Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crissy, Kerry and Cinnamon vinyl dolls

If you were a girl who grew up in the late 1960's and early 1970's, you probably owned a Crissy doll, or one of the other Ideal Crissy-family dolls that came out at that time.

Crissy is an all vinyl teen doll with sleep eyes and auburn hair that "grows." She is much larger than Barbie and was made specifically for girls who like to style their dolls' hair. I adored my Crissy! I let her hair out using the button on her belly and braided it, or wound it back up, using the knob on her back and gave her a sporty bob. Mod style clothes were designed and factory-made for Crissy and her friends, that are, today, worth a lot of money.

Crissy's faceThe idea for Crissy came from American Character's Tressy doll, who also had hair that grows. Ideal bought the patent for the growth mechanism in 1969, and developed Crissy, their 18 inch fashion doll.

Crissy became a world wide sensation amongst little girls and was manufactured and marketed in the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Brazil and Canada. Some countries sold knock-offs of Crissy. One such doll was called Bella Estrella and was sold in Mexico.

From attending doll shows, I learned that the vinyl that was used to make the UK and Australian versions of Crissy wasn't as good at holding pigment as the vinyl used in making the USA version. It's easy to tell those dolls, as their face pigments are usually faded.

Crissy exploded in popularity in the early 1970's and a younger version, Crissy's cousin Velvet, was developed. Crissy also gained friends - Kerry, a blonde teen from Ireland (shown left), and Brandy, a California girl.  Velvet also had a little sister, called Cinnamon (shown below). Black versions of most of these dolls were also manufactured. There are websites devoted to these dolls, so I won't repeat what's already out there in this small space, but I will tell you about my Crissy family dolls.

I don't know what happened to the Crissy doll I owned as a child. I suspect my mother gave her to Good Will or threw her away when it was clear that my sister and I had outgrown dolls (temporarily as it turns out.) The Crissy I have now is an American Crissy that I bought at a doll show here in Australia. Her hair was cut on one side, so I bought Katsilk doll hair and re-rooted her hair and gave her a custom look with highlights. She did come with her original orange mini-dress, but I have her dressed in custom clothes that were made by a professional dressmaker.

Kerry is all original, but wears custom clothing as well. While I can appreciate that people like to see these dolls as they were sold, for display purposes, I love these outfits. They truly represent the fashion trends of the early 1970's and are so well made!

Cinnamon is wearing a mommy-made jumpsuit and beaded hair ribbon.

As a child, I only ever owned Crissy and my sister had Velvet, so I'm loving having these additional Crissy-family dolls in my collection. All of the dolls are in pristine condition, even their hair, which can become quite woolly over time.

Every time I look at them, I remember that Christmas when I first opened that box that had my first Crissy doll, and I can't help but smile.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ideal Toni

Toni was sold by Ideal and was designed by reknowned doll sculpturer Bernard Lipfert (who also designed Dy-Dee Baby, Patsy, Shirley Temple, the Dionne babies and later, Pebbles and Bam-Bam.) She was introduced in 1949 and stayed in production until 1953.

Toni was designed as a promotion for Toni home permanents. Girls who had outgrown the baby doll stage now wanted to emulate their mothers, and Toni was born. Toni dolls fit the same category as Miss Revlon, Dy-Dee Baby, Betsy McCall and Miss Curity. They almost guaranteed a new generation of loyal consumers of the products that they represented.

Toni most commonly comes in a 14" size, but ranges in size up to 22.5 inches tall. Her home permanent kit consisted of perm solution (made of sugar water), curlers, end papers, and a comb. Little girls could give their Tonis their own home permanents, even though the solution didn't work as well as Mom's. Extra curlers and accessories could be purchased.

Toni is made of high quality hard plastic and wears a nylon wig. Later Tonis have rooted hair. They have sleep eyes, "real" upper eyelashes, and single stroke eyebrows.

My Toni doll is a 19" doll, marked P-92 on the back of her neck, along with Ideal Doll Made in USA. She has a rare pair of oilskin roller skates and a matching coat and hat, which appear to be original. Her white cotton dress is a replacement, and alas, her rayon socks are lost somewhere in time.

