Friday, March 29, 2013

Crazed Dolls

This is less of a review and more of a window into the life of an obsessed doll collector.  The doll journey I have been on during the last few weeks is not really in keeping with my normal collecting habits, and yet it highlights some of the things I love most about this hobby--the rich history of doll-making, the incredible diversity of dolls available to us today...and a little bit of silliness.  Let me tell you what happened and what I learned along the way.

It all started with some friends giving me a gift.  These particular friends are aware of my doll obsession and still like me.  That's pretty great on its own, but to make things even better, these friends also have a fantastic sense of humor.  They saw this book at a local store and thought of me:

Creepy-Ass Dolls, by Stacey Leigh Brooks
When they first gave this to me, we flipped through the pages and giggled hysterically.  There are some pretty funny dolls in this little book.  The cover dolls are among the most hilarious of the bunch, I think.  This one looks like it wants to eat my face:

With fava beans and a nice Chianti.
And this one?  She (he?) is like the Pillsbury Dough Boy's love child with Elmer Fudd:

I don't want to give away too many of the surprises in this book, but here's another peek at the craziness.  It's a bizarre teddy bear Kewpie-style elf hybrid:

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun flipping through this book.  When I got to this page, though, something changed:

That's a Blythe doll.  I love Blythe dolls.  I know these dolls are a little creepy--it's one of the things I like about them.  They can go from cute to crazy with a simple eye switch and a ruffle of their hair:

There were a few other members of my doll family who were surprised to see their faces in this book:

Sasha Blond School, 1980s.
Am I really that creepy?
Seeing dolls I own in this book made me start to look at it differently.  Suddenly, this became a book filled with pictures of interesting dolls.  For example, if you look past the bloody photo effects on this picture:

You'll see that it's a lovely, open-mouthed Alice in Wonderland doll.  She's gorgeous!  Who is she, though?  All of a sudden, I wanted to know more about all of the dolls in this book.  Who made them?  What are they made out of?  What time period are they from?   Most of them are clearly antiques.  Unfortunately, this book provides no doll identification--not even in an appendix at the back.

Using the power of Google, I tried to identify some of these dolls on my own, but had very little luck.  I did manage to track down this odd fellow:

Horsman Billiken doll, ~1909.
This Ruby Lane sales page has a wonderful description of the Billiken doll.  

And so, what started as a chuckle over a thoughtful gift ended as an epic quest to learn about antique dolls.  I began my quest by simply typing, "antique doll" into the eBay search engine.  This turned up over a thousand entries, and so I poured myself a cup of coffee, got comfortable on my couch, and started investigating.

The first dolls that caught my eye were bisque dolls from the beginning of the 20th century.  Bisque is a type of fine porcelain.  Some of the larger bisque girls struck me as the early equivalent of dolls like Karito Kids, Carpatina, My Twinn and of course American Girl.  A common name among this group of dolls is Armand Marseille.  Armand Marseille was a German doll designer who made gorgeous child and baby dolls in the early 1900s.

Michele's Antique Dolls (on Ruby Lane) kindly agreed to let me share this wonderful picture of my absolute favorite Armand Marseille bisque doll.  This doll is currently for sale ($335) and I wish I could afford her.  She is amazing:

Many of the bisque dolls have jointed leather bodies.  Some of these bodies show their years badly with stains, holes and mold, but this one is in beautiful condition:

My quest veered briefly into the realm of bisque Googlies and Kewpies, but they were mostly out of my price range.  You have to at least check out this picture (hysterical), and maybe this one (adorable).  

