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Cheat-sheet For the Doll Dummy

Posted by L Abbott on January 15, 2011 at 11:25 AM Comments comments ()


When I first started collecting dolls I just bought what I liked, and what was available. What I didn't know was-- I didn't know squat about dolls. I thought I had a good collection until I hit the internet.


I went to the doll boards on eBay thinkin' I was all that, posting my dolls like they would be impressed. Oh looking back now is painful! There is no shame in being a doll dummy, well almost no shame. Don't go in there clueless like I did. I was the queen of the doll dummy's.


How could this be? I've been dealing in antiques from the time I was twelve! Well it's easy really. My choices in buying was limited, and I picked up what I liked and didn't really care what they were worth. Not to mention the field of doll collecting is massive!!

You have collectors that are prolific in one kind of doll, and most collecting for years and years. Until you real dive into collecting them it's really is hard to imagine just how many dolls were made, and by how many companies from all around the world!


You have your Barbie collectors. There are number one Barbies, two's, three's. There are so much to know, you have no idea! Then they know the clothes, what store sold them, what year it came out just at a glance. It's mind boggling when you find a collector like that, so much information inside their heads.


You have your bisque collectors. French, German the list goes on. They know just by a letter who that doll is. Open mouth, closed mouth, Bebe, Santa. Still floundering on this one.


You have Ginny collectors, Story book (NASB) Hard plastic, vinyl, composition, china, celluloid. The list just goes on and on. In the long run if you want to know everything about dolls get ready for years of study. If you get there let me know, because I'm far from it.


We'll just start with the basics, This will help you start out on your journey to doll collecting, and not look like the idiot I did when I got to the boards.


First lets start with the lingo, and abbreviations.



LAL-Look a like

MIB-Mint in the box

MIP-mint in package

IB-in the box

MNB-mint no box

NM-near mint

HTF-hard to find

A/O- All original

BIN-buy it now

BJ-ball jointed

BN-bent knee, used to describe a doll with bent knees usually a "baby doll"

bkw-bent knee walker (commonly used for Vogue Ginny)

NFRB-never removed from box

OOAK-One of a kind

Toddler doll," meaning that she has the chubby figure and adorable face of a toddler

BEBE-Term used to describe French dolls representing small children.

composition- A mixture of wood pulp, sawdust, glue that is used to make dolls

celluloid - first plastic used to make dolls 1920's-1940's thin and fragile

china-Glazed porcelain used for making dolls heads, very popular in the mid 1800s.

CLOSED MOUTH: Doll sculpted so that the mouth is closed with no teeth showing

CHARACTER DOLL: Doll made to look like a living child or adult, also used for dolls who look like someone famous

CRAZING: Little crisis-cross cracks that sometimes form, with age, over the surface of a composition or china doll.

FLANGE NECK: A doll head where the edge of the neck flares out for attachment to a cloth doll body

FLIRTY EYES: Doll eyes that can move from side to side

FASHION DOLL: A French or German lady doll made, generally, with a bisque head, and dressed in fashions of the day. Also used for modern day dolls that are made to display clothing, such as Revlon, usually feet that fits high heels

GOOGLY EYES: Big, round, side-glancing eyes, very popular on dolls from 1910s through the 1920s

HARD PLASTIC (HP): Type of durable, very hard plastic used to make dolls in the 1940s and 1950s.

MOHAIR: Hair of the angora goat, used for antique doll wigs. Very desirable; very soft and natural looking wigs are made of mohair.

NASB; Nancy Ann Story Book

OPEN MOUTH: Mouth molded open to, generally, reveal teeth inside. Can also reveal tongues

OPEN HEAD: Doll head with the crown cut out so that eyes can be inserted; crown opening is usually covered with a "pate" so that the wig can be put on the doll

PORTRAIT DOLL: Term used for dolls late 1800s and early 1900s bisque dolls representing a person (early character)

POUPEÉ: Term used for French fashion dolls; also means "doll" in French

R&B; Arranbee dolls

SLEEP EYES: Dolls eyes that are open when the doll is upright, but close when the doll is put prone

VINYL: Plastic developed in the late 1940s that is the dominant type of plastic used to make dolls since the 1960s; can be hard or soft

MAMA doll: A doll with box that cries MaMa when moved around

SWIVEL HEAD: A socket head using separate shoulder plates

Reborn-the doll has been altered to look like a new born usually by a reborn artist.

