll once had a place in almost every home, covering or decorating some whatnot. Many for good amusement, and some as good workers. Now these little gems are well sought after to be collected, and treasured..

Popularity Of The Half Doll

Source: Bing Free to use and share
Source: Bing Free to use and share

The Half Doll In The 1900s

Half dolls were made very popular in the early 1900-1930. They were considered an extravagances for the owner. Half dolls produced in the early part of the 20th century were fashioned to be somewhat similar to the 18th century Meissen dolls. These dolls were elegant, with elaborate hairstyles, ornate clothes,and wonderful hats. In the 1920s the flapper motif half dolls were produced. In the 1920s, due to greater technology the dolls began to be mass produced. The mass production made the half doll affordable to all. Although,with mass production, a cheap, poorly molded, and badly glazed crinoline half doll emerged on the market. These half dolls were being cheaply made, and sold in haberdashers, novelty shops, many being made to assemble in the home.

How To Identify An Antique Half Doll


Tips On How To Identify A Half Doll Manufacture

It's not always easy to determine the source or manufacture of a Half Dolls from the marks. Pottery companies such as Dressel , and Kister bought molds from other factories with the right to use their trademarks. There was also the "Herend factory", a company that was located in Hungary, which imitated the work of other factories." Herend" also were able to reproduce designs, and replace pieces when the original manufacturers had long since gone out of business. So, there were many porcelain factories reproducing other manufacturer's models. New craftsmen also made new half doll molds, but added very similar hallmarks on their finished pieces. Another very big problem is that many old dolls lack any marks at all. Partly due to the artist not assigning any great value to the utilitarian Half Doll in the earlier years they were being produced.

Marks, if any, will be on the tapered base of the doll or inside the small opening on the lower unglazed section. Look for the Goebel, Heubach and Dressel and Kister half dolls, all are well known to have made lovely half dolls. Capodimonte also produced some exquisite half dolls. Other countries that produced wonderful examples of half dolls America, the UK and of course later in Japan. All have made wonderful half dolls,that are well worth collecting.

Size Matters When It Comes To Identification Of A Half Doll

A good rule is if it's to big or to small it's not an older half doll. The older German half dolls were from 2 to 6 inches tall.

Materials and Characteristics Of Half Dolls

The better quality Half dolls are made of porcelain or bisque.

The German companies painted their half dolls much of the time by hand. This produced a finer quality to the dolls features. If you see a sloppy paint job, the doll is that of a company that massed produced half dolls. Always look at the features for that delicate facial paint . Check the fingers for the same workmanship. The older German half dolls will also have mohair wigs.

Half Doll Hallmarks or Marks


Half Doll Marks or Hallmarks

The larger majority of old antique half dolls posses no hallmarks at all. Many will be marked simply " Germany "or "Made in Germany". Some will have a number present at the waist of the doll , which will be four or five numbers impressed into the pottery, and void of any color. Half dolls that were produced in Japan, will be often marked with the word "Japan" or "Made in Japan," due to stringent import laws. The more famous pottery companies, such as Dressel, Kister or Goebel, marked their half dolls with their company's distinctive hallmark/mark.


© 2012 Sharon Stajda

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      Sheri 2 years ago

      Hi. What do you know about vintage felt face tea cozies? I believe the one I have is made in Germany. She is quite beautiful with amazing detail.

    • Sharlee01 profile image

      Sharon Stajda 4 years ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      @andrea-m-gaty: The doll in the top photo is that of a vintage blond half doll from Germany. She is considered a "Fancy". Posed in a demure position, hands to her chest, with open elbow. Her cheeks are very rosy, and she has red lips. She is wearing a pink, blue, flowered French styled dress, and matching hat. She is a little over 3 inches tall, and well painted with good detail, evenly glazed. The mark is on the back of her base and shows 17243. her value will vary depending on condition. If mint she is realistically worth about $150.00. However, many antique dealers will hold out for as much as $300.00. Over the past years the price has declined. Most half dolls are selling for about $150.00. If worn worth drops to about $50.00. If chipped or cracked she is valued at about $20.00.

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      andrea-m-gaty 5 years ago

      I have the exact doll in the top picture with the pink top, looking for more information regarding origin, maker, and worth. Can anyone point me in the right direction?