As my search progressed, I began to focus in on dolls made out of something called "composition."  Composition is a mixture of wood shavings, glue and resin that was introduced in the early 1900s as an "unbreakable" alternative to bisque.  Composition dolls have body parts molded out of this wood and glue mixture and coated with a thick layer of paint and laquer.  These dolls were extremely durable in their time, but because of their wooden core, they do not tend to age gracefully.  Over time, changes in temperature and humidity cause the wood chips to swell and shrink, cracking and lifting the painted finish in the same way that extreme weather ravages the pavement on roads.  Many composition dolls look like this:

Image courtesy of Falln-Stock.
Because of this tragic paint deterioration, composition dolls are definitely among the creepiest of the antique dolls.   These dolls make several appearances in Stacey Brook's book.  I see the inspiration for dolls like Mezco's Frozen Charlotte:

Courtesy of Falln-Stock 
I had never heard about composition dolls before this adventure, and so I was eager to read everything I could find.  This Old Doll is a great resource.  On eBay, the mix in quality of composition dolls is vast.  Some of them look like the babies pictured above, but many of them look quite beautiful and new.  Few if any of these dolls can escape a process called "crazing."  Crazing is when fine cracks appear in the surface of the doll's finish.  This is much less extreme than the huge cracks shown above.

Many of the composition dolls on eBay can be purchased for a reasonable price.  This piqued my interest even more, because I began to think that I could actually own one of these pieces of history.  Curious to get my hands on a real composition doll, I plunked down $6 to purchase this girl on eBay.  She was described as an "antique composition bride doll:" 

As it turns out, this little doll isn't made out of composition at all.  She is a hard plastic Virga doll from the 1940s.

She's pretty cute, though:

She's also a bit on the creepy-ass side with those beady eyes:

So, my first lesson was, don't believe everything you read on eBay. 

I went back to the drawing board and tried to make a more educated purchase.  The doll that kept standing out from the crowd, both because her face is adorable and also because she seems to have been very popular in the late 1920s, was a character doll named "Baby Dimples."  Baby Dimples was made by the Horsman company starting in 1928.  Here is her irresistible face:

Horsman "Baby Dimples," c. 1928
Adding to the appeal of this baby is the fact that the Horsman company is still in business today, best known for their Urban Vita and Rini dolls.

One indication of how popular Baby Dimples was is that she's still pretty easy to find.  On any given day, there are between 5 and 10 auctions on eBay for an original 1920s Baby Dimples.  You can pay anywhere from $20 to $400 dollars for these dolls.  The price is often a good indication of the condition of the doll, but not always.

My first thought was that I would buy a cheap Dimples doll (often these are listed as "for repair or parts") and fix her up on my own.  Probably half of you are smacking your heads and groaning right now.  Stupid, right?  Well, all I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  

Another indication of how popular Baby Dimples was is that there are a lot of cheap imitations.  It's like the Monster High phenomenon of the 1920s.  So, before I bought a real Dimples doll, I plunked down $30 for this unmarked imitation of a 14" Baby Dimples:

Unmarked 14" composition baby.
I think he's really cute, and I wanted to start with a small doll so I could see what composition looks and feels like, and so I could practice a few "restoration" techniques.  

He has blue painted tin eyes that close when he is laid on his back.

A few things make me think that this doll has had some restoration work done already.  First of all, the edges of his eyes are ragged, and his painted upper lashes are gone.  Maybe there aren't supposed to be upper lashes, but it's a bit suspicious.  Also, his ears are practically gone, as is most of the molded detail in his hair.  It looks like he'd been sanded or something.  Whatever his history might be, he's very cute...and an excellent guinea pig.

Wha...what do you mean, guinea pig??
This doll had big flakes and cracks in the paint on his legs and arms, and the composition was visible in several areas.  When I removed his socks to wash his outfit, chunks of paint came off with them.  Something definitely needed to be done.

There's not a lot of information out there about how to preserve composition dolls.  Professional doll restorers are reluctant to give up their secrets, and probably amateurs shouldn't be monkeying with these dolls anyway.  This Old Doll suggests that any white glue would be a safe way to repair cracks in a composition doll. avoid further flaking, I coated the doll's arms and legs with Modge Podge Hard Coat.  I have read that this doesn't yellow over time as much as some other glues. Here's what the limbs looked like after their glue treatment:

To be clear, This Old Doll did not recommend slathering the limbs with glue. This probably removes all of the doll's resale value.  I did this as a salvage procedure for an inexpensive doll in poor condition.  That being said, I am happy with the results.  The cracks are still prominent, and tell the story of this doll's age, but now I can redress him and move him around without losing any more of his paint.  