Rooted hair: The hair is rooted to the scalp with holes going into the head.

  Rooted hair is used by vinyl dolls.

Pate: a cardboard type material used to attach wig to doll

Jointed: Bends at the joints.


When looking at dolls the next thing you have to know is marks. This is also a learning process, and I suggest you go to my link page to find out dolls and their marks. I have excellent sites listed there. You can find most doll marks around the hair line of the doll at the back of their heads, some on their backs. With some dolls you have to take into count numbers on legs, some even on their feet. Now lets continue to what they are made of...


The Material Girls; What We're Made Of

Posted by L Abbott on January 15, 2011 at 10:40 AM Comments comments ()

What dolls are made of is one of the first things you need to know. Hands on is the best way to learn. I recommend going to a doll show, it's the best way to get a view of the entire doll world.






Bisque dolls are an unglazed type of porcelain. Although you may have new dolls today that resemble these dolls they are not called bisque by collectors. The mass produced dolls you buy today on QVC or gift shops are simply called porcelain.




China is a glazed material a fine usually white clay formed by the weathering of aluminous minerals. There are many reproductions out here and good ones. If you start collecting these do your homework carefully.




Composition. These dolls are made of a wood pulp material, made by many companies. Just because you found a composition doll does not mean it's worth a bunch of money. There are many unknown dolls out there, and some are more desirable than others.Composition dolls overtook the market for bisque dolls in the early 20th Century.Composition dolls were made from approximately 1909 through the early 1950s. The height of the market for composition dolls was the 1920s through the 1940s


In this group you have a painted eye, Flirty eye, fashion, cloth body.


 Hard Plastic

Next we have hard plastic.Hard plastic dolls were first made in the late 1940s. Hard plastic replaced composition, the material that had previously been made to make dolls. Hard plastic dolls were much more durable than composition dolls, making them better suited for children's play, harder to break. Hard plastic was also better for creating fine details, such as the dimples on fingers and toes. Hard plastic can deteriorate, causing what we call "Hard Plastic Doll Disease". You should smell the doll inside the joints to see if this has happened. I don't need to tell you the smell you will know if you have ever smelled a rotten egg.



Then your vinyl dolls that are made today.Unbreakable and soft and more pliable then hard plastic,  and inexpensive to manufacture. Also, vinyl dolls could have rooted hair instead of wigged, which greatly enhanced play value of dolls, making doll's hair sturdy and easy to comb and brush. Vinyl dolls were first produced in the mid 1950s. Many times you will find a doll with a vinyl head and hard plastic body or visa-versa. Not to be confused with "magic skin" that was the soft latex used for dolls in the 40's.


Metal Head and Celluliod



You also have celluloid dolls. I have no examples in my collection but it's a very thin type of plastic that is very fragile and flammable.


Metal dolls have been in existence since the mid 1880's. The dolls may consist of all metal or metal head only. Some of the metals used were aluminum, brass, pewter, silver, steel, tin or other metal alloys. Most of these dolls were produced in the United States, France and Germany.


Metal heads of course are easy, they have metal heads! Most come with tin eyes if they have sleep eyes. The older German made Minerva heads had glass eyes, and a cloth body. The larger metal heads were sometime sold separately, so they can have an all cloth body or composition arms and legs. The stuffing can be many things as these were sometimes sold in kits, and the bodies were homemade. The two above are my flirty eyed metal heads. The one below is Henry, American made metal



Cloth dolls well they are made of cloth. You have dolls like Lenci (pictured below) that are easy to spot, the older dolls may be homemade or printed cloth.