Toni is a sweet doll and was meant to be played with. Her hair still curls and hasn't frizzed like many nylon-wigged dolls of her era. Her joints are held by large rubber doll bands, which makes her easy to repair.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vinyl dolls - Furga Italy

In addition to my collection of composition and hard plastic dolls from the 1920's - 1950's, I have a few modern era, or "vinyl era" dolls as I like to refer to them. I wasn't going to collect any, but there are a few that have been irresistible for one reason or another.

The first on the list are my two Furga dolls. Furga was an Italian doll manufacturer that started up in the 1870's and is still in existence today. The earliest dolls were made of papier maché and had wax masque faces. Dolls are of a good quality, with many surviving decades. Most doll collectors are familiar with vinyl Furga dolls made in the 1960's and '70's, but Furga also made felt, hard plastic and composition dolls.

I have two Furga "Lady" dolls made circa 1968 - 1971. They have hard vinyl heads and arms, and hard plastic bodies. Both dolls are marked Furga Italy, stand about 14 inches tall and come dressed in period costumes. One doll has high button up boots molded to her feet. Both dolls have soft rooted hair. It almost feels like real hair, but is a fine synthetic. The brunette doll wears an original Furga tagged outfit, while the blonde wears a replacement. The remarkable thing about the dolls made during this period are their beautiful cupid's bow mouths, and eyes with long lashes.

One of Furga's biggest successes were their Alta Moda line of fashion dolls. These 17 inch dolls have long eyelashes, long rooted hair, come with "Mod" outfits and accessories, and usually fetch high prices in auctions. They have the typical beautiful Furga face with cupid bow mouths. [note: some of this information has been corrected.]

If you collect vinyl dolls, a Furga doll would be a great addition. Dolls still in tagged original costumes will fetch the biggest prices.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Horsman composition dolls

I have two Horsman dolls in my collection: a mama doll that was made in the late 1920's, and a Patsy family competitor, called Nan.

The Horsman Doll Company is one of the oldest doll manufacturers still extant. It was founded in 1865 by Edward Horsman and has changed hands several times over the past century. Today, it is run out of Hong Kong and is called Horsman Ltd.  I really like that despite the change of hands, the Horsman name still carries weight.

My Horsman mama doll is typical of dolls made in the late 1920's. She has a soft cloth stuffed body, a "cryer" (that still works), and four teeth. She is 22 inches long with composition head, arms, and legs. Her mohair wig is a replacement and although her clothes are old, they are not original to her. She has tin sleep eyes and is marked EIH Co. Inc. on the back of her neck.

The little boy in this photo is holding a Horsman Baby Bumps (circa 1911.)

Mama dolls were made for little girls (and boys) to cuddle - hence their soft cloth stuffed bodies. It amazes me that they have survived nearly one hundred years with nothing more than some staining or small seam splits. Even the stuffing hasn't settled to a great degree.

Nan* was manufactured in the 1930's in response to the Patsy craze. My Nan is 19 inches tall and all composition with molded hair, sable eyelashes, and tin sleep eyes.  She is unmarked and sometimes gets mistaken for Patsy Ann, although Nan has a noticeable dimple in her chin. She has a toddler body and a bent right arm. I think Nan is just as sweet as Patsy Ann.

Horsman dolls are rather iconic and are a great addition to any vintage doll collection.

*corrected from Jane

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nancy Ann Storybook dolls


Ms Nancy Ann Abbot, a dress designer of San Franciso, started her own doll company specializing in "wee dolls for wee collectors." Ms Abbott started her venture from her own apartment, and the first dolls were made of bisque. In 1937, she took on a partner, Les Rowland, to help her with marketing these tiny dolls. In 1937, she became incorporated and Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls was born. The company's name was changed to Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls in 1945 and sales topped a million dollars. Bisque dolls were produced from 1936 - 1947, and hard plastic, from 1947 - 1960. Dolls average 5 1/2 inches tall but can be as small as 4 1/2 inches to 7 inches tall.

The earliest bisque dolls had bodies that were made in Japan, but by the time World War II was heating up in Europe, the dolls were being manufactured in California. Each doll during this era was hand painted. Later, the dolls were made from hard plastic. 125 different dolls were marketed, based on nursury rhymes, children's fairy tales, dolls of the world, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, and popular jingles. By the time the 1940's rolled around, the Nancy Ann Storybook doll company produced the largest volume of any dolls manufactured in the United States.

