Anita Jo Intenzo
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Collecting Dolls

Papier Mache or Composition Dolls

Next oldest, and easier to find, are the papier mache dolls made from the beginning of the 19th century through the early 20th century.  These dolls were mass-produced in German, France, and the United States, and proved a cheaper alternative to wood dolls, since molds could be used.

The beginning of production of these dolls marked the beginning of the powerhouse German doll making industry, which would dominate the doll industry (except for the heyday of the French Bebe) until World War I.

The first well-known American doll maker, Ludwig Greiner of Philadelphia, Made papier mache dolls from 1840 to 1874, and then was followed by his sons until 1883. 

Most papier mache dolls have molded hair painted black, wooden limbs with a kid body and painted eyes.  A few choice dolls have glass eyes.

The value of papier mache dolls has started to rise because of the difficulty in finding them in excellent condition, as well as the out-of-sight prices of the sought-after early French and German bisque dolls.  Prices range from about $500 for a small, marked post-1872 Greiner, up to $2,000 or more for exceptional German "milliners" models and French examples from the early- to mid-1800's.

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Wax Dolls

The wax doll is generally a contemporary of the papier mache doll.  The earliest wax dolls found by collectors tend to be the poured wax dolls made in England (after the demise of the wooden doll industry) from 1840 through the remainder of the 19th century, although pressed wax dolls were made before this time for the very wealthy.

The poured wax dolls were made by pouring liquid into warm molds, and then the hair and glass eyes were set in the head.  Poured wax dolls were mostly made in home-based businesses; making wax dolls was very hazardous.  If the doll maker wasn't seriously burned by the hot wax, his lungs harmed by the sawdust used to stuff bodies or he could be poisoned by the lead used to cool the wax!

Bodies of wax dolls were generally made of stuffed cloth, with wax limbs.  (Note: the genre that dolls fall into is determined by the material that their heads are made of, not from the materials used for the bodies.)

Wax dolls can have beautifully realistic heads because wax can mimic skin much better than either wood or papier mache.  Poured wax dolls from mid-19th century England are mostly valued between $1,000 and $2,000; earlier dolls are valued much hjigher.

Some later wax dolls are stamped by the maker on the torso and this identification enhances the value.  Wax dolls were also made with plaster or papier mache reinforcement in both England and Germany, and later examples are less costly to today's collectors, often only a few hundred dollars.