Armed with this practice, I set out to find myself an actual Horsman Baby Dimples doll.  

A third indication of how popular Baby Dimples was is that she comes in many different sizes and varieties.  There is no comprehensive online resource describing these variations, so I was left to piece together available information and try to make a choice.  There are at least four main sizes of this doll, 14 inch, 16 inch, 18 inch and 22 inch.  Within these sizes, some of the dolls have bent legs and some have straight legs. There are a few hard plastic reproduction versions of Baby Dimples, too.  These commemorative babies were made in 1985, 1990 and 1995.

I found my doll on Etsy for $60.  I think I paid too much, but I avoided the competitive eBay environment.  She is 18" long and has bent composition legs.  She is not in her original outfit.  I chose this doll because her head is in almost perfect condition, her face paint is beautiful and vibrant, and she has had no previous restoration work:

Horsman Dimples

I am such a sucker for this baby's profile:

She has sleeping tin eyes:

I knew that this doll's limbs were in bad shape.  The seller was incredibly helpful and provided lots of clear pictures.  The finish on her legs is especially bad, with lots of cracked and lifting paint:

Her face is dirty, has faint crazing all over, and has a small crack in the chin:

Horsman Dimples

Her blue tin eyes are very nicely painted and in great shape:

I was very curious about this baby's mouth.  Her mouth is open and she has attached teeth (made out of painted tin??) and a mouth cavity with a felt tongue.  Even in real life, it is hard to see the details of the mouth clearly:

I tried getting some extreme close-ups of her mouth and teeth:

With the flashlight, you can see the fuzzy pink felt tongue in there:

Baby Dimples has molded, painted hair.  Notice how the detail in her hair and ears is much more elaborate than it was on that little 14" baby:

Horsman Dimples

Here's a picture of her with my hand so you can see roughly how large her head is:

And here she is with my own (vintage!) Madame Alexander Victoria doll, who can wear newborn clothing:

Dimples' neck bears the traditional Horsman mark (E.I.H. Co. INC.).  It stands for "Edward Imeson Horsman."  You can check other composition doll marks on this nice website.

Dimples has a jointed canvass body with full composition arms and 3/4 composition legs.  This doll's cloth body is in decent shape, with some light brown stains.

The paint on her arm is flaking pretty badly:

The finish on her legs is much thicker than it is on her arms, and so these cracks are more formidable:

Those are Baby Dimples' original shoes and socks.
composition doll

You can see the sawdust composition under the warped cracks in the laquer:

The problem is, I was imagining just pushing those cracks back into place and gluing them down.  In reality, the finish is so thick and hard, the warped edges of the cracks won't budge at all.  The paint and laquer layer has the feel of very hard, stubborn plastic.  

I held a hair dryer over the legs for a long time, trying to soften the finish so I could flatten the cracks.  This worked to some degree, but nowhere near as well as I imagined it would.  Alternating between the hair dryer and the Modge Podge, I did my best to flatten the cracks and glue them down.  I held everything in place with cable ties and floral tape while the glue dried and the paint cooled.  This process took all day.  I see now why professional restoration is pricey.  Here's the poor baby in surgery:

In the end, it didn't work very well.  While I could glue the paint back to the arms with some success, the finish on the legs was too stubborn. Most of the larger leg cracks are still significantly lifted away from the doll's composition core.

All of the spaces are filled with glue, but I am skeptical about this as a long-term solution.  It will probably just re-crack.

Looking back, I think the three viable options for this doll were to accept her limbs as they were, replace them, or to have them professionally restored. 

