Antique Dolls

Some Background and History

A great many people around the world have unusual and interesting hobbies. One of these is the art of collecting. A big part of collecting is acquiring the items, then arranging and cataloguing them, and often putting the items on display. A common item that people like to collect are antique and vintage dolls.

Believe it or not, dolls have been in existence and a big part of our lives since prehistoric times. Early kinds of dolls that have been unearthed and carbon dated were often made of simple materials, such as wood, clay, or even fur, and either represented an important member of the community, like a religious figure or village chief, or were used as playthings for children. Very few dolls from this era have survived, due to the nature of the materials used. However, one of the earliest records of a doll is from the Babylonian period. It is likely that this doll had moveable arms. Unfortunately, only small part of this specimen remains today.

Later types have been located and dated back to 2000 BC. These were discovered in the graves and tombs of the Egyptians. The dolls found here were made from flat pieces of wood. The hair of the dolls was created from strings of wooden beads or clay, and were often painted. The more wealthy tombs also revealed dolls made from pottery. This indicates that these little human replicas were incredibly cherished by the owners.

Further examples have been unearthed in Roman graves and Greek graves, often the graves of children. In these countries, it was often customary for the owners of the dolls to dedicate them to the Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses when they were too old to play with them anymore.

These early examples of dolls found in the tombs of children were incredibly simple artefacts. They would have been made from materials that were easy to get hold of, such as wood, rags, bone, or clay. However, there have been occurrences of a more unusual material found among these early models: wax and ivory. These rarer materials indicate a richer owner. The whole point of doll making was to make the doll as realistic and a close to lifelike as possible, using the available tools. This is why dolls were created with removable clothes and moveable limbs, dating back to around 600 BC.
Collectable Dolls

Following these ancient times, and due to the ever-increasing popularity of dolls in society, dolls began to be mass produced. The majority of examples came from Europe, and were made for the most part out of wood. But despite records of their existence, only a few remain today. Crude, stumpy wooden dolls that were created in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have mostly been destroyed, and only about thirty of these original models remain in museums today.

Eventually, peg dolls became very popular because of their simplicity and quaint nature. Most of these types of doll were produced in Germany, in the Grodnertal area. The dolls was made using very unsophisticated peg joints, and the end result looked very much like a clothes pin.

However, it was in the 1800s in which the manufacturing of dolls really started to come into its own. Before this time, the materials used in doll production had been very simple. But now, instead of wooden dolls, a new type of manufacturing known as composition was created. Composition used mixtures of materials for different parts of the dolls body. Instead of carving from wood, either wood or paper was pulped. This mixture was then pressurised and moulded into the the shape of the doll. The final result was a much more long lasting doll. And it was much easier to mass produce dolls using this new method. Different manufacturers of different dolls experimented with the mixtures, always trying to get the best end result, and keeping their ‘recipes’ secret from other companies. Some dolls from this time were made using a mixture of eggshells, or even ash. But the most popular mixture was a hardy variant of composition was that of papier-mache.

Around the time of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, dolls made from wax also became very popular, but particularly great examples were made in England between 1850 and 1930. It was during this time that the first doll depicting a baby was made. Clay was used to create a model, then plaster to create a mould, which the wax was poured into. Apart from the very popular Bebe dolls that were made in France in the 1880s, dolls had only previously depicted adults. Bebe was a young girl.

Rag dolls were also a very popular choice, especially among the working and lower classes of society. Rag dolls were much easier for a mother to make for her child out of any fabric that was to hand at the time, but manufacturers also leapt upon this idea in the 1850s, and began marketing them for all, particularly as the first toy for a child.

It was also around this time in history that porcelain dolls grew popular, as the end result was much more lifelike. It was also much more sophisticated than its raggedy counterpart. There were two types of dolls under the category of porcelain: china dolls and bisque dolls.

Doll collecting is the second biggest collecting hobby in America after stamps. It’s a great hobby to take up, but it’s also expensive, so make sure you have to funds to do it before you buy your first doll. Ensure you read up on all the dolls that are available first, find one you like, and stick to that variety, otherwise your hobby might get out of control, as there are numerous genres of dolls. The types listed above are only a few examples.

Once you’ve chosen your doll type, read up on it. Make sure you know the most you possible can about it’s history, and the different kinds available. This will ensure you won’t be fleeced by doll sellers. And remember that it’s a hobby, so enjoy collecting!