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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Patsy & Skippy dolls, pair, Texas Centennial & silver, 1936, Centennial sticker, $4,000. Photo courtesy of Theriault's
A wisp of hair rests on this doll’s impish forehead, her eyes glance to the side, her puffy blushed-cheeks look like they’re hiding nuts for the winter. Her knees are knobby. She seems to be pouting about something and has the softness of a real child about her.

“Patsy” was the first American doll to actually look like a real child, the first realistically proportioned doll. Introduced in 1928, she had the bobbed hair popular in the 1920s, and came with extra clothes, accessories and even playmates like Skippy. Skippy was a newspaper character drawn by Percy Crosby and produced as a buddy for Patsy.

The dolls appeared on the market when two friends, Bernard E. Fleischaker and Hugo Baum started a company in 1910 to sell toys and later decided to include dolls. They combined the first initial of each of their names and called the company Effanbee.

Effanbee pioneered innovative dolls such as Dy-dee in 1934, the first drink-and-wet doll, and celebrity dolls like Howdy Doody and Mae West. They also designed an Edgar Bergen Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist doll, and were the first company to nationally distribute a black doll.

Dolls made prior to Patsy in the 19th century were often designed to groom little girls in the ways and means of Victorian etiquette. How to dress. How to act. How to be seen and not heard.

The code of behavior little girls saw matched the stiff costumes their dolls donned. These aristocratic dolls were miniature adults, not children. “Snooty” is a good word to describe their facial expressions.

They clearly have their place in doll-making history. But, the dolls that looked like real children were noticeably absent.

Patsy was a bridge. She was a composition doll, made of unbreakable material, a substitute for the earlier bisque dolls, a technology that would inevitably lead to hard plastics. Composition dolls were popular from the 1920s through the mid-1940s. Prior to Patsy, larger Mama dolls were fashionable and character-face baby dolls.

There is a built in irony in doll collecting. Condition is so important. Yet most dolls were made for play. They were loved by little girls who learned about nurturing through them. Time and human hands were not always gentle.

Crazing and cracking is common in composition dolls and detracts from value. If you have any expectation of reselling dolls then it’s important to buy them in the best condition you can find them. Look for clean dolls with original clothing. The original box is also a plus.

If you’re buying for personal enjoyment, then buy what you love and minor damage is less important. Minor damage is often not noticeable when you’re displaying a doll.

On April 15, Theriault’s in Annapolis, Md., featured a Patsy and Pals catalogued auction. Theriault’s specializes in doll auctions. Let’s look at some highlights from the auction.

Auction Highlights

Baby Patsy, Black model, original red polka-dotted romper with metal “Effanbee Patsy Baby Kin” heart bracelet, circa 1936, 11 in. high, $1,450

Aunt Dinah Grumpy, Black model, original red gingham dress with white apron and neckerchief, cotton pantaloons, red headscarf, black hose and shoes, circa 1923, 17 in. high, $1,500

Skippy, Fireman, wearing red cotton shirt with blue tie, black belt, navy blue pants, red felt Fireman’s hat, original “I am Skippy” button, circa 1935, 13 ½ in. high, $3,400

Skippy, Aviator, wearing olive-green cotton flight suit, helmet with brown goggles, circa 1940s, 14 in. high, $3,700

Patsy and Skippy, pair, Texas Centennial, both wearing long-sleeved shirts with neckerchiefs, brown suede vests with fringed accents and metal studs. Patsy wears a skirt, is 15 in. high. Skippy wears chaps, is 14 inches high. Both have holsters, metal guns and black ten-gallon hats with a silver 1936 Texas Centennial sticker, $4,000

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