Since I'm not willing to spend the money for a quality limb restoration right now, I am glad, at least, to have this baby's legs smoothed down and stabilized so that I can dress her and enjoy her face:

Horsman Dimples

I'll share the other touch-up tricks I used on this doll--all of them gathered from various blogs and doll restoration sites across the internet.  I cleaned the dirt away from her face by gently rubbing the worst areas with a Q-tip moistened with a drop of mineral oil.  Avoid water and water-based products with these dolls.  I sprinkled her cloth body with talcum powder, rubbed the powder in with a toothbrush, left it for a while, and then vacuumed it away.  I'm not sure this step did much good, but it did help a little bit with her musty smell.  I washed all of her clothes in the sink and let them air dry.  I have not found a way to fix up her little leather shoes.

Even though this knitted wool outfit is not original to the doll, someone clearly made it for her by hand, and I think it is sweet.  Furthermore, it is a part of this doll's 85 year old history.  Here she is, all cleaned up and ready for display:

Horsman Dimples

Horsman Dimples

The problem I faced at the end of this experience is that I figured out the best way to approach buying an antique composition doll after I had already spent all of my money doing it the wrong way.  It probably won't surprise you to know that I was yearning to have one more crack at it.  When another cute Dimples popped up on eBay for the right price ($32), I grabbed her, too.  

This is a smaller 16" Baby Dimples with straight legs.  She is in very good condition from head to toe.  No salvage procedures necessary, thank goodness.  She is wearing a vintage outfit that is clean and possibly original to this doll (although there are no tags).

Horsman Dimples

I don't find her face quite as appealing as the larger Baby Dimples, but she is very sweet and is an easy-to-manage size:

Horsman DimplesHorsman Dimples

She has lots of fine crazing and some paint loss around her mouth:

After some deliberation, I decided to touch up her mouth paint a tiny bit with acrylics.  Apparently, I have a hard time just leaving things alone.  I tried very hard to match the original color, and I didn't seal the paint with anything.  It was a risk, but I think it improves the personality of her face:

Horsman Dimples

Her cloth body has some spots, but her composition limbs are almost flawless.  They have light crazing all over, but this doesn't bother me at all, in fact, I find it to be a charming souvenir of her age.  
Horsman Dimples

This doll's body is very lightweight.  It doesn't have the same kind of firmly stuffed body as the 18" Baby Dimples.  The limbs also feel very light and hollow in comparison to the 18" doll.  There's little doubt that she's a composition baby, based on her mark and the crazing in her paint, but it's interesting how different this substance can be from one doll to the next.

Here is my composition baby collection:

Horsman Dimples
Unknown 14" baby, 16" Baby Dimples, 18" Baby Dimples.
So, what did I learn as I acquired these three cuties?  Well, to start with, I learned that buying antique dolls is completely different from buying any other kind of doll I've ever owned.  In a way, each of these treasures is one of a kind.  Throughout the ~80 years since their production, each doll has traveled a different path and been exposed to different stresses.  Given this variability, finding just the right doll can be tricky.

If you were to purchase an antique composition doll from a gallery or an auction house, it would have to meet a certain standard of quality.  Your only decision would be how much money you wanted to spend.  The ready availability of these dolls on eBay, Etsy and Ruby Lane complicates the purchasing process considerably.  Dolls at all levels of disrepair are available at all different prices, and it can be hard to tell what you're buying.  I absolutely love the idea of rescuing a tattered, neglected, cracked doll and transforming it into something shiny and perfect--it's basically the Cinderella story, right?  But let's face it, spending $10 on an easy-to-find doll that needs $200-300 in restoration work might not be the best plan.  An antique doll that has been modified (especially if it has been modified badly) runs the risk of not being worth anything at all.

Granted, my experience here is extremely limited.  I can't really say how the rules would change for those seeking a rare antique doll, or for those buying an antique doll for emotional, nostalgic reasons.  Probably the benefits of a professional restoration would increase dramatically in those situations.  All I can say is that in my quest for Baby Dimples, who is fairly common, I found that buying a cheap doll and trying to fix it myself was not such a great idea.  An 18" Baby Dimples in near-perfect condition sold for $167 about a week ago.  If I had saved the money I spent on these three composition dolls, I could have easily afforded her.  So, my advice is to hang on to your money and wait for a doll in the right condition to come along.

