|A Variety of dolls from a contemorary collection|
Every collecton I visted, including Miss Bolin's, our principal's, set up at Eugene Field School [he was yet another doll collector], boasted old and new dolls, conteporary examples, foreign dolls, novelties, cloth dols, and more.
Old dolls were getting expensive, but many of the dolls we now consider antiques, well, weren't. They were collectible. I saw Brus and Jumeaux, and other French dolls sold for between $75.00 and $500. China heads of all types were more desired, and we didn't call them high and low brow. They, and the Parians, were the most expensive dolls in our Midwest corner of the country.
Composition dolls still sold from $2.00-4.00, with Shirley Temples selling for around $30. These were composition examples
Barbies, especially the early dolls, sold for a few cents to a dollar at yard sales. Madame Alexanders were considered high priced, but they were plentiful. The 8in dolls ranged from $4.50-$7.50. Effanbee and Vogue dolls were beautifully dressed, nad $10.00 was considered fairly expensive for a toy doll. We didn't have the kinds of doll shows we have know till the early 70s in my area.
Somewhere around the early 70s, when Ralph's Antique Dolls used to come to our Antique Shows, prices began to rise for antique dolls. Some dolls were hitting the $1000 mark to the great shock of many collectors.
When Pat Smith published her pioneering photo studies on modern dolls in the early 70s, the factions split into Antique Collectors and Modern Doll Collectors. So, of course, the prices for modern dolls began to rise. Johanna Gast Anderton then wrote her books on twentieth century dolls, and individual studies of various doll companies followed from other authors. Price guides began to be published everywhere, and paper dolls, too got pricey. The first work about them, by the way, was by R. Lane Herron, noted author, doll artist and columnist, but another auhor beat him to the publishers.
Yes, things got very competitive. You couldn't find Mme. Alexnders by the late 70s; you had to wait months and special order them. There was no Alexander website as there is now, and you couldn't buy direct from the company. My mom tried.
Doll artists flourished, but also charged high prices. The mailorder "mint" dolls began to be produced, and by the elary 90s, QVC and other home shopping networks featured dolls. More dolls were being created just to be colletibles. Some authors began to boast doll collecting had reached the status of No. 1 US Hobby, beating out stamps and coins.
The word at the doll shows was that you couldn't buy a French doll for under $500.00. By the late 80s, it was, you can't buy a "good doll" for under $1000.00.
It became popular to create reproductions of antiques, especially of French and German bisques. Table after table appeared at doll shows, mixing with table after table of Cabbage Patch Kids in the early 80s, and then Beanies in the early 90s.
By the early 2000s, Repros, CPKs and Beanies were disappearing, and falling out of favor.
According to some dealers, eBay and online auctions killed the vintage and modern doll market;there were so many for sale that the prices fell. People who speculated in dolls, and who dealt on the secondary market were losing money.
Who set these prices? Well, we did. Collectors and Dealers. Oh, and serious collector around 1987 came to mean "Dealer" or one who spends megabucks. The title was not based on knowledge or passion. No offense intended to my many dealer friends who are experts and do no their stuff.
Yet, think about it, experts in Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, or Rembrandt may not own original works of art by these masters. Archaeologists who spend their lives studying prehistoric and ancient artifacts and architecture probably don't own originals, either.
About 5 years ago, I first heard the term "high end" dolls. I suppose these are dolls way over $1000, with many at $10,000 and up. I have to wonder what low end dolls are? Advice was to specialize and invest, at least until the recent recession and economic crises of 2008 when a lot of doll business went under and many doll museums closed. A lot of the local dealers were telling me dolls were out, and that they couldn't make any money from them.
Collectors of long standing kept doing their thing; when it came time to auction their dolls, history was made, with the time honored Theriault's aucting an A. Marque for $300,000.00 in Feburary, thereby breaking all records for an antique doll.
Then, I've noticed prices for all dolls, outside of the rarities like Marque, either falling, or staying about the same. The dolls that sold between $1000 and $5000 are still in that price range. I've seen some vintage hard plastics in excellent condition bring very good prices, but others held their own. While many antiques did hold their value, in my area, not too many gained in price.
I had to wonder if we were pricing ourselves out of the market. Stamps and coins have record values, too, but there are plenty of examples that are reasonalbe, and people trade back and forth. The veteran collectors in my local stamp club don't own a $14 million dollar stamps, and they sell stamps for 10-40% of their value. Their thing is to share knowledge and recruit new collectors.
The trouble with antique dolls, is that even those who have collected their whole lives have given up on them, and don't collect them anymore. Artists who use old doll parts to create assemblage art have given antiques new life, but if the parts get too expensive, they, too, will come up with other media.
I hate to think that my dolls would become too expensive for me to keep and enjoy, though of course, if I had to sell, I'd want a decent return on my investment. Yet, I also know if I sold them for $1.00 each, I'd still have a decent return just because of the size of the collection.
Yet, the market bears what it will bear. I don't want anyone to go out of business, either.
Maybe what is bothering me is that the "high end" has been interpreted to mean money makes the collector. This only creates doll snobbery, and doll history is lost amid the alphabet soup of doll marks and patent numbers. Sometimes, we don't look at the whole doll at all.
Stuart Holbrook of Theriault's wrote a brilliant post a few months ago on why it is better not to be a doll snob. He, and the folks at Theriault's, get it. They sell dolls in all price ranges at the different auctions, and they appreciate doll scholarship and history. Their website is full of opportunities for research and study. So are the sites for Antique Doll Collector Magazine, Kaylee's Corner, Doll Collecting at About.com, Ruby Lane, UFDC, Doll Castle News, Doll Shops United, Content/Antique Doll Collector Website, Doll Kind, this blog, my other blogs, and more.
What makes you a high end collector has to do with your passion for the hobby, your scholarship of doll history, your willingness to curate history, and your knowledge of all types of dolls and their provenance. Happy collecting, but we are all high end collectors, and we should promote this wonderful hobby, and recruit new members. We should teach value and conservatorship, but also doll education and appreciation. I'll get off my miniature soap box now, and wish everyone Happy Collecting!