Monday, September 15, 2014

Betsy, Back In The Game

I'm very happy to be writing a post about this Betsy McCall doll, because up until a couple days ago I thought I might not be able to fix her and would have to sell her for parts. This is the first Betsy McCall doll produced after the introduction of the paper dolls in McCall's magazine in 1951. She was made starting in 1952-1954 by the Ideal Toy Company. Ideal used the Toni body with a specially-sculpted stuffed soft vinyl face by Bernard Lipfert.

This particular time period was full of experimentation in new plastics, and various attempts were made to create a soft and lifelike but durable and unbreakable doll. Many of these early vinyls turned out to be less than stable, and in my opinion this Betsy face is one of the most unstable. This has to be just about the most reactive material ever! You hardly ever see this face without darkening, stickiness, melting out of shape, powdery bumps, or all of the above. This was one of the worst Betsy faces I've restored. The forehead had some loss of shape, the face was darkened, and the entire head was covered with white powder that looked like mold. The metal sleep eyes' casings had reacted with the vinyl and produced a rusty powder all around the eyes.

Betsy's face was in terrible shape.

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the face with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for days. The face would look clean but then it would dry and the white bumps would reappear. When the bumps were finally diminished I scrubbed the face a few times with Soft Scrub with bleach. I scraped the rust out of her eye sockets with a bamboo skewer and a straight pin. Then I cleaned the face again with doll cleaner and a toothbrush. After about three days of this treatment, Betsy turned the corner and evidently decided to go ahead and be restored. The face was finally clean. There are still a few colorless bumps here and there but they aren't too visible.

After the face I re-strung Betsy, moved her stuffing back up into her forehead to fill it out, and cleaned and set her extremely thin hair. I arranged her hair to hide the thin spots, but you can still see some of the wig stitching on top of her head. Finally I touched up Betsy's face paint and sealed it with matte varnish.

Fully-restored Betsy

Betsy came to me wearing a tomboy-ish ensemble of jeans, plaid shirt, and sweater. The sweater was eaten into lace by moths so I threw it into my pile of clothes needing repair. Betsy's shoes and socks are original, though I'm not sure about her panties. I know the jeans outfit isn't original because this Betsy doll came wearing one of seven different dresses. The clothes fit perfectly, however, and are factory made and correct to the period, so I wonder if they were once sold as Toni doll clothes. I had a little baseball cap from the 1980s or so that fit Betsy, and a baseball and mitt puzzle eraser set just the right size, so I decided Betsy could be a ball player. I'm sure Betsy and her friend, Jimmy Weeks, played lots of ball on Saturday afternoons! As a plus, the baseball cap hides the wig stitching her thin hair can't cover!

Betsy has typical joint scraping and play wear.

There are a few issues I didn't bother to fix because they aren't serious enough to really affect her value. Betsy's body has play wear and scraping in the joints. This is typical wear and is covered by her clothes. One eye has a little notch out of the tips of some lashes. Her eyes mostly stick open, though, so you don't really notice the lashes.

The Ideal mark

Betsy's original Mary Janes, with the straps cut off.

The baseball cap helps hide thin hair.

Betsy has a notch out of the tips of some eyelashes.

Her hair is rather thin.

Betsy's face paint has been refreshed.

All in all, I think Betsy turned out to be a real cutie. She turned out remarkably well compared to where she was when I got her! It's been a real "Toni" week around here; I also restored a Harriet Hubbard Ayer doll who uses the same P-90 Toni body. You can find Betsy, Harriet, and many more dolls in my store, so please check:

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