The question then becomes, what is the right condition?  Standards will vary from person to person, so I can only tell you what I would be looking for if I started shopping for another composition doll:

Crazing: I find that composition dolls with light crazing are still very beautiful and appealing.  I love the minor signs of age--those little cracks remind me that I am holding something that is almost a century old.  
Paint flakes: I don't mind a few spots of flaking paint, either, as long as they don't obscure the face or fall off when the doll is moved.  They can be glued down, if you are willing to risk losing some of the doll's resale value.
Cracks: I would not purchase another composition doll that had big, lifted cracks in the finish, nor would I buy a doll that had any missing fingers, toes or portions of a limb.  I cannot fix these things myself and restoration is (understandably) not cheap.
Makers mark: some wonderful composition dolls are unmarked, but since I am a newbie, and because I love to know the history of a doll, I would only purchase a marked doll.
Previous restoration: I would buy a restored doll if there were clear pictures and also some documentation that the work was done by an experienced restoration artist.  I can't tell you how many "original" dolls I saw on eBay that had clearly been tampered with by a non-professional.  Don't trust the descriptions--look very closely at the pictures.  
Who knows how many loonies are out there with tubs of Modge Podge?

When I flip through the pages of Creepy-Ass Dolls now, this is the picture that catches my eye more than any other:

Creepy-ass?  Well, maybe a little bit with those cloudy, misplaced eyes.  But what I see now is a gorgeous, rare composition baby doll in wonderful condition.  I believe she is "Baby Shirley," made by the Ideal doll company in 1935.  The last one in perfect condition sold on eBay for $800.  There's nothing creepy about that.

In a year when so many of the new dolls seem like variations on old ideas, looking to the past has given me a surprisingly refreshing perspective on the doll world.  Cracks, mishaps, creepiness and all, I am excited to have this new generation of dolls join my collection.


  1. They're all pretty dolls, but the 16" one is truly beautiful - I love her face. :)

    1. Thank you so much! I am really glad you like the little 16" girl. She was an impulsive purchase and I felt a bit guilty, but she has really grown on me. She must have been so lovingly cared for to be in such great condition!

  2. I actually know the owner of Horseman XD She lives here in Michigan and regularly attends our meetups, suuuuuuuper awesome, sweet lady!

    She always has the best stories because she gets to fly all over the world and attend all the doll shows. XD

    1. NO WAY!!! That is great! I am so glad to hear that she's a wonderful person--that just adds to the appeal of the dolls and the brand. I wish I could hear some of her stories! What fun it must be to own a company with such wonderful roots in the doll world. Dream job! :D

  3. I actually have a book that is a manual on how to restore antique dolls. It gets pretty in-depth, and there is a section on how to fix composition. I found it at a thrift store and brought it home because the title is "The Handbook of Doll Repair & Restoration"--- but once I read thru it, it was interesting but has no relevance to any of the girls I collect. I'd be happy to pass it on to you if you'd like--- it's of no use to me but might be to you!

    1. That is so thoughtful--thank you! I'd actually love to get my hands on a book like that. I think many of the best resources for antique dolls must be in book form--the internet sites are fairly few and far between. I found some books I'd like to order that help identify antique dolls, but I haven't found anything on restoration yet. I'd hate for your to loose money on postage, but if you'd really be willing to part with your book, send me an email maybe we can figure something out. Thanks again! :D

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  4. I avoid composition because of it's vulnerability. My mother's doll is a compo head limbs cloth bodied baby. Unfortunately, she went through a fire which cracked her eyes and lifted her facial "skin." The loss of the top layer on the back of her head is the result of Mom's little sister dragging "Ruthie" down the stairs by one heel. She could certainly be called creepy, but I couldn't throw her away. :)

    1. Oh, no! Poor Ruthie. I can see how a fire would be awful for a composition baby. Do you know which doll Ruthie is or which company made her? I have become a bit obsessed with all of the different babies. :)

      Isn't it interesting how it's next to impossible to throw away any kind of doll? Especially the babies, I think. It's wonderful that you have a composition doll that has stayed in your family--you know all of her stories (good and bad!). I wish I knew some of the stories behind the bumps and marks on my Baby Dimples collective...

