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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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DOTING ON DOLLS: SALE IN CHICAGO PUT SPOTLIGHT ON RARITIES

DOTING ON DOLLS:  SALE IN CHICAGO PUT SPOTLIGHT ON RARITIES
Rare German Simon & Halbig bisque character doll sold for $13,250 at Theriault's. Photo courtesy of Theriault's
People of all ages love dolls. Miniature mirrors of ourselves dolls bring back to life a simple world of tea parties, fashion shows, and long afternoons of make-believe on the front porch.

As in real life, they come in varieties. You see the talkers, criers, sleepers, beauty queens, storybook characters, fashion models and wicked witches.

The 1960s “Chatty Cathy,” spoke 18 different things without batteries. Her counterpart Crying Thumbelina, stopped wailing when you picked her up.

You see the aristocracy of the doll world in silent, high style French and German dolls that were imported by department stores like Macy’s in the late-19th century. The lifelike beauty of a Jumeau or Kestner doll shows up in the creamy complexion, soft gaze, delicate ears and brush-stroked brows. More than simple playthings, they started out as treasures.

People want the treasures they grew up with. Dolls give heart to “creativity, imagination and dreams,” says Carol Foster, past president of The American Society of Appraisers in Pittsburgh and doll collector of 25-years. “They speak to you without saying a word.”

Foster works as an antiques and decorative arts appraiser in Pittsburgh and believes people collect in general because they like to.

“I was fascinated by dolls as a kid. For my sister, it was guns and holsters.”

Theriault’s in Annapolis, Md., has built a business catering to doll lovers around the world. Their Sept. 14-15, 1996, Alphabet Soup auction in Chicago featured 600 dolls.

Highlighting the German bisque character dolls was one by Simon and Halbig. The doll, an older woman, is one of the rarest of German character dolls. Estimated to sell for $12,000-$16,000, the dark-complexioned doll brought $13,250.

“You just don’t see many older women dolls,” says Foster. Mostly, people are looking for baby dolls and girl dolls that reflect our cultural preoccupation with youth and adolescent beauty.

Other highlights in the sale included vinyl Sasha dolls. Theriault’s says Sasha dolls offer a glimpse into the future of doll collecting. The original designer was Sasha Morgenthaler of Switzerland. Gotz manufactured them from 1963 to 1964. The license then went to Trenton Toys, Ltd., in Stockport, England, from 1965 until they went out of business in 1986.

An early and original Sasha doll, handmade by Morgenthaler brought $8,500, nearly three times the presale estimate. The hard, synthetic child doll was a rare studio model with original mark and costume.

A baby doll, also handmade by Sasha realized $3,800. The dolls are recognizable by the signature on their foot.

“I think interest in the newer vinyl dolls will continue to grow as older dolls get more expensive,” says Foster.

“Yet, they’re never going to have the same appeal. The materials and workmanship are too different. You can’t replace the look of human hair and the feel of an organdy dress. You’re talking real versus synthetic. A chemical transformation in dolls.”

“Buy the absolute best you can find,” she adds. “Don’t spend your money until you learn a little about the field. Not everything increases in value.”


Q. I have a plastic Planter’s peanut approximately 12-inches-long with a removable top. I assume it served as the package for actual peanuts. Condition is good. Any value? Linda Call, Pittsburgh.

A. Mr. Peanut, the genteel dude with top hat, monocle, spats and cane has represented the Planter’s Peanut Company since 1916. Few logos are more recognizable than his.

You’ll see him on jars, store displays, giveaways, and in full costume during company promotional events. The collectibles featuring this salty character are endless.

The earliest was an apothecary glass jar issued in the 1920s. It had a paper label around the neck. One of the rarest, the 1930s “football” shape jar had a glass lid. These early glass topped jars are especially desirable.

In the 1940s, jars with tin lithographed lids came on the market. Because they rust, the lids are now harder to find than the jars they covered. Premiums like the wooden jointed Mr. Peanut doll and tin dishes first appeared in the 1930s. Most plastic Mr. Peanut items showed up about after WW II. So you get an idea about age.

The company is now owned by RJR-Lifesavers and they continue in the tradition of making and distributing Mr. Peanut premiums. Similar plastic containers like yours sell for $15.

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