As the dolls gained in popularity, Nancy Ann Abbot expanded her range to include an 18 inch teen Nancy Ann Style Show doll, an eight inch Muffie doll that was a competitor of Ginny, as well as a toddler and baby doll (Debbie and Sue-Sue).

The dolls are actually very good quality and have held up well over the decades.  Nancy Ann changed her dolls' costumes every year, making some dolls difficult to identify without tags. Dolls have distinctive faces, however, and many (but not all) are marked Nancy Ann or Storybook Dolls USA on their backs.

I have two Nancy Ann Storybook dolls, and I know women who own dozens! These adorable dolls are made of hard plastic and have flirty eyes (eyes that move side to side as well as open and close.)  They have soft mohair wigs and their eyelashes and shoes are painted on. At one time, they would have worn hats or ribbons in their hair. Their clothes, while removable, aren't really meant to be removed. The dolls' underclothes are taped to their bodies. I don't know who they were meant to be, as they came to me without boxes or tags. They are, however, very sweet, and they don't take up a lot of room if you have limited space for a doll collection. The earlier bisque dolls will fetch higher prices than the hard plastic dolls at auction, and even moreso if you're fortunate enough to get a tagged doll in its original box.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Madame Alexander Princess Elizabeth

To commemorate the coronation of King George VI in 1937, Madame Alexander introduced a new celebrity doll. Her name is Princess Elizabeth, and she is made totally of composition, with a mohair or human hair wig, sleep eyes, and is marked Alexander Doll Co/Princess Elizabeth. Dolls range in size from 13 to 27 inches and have open mouths with a felt tongue and teeth. A 17 inch doll, also called Princess Elizabeth, has a closed mouth.

Princess Elizabeth came wearing a gown, drawstring handbag, and a tiara, but parents could also buy other beautiful clothes for Princess Elizabeth. Not all the clothing was tagged, but thankfully, the doll is marked on the back of her neck for identification purposes.

The Princess Elizabeth mold was also used for several other Madame Alexander dolls: McGuffy Ana, Flora McFlimsey, Cinderella, Snow White, and Kate Greenaway, to name a few. What differentiates these dolls from Princess Elizabeth is their hair styles, clothes, and subtle details like freckles in the case of Flora McFlimsey.

My Princess Elizabeth is 16 inches tall and wears her original black leather shoes and rayon socks. Her taffeta gown is a replacement, and her tiara is older than she is and dates from the 1920's. Her necklace is a handmade original. A taffeta bow in her mohair wig complements her gown.

The real Princess Elizabeth was eleven years old when the doll was introduced. King George VI was her father. It's amazing to look at the doll and compare her to the grown woman who is the current reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. Nice to be reminded that we all started out as little children at one time!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Unmarked composition dolls

When I first decided to collect dolls, I had no real idea of where I wanted to start. I just knew that I wanted to collect dolls with sweet faces, that were pre-plastic but post china and bisque. That put me squarely in the range of composition dolls out there.

My first doll was a fairly local purchase from a woman in Australia. The doll is 100% composition, jointed, with a feature that I've not seen in other dolls - ceramic eyes. The irises and pupils are concave. Her hair is a replacement wig, and I've tried to find some kind of marking on her, and the only thing I've been able to find is an inscription written under her neck in pencil. It's quite faded, but is written in the kind of script that was used in the 1920's and 30's - a little flowery and artistic. I wish I could make out what it says. This doll is 18 inches tall. She has a round mouth - another unusual feature. If anyone recognises her, please contact me. I'd love to know more about her. I am guessing that she dates from the 1930's.

The other unmarked dolls include a baby doll, which I swear I have seen in a vintage Christmas short film, and a Black baby doll, who may have been a Patsy competitor. The Black baby doll has tin eyes, painted lashes and is also 100% composition. Her outfit appears to be original as it fits her perfectly and is quite fragile. She is about 12 inches tall and probably dates from the late 1920's. The larger baby doll is a "mama" doll, although her cryer no longer works. Her face is so cute and she has a soft stuffed body. Her face was completely professionally restored and her legs and arms are sealed against crazing. She is about 21 inches tall and probably dates to the 1950's.

None of these dolls are marked, but I got them for various reasons. They are all unique in some way and just add a different dimension to my doll collection.