  5. I remember ones of the oldest dolls of my grandmother. Not idea what sort of company did it, the only thing I can say it was not a "Chilean Doll". I never touched the doll (of course, it was not allowed) and time after time, my grandmother created a new outfit for her/him even with new sockets. I never new what happened with the doll. My grandmother loved dolls, I myself gave her dolls as gifts, the same like my mother or my brother, but the old doll never moved from the top of her shelf, with a new outfit once on a while.
    Old dolls are difficult to keep and maintain, and I personally prefer to go for new dolls as Pullips, Tangkou, but I would love to have back some of the old dolls of my grandmother. They will transport me to the past, when my life was simple and dolls were our best friends for my granny and me.

    1. Your story brought tears to my eyes! I, too, shared a bond with my grandmother over dolls. Even to this day, the sight or mention of certain dolls will evoke such strong memories of that time. The magical (and dangerous) thing about the internet and eBay is that some of those lost dolls of the past can be found--even if it's just in an online picture.

      For example, this little Effanbee cloth baby was a doll my grandmother gave to me when I was younger:
      Her name was "Bee." My sister had the larger doll, "Effie." I don't know what happened to them, but it's nice to see that cute face smile back at me again.

      If you ever track down a picture of one of your grandmother's old dolls, please share it with us! I'd love to see. :)

  6. I would love to see your entire doll collection! Are they in their own room or displayed all over the house? Lol

    1. I would love to share a picture of my entire collection, Sunny, but right now, although all of the dolls are confined to two rooms in my house, there is such a state of disarray that I wouldn't dream of taking a picture. Well, actually, maybe I should take a "before" picture, and then on the legendary day when I finally get everyone organized, I can post the "after" picture, too! ;)

    2. I hear you on the disarray of your doll rooms, Emily. My one room looks like the dolls exploded, lol.

      I'd love to see your collection though, should you upload it online ;-)

  7. I loved reading your post, Emily. Both Baby Dimples dolls have such sweet faces! :)

    I recently have had the privilege of joining a local doll club full of older gals who collect antique dolls. Their collections are amazing! One of the members does professional doll restoration (she's done projects for museums all over the country). I wish I could bring you to one of the meetings. The wealth of knowledge that these ladies have is almost overwhelming.

    Maybe I can pick up a few pointers for you. ;)

    1. Oh--that sounds like a dream! I think it would be so much fun to be a doll restorer--bringing dolls back to "life" all day long. Maybe I should hunt around in this area for a doll club--that sounds really great. It would be amazing to see a collection of antique dolls in real life and to learn about some of the tricks of the trade!

      Don't tell them I covered my dolls in Modge Podge!! :-O I think that must be a pretty big no-no.

    2. Lol...your secret's safe with me. ;)

      I would definitely recommend trying to find a local doll club. I absolutely love having so many online friends that are as interested in dolls as I am, but there is something to be said about face to face time with people, too. ;)

      The gal who does the professional restorations seems interested in teaching me some of her restoration tips. She's already mentioned having me restring a client's Vogue Ginny dolls. That won't happen for at least a couple of months because she's on a trip right now.

      Getting to be an "apprentice" to someone that incredible is exciting but terrifying at the same time! I mean, it's one thing to try things on your own dolls, but when you start working on other people's dolls, yikes! I think she'll start me slow and she plans on being there the whole time, so that helps. I'll have to keep you posted! ;)

  8. Ohmygosh. I think my grandma has one at her house!
    Awesome review, I liked seeing all three of them together!

  9. Hello from Spain: I really like these pictures. The antique dolls are real works of art. Keep in touch

  10. I LOVE dolls. It comes to the point where I sometimes buy dolls that are clearly in bad condition, I have a doll with only 9 fingers and one with a missing set of eyelashes.

  11. Creepy, like beauty, is clearly in the eye of the beholder - and sometimes, definitions of both change. The Blythe dolls were originally removed from the market because one of the executives of the company that made them deemed them to be too creepy. Interesting, isn't it? Your book looks fascinating and has clearly led you in new directions.
    Regarding composition - some of the older issues of Doll Reader had articles about these types of dolls and also some types of doll restoration. I remember them saying that companies that made composition dolls each had their own recipes which were closely guarded secrets and I imagine this would also make restoring these dolls difficult.

  12. Great article on how one item, the book, can lead you to research and new obsessions. I understand completely. I was always wary of compo dolls since I didn't want to break them. Then I saw a beautiful Ideal Mama Doll in really good condition and had to have all 27 inches of her. I didn't mind that she was missing her thumb - it balanced out that the rest of her composition was perfect.

    Your Baby Dimples have beautiful faces. I hope you enjoy them for many years to come. And yes, find a local doll club. So much information can be shared at doll club meetings.

  13. They are nice I guess but I find them really creepy. I would not want to have one staring at me in my room

  14. Sorry, but these are just really creepy to me, I couldn't even get through the whole review, once I saw those deep cracked, I got goosebumps and couldn't go any further, I kinda have a phobia of cracking skin, have had nightmare about it, so this does't really help lol. But beauty is truely in the eye of the beholder and it certainly is not in my eyes!

  15. Oh Emily, this is one of my all time favorite posts, you struck a nerve with me. How do I send you pictures of my mom and my great grandmother with there beloved dolls????????

    I am also currently looking for a doll club in my area and getting no where fast, it is becoming quite depressing actually.


    1. Tina, have you checked the UFDC list of regional doll clubs yet?

      You can email the regional director, and they will help you get in contact with local doll clubs.

    2. Hi Tina! I am probably too late in responding to this, but I would LOVE to see your picture! You can always email me at I am often slow at replying, but I try my best! I am so glad you enjoyed reading about these seasoned dolls. They still have a very special and prominent place in my life and in my collection. The "Baby Dimples Army" just usurped the Pullip shelf in my doll room!

  16. It was interesting to read about your new interest in composition dolls. I understand it well!! With the exception of some porcelain dolls, I personally think some molds of the composition dolls are unequalled in beauty. I own 2 Anne Shirleys, and 1 unknown tin eyed doll. I would love to have a Madame Alexander Margaret O'Brien someday or an Arranbee Debuteen, among others. It was a Patsy doll that sent me in that direction. The problem becomes how vintage do you want to go? And do you stick with compo? There are gorgeous dolls from different decades. Dewees Cochran's dolls occupy a special place. Then there are Kathe Kruse's beauties. Among babies I have 3 Effanbees. Alas, you soon find you can't dream of owning them all. Still, the rich variety has led me to give up trying to limit myself to one style, material or period. Collectors understand the appreciation, but few people really "get" the aesthetic appeal of dolls for collectors, and because they don't, simply label both the doll and the collector's interest "creepy." They couldn't be more mistaken.

    1. Again, I am so slow at responding it is pathetic, but I just loved reading your comment! I have been off on many internet searches as a result of your knowledge of antique dolls. I am fascinated by Dewees Cochran's dolls! Wow. They are affordable (or at least the reproductions are...), and there is one character who is called the "Modern Cinderella." Perfect! I am seeing Cindy in my collection some day. :) Thank you so much for sharing those names!

      I am starting to appreciate your question, "how far do you go?" Yes, indeed! I have been lost in the 18" bisque doll world for the last week, and it seems that each new obsession opens a window to yet another wonderful group of older dolls. Sigh. :)

      As for others understanding the aesthetic appeal of dolls, my whole heart understands what you are saying. Still, my approach is to forge onwards. There is no significant difference between the admiration of dolls and the admiration of painted art. Dolls are such a rich and wonderful link to our past. Anyone who is willing to listen will eventually understand.

  17. Fascinating post! The book title made me smile. ;)

  18. I'm not a baby doll fan but I always like to read about ''new'' doll lines. Most of the pictures in this review creeped me out too much though, especially those two heavily cracked pics. I won't be scrolling on this page!
    The bigger Baby Dimples is cute though, but these are just not my cup of tea. I know you'll take good care of these, so I'm glad you got them. You know how to enjoy these treasures ^^
    Great (and funny review, as always) Emily!
    And what an great and unusual gift, perfect for you :D

  19. I'm not too interested, personally, in collecting antique dolls... but I still found this post amazingly educational and interesting! I really never thought about what antique dolls were made of or why certain ones always have those "creepy" cracks in them. I just figured they were cracked porcelain or... something weird like that. It's fascinating to know the real story!

  20. I really appreciate antique baby doll collecting though I do admit that many of them freak me out. The baby dimples dolls that you got and have worked on are just precious though. I like dolls for very similar reasons as you do - the cultural and societal aspects of them as much as the sculptural and artistic ones. I worked at an FAO Schwarz flagship store when I was in college and the whole doll collecting world (and people) have always been intriguing to me. I attempted what a feel like was a very modest restoration on a My Child doll (for my daughter) when she was a toddler because I have fond childhood memories of that doll brand. I had moderate success with it but ultimately my daughter didn't take to the dolls because she has been really drawn to the American Girl brand (for larger dolls) more than any other type which I am OK with since (now from experience) I appreciate the quality and timelessness of the dolls and how they promote reading, peak curiosities, and encourage researching and contemplating about things. (I am an art education teacher but I also love science and research.)

  21. Emily, your posts are an education. My mom and I have collected dolls for over 30 years and when we love a doll, we can get "stuck" within that particular company. It happened with the Cabbage Patch Kids of the 1980s and My Twinn which peaked in the late 1990s. Now I am LEARNING. I've visited lots of links and am teaching myself about all dolls. We own a wooden doll but no composition. Our rarest came from ebay, a 1956? Betsy Wetsy mint and untouched with an All detergent promotional trunk. She has a teddy bear brown caracul wig. Your new dolls are gorgeous and I think, personally, you are very gifted at restoration. Have you seen re-borning babies? I bet you'd have a knack for it!

  22. I do think most of those dolls are creepy, but that is an aesthetic I like. Especially the ones with visible teeth. Once they're this old, it's as if they've been babies for a hundred years... little monsters. I love it!

  23. I am nine years old(almost 10) and I love your dolls. Dimples!!!!! All of them are adorable!!! I really want to find one but, i can't.

  24. Hello, Emily! With the great pleasure I read Your story, and all notes of the interlocutors. This is great! And the story of how You came from a rather unpleasant books for collecting antique dolls - just the tale)) I live in Russia, and about a year ago I suddenly became interested in antique dolls. I was looking for unusual ideas to make Christmas decorations made of cotton , similar to what was done in the old days, and found the master-class with small heads from porcelain dolls (China dolls) . I bought 9 small heads, found in excavations toy factories in Germany, but... when I took these tiny head in hands, I realized, that I do not want to make of them a cotton toys... I want to give them the life that they could not, did not have time to live! and I began to search the Internet as needed to look these dolls... and found a huge world of antique dolls!! And I fell in love with biscuit beauties with lively eyes and mysterious smiles! These girls have become my joy and passion... I buy cheap affected, torn or broken dolls and try to give them new life. I think that I help not dolls, but the sick, the very old children))) I have some skills and materials - many years I make my own author's dolls - something I intuitively understood itself, something I found on the Internet. I work slowly, sometimes I put the doll in the side, if I don't understand how to help her, and then suddenly I guess how to do it - and the result is pleasant!
    I wrote You so much (and probably with errors... sorry, I do not know English, but helps me online translator)))but I am so pleased to read your story, so I wanted to share. I understand very well You with a passion for dolls! This is our amazing connection with the past, with people who have died, but these dolls, these old girls and boys still remembers their children... And it is wonderful!!!

  25. Have you ever considered reviewing Phoebe Maybe? I think she's awfully pretty and I'd like to see how she would compare to my factory doll.