Friday, December 30, 2016

Doll Detective, Week of 12/30/2016

A couple weeks ago I promised to write a post showing my doll picks for the week each week if possible. After hosting the family Christmas and my son's surgery I barely got it in, but here it is! My son, in case you were wondering, is recovering comfortably. His surgery went well. His main problem is boredom, as he is not supposed to be walking around and has been spending his days on "bed rest" camped out on the couch. Luckily his girl friend (we are not allowed to refer to her as his "girlfriend"!) came over for a few hours yesterday to visit with him. This week's Doll Detective list is mostly all about Effanbee.

Effanbee has made a "Sweetie Pie" doll almost as long as they've been producing the "Baby Button Nose" dolls. Sweetie Pie dolls are fairly common, but the early composition ones are increasingly difficult to find, and they are just so adorable! You certainly want one in your collection. Any Sweetie Pie is hard to find in mint condition because these have always been play dolls, and their cuddly, almost life-sized bodies are irresistible to most little mommies. I found a really lovely old compo Sweetie Pie for you and I also have a more recent version for sale in my store. I restored mine specifically to resemble the original by rolling and pinning her hair into curls that resemble the old mohair and karakul wigs. If you prefer a more modern hairstyle you just have to unpin the curls and fluff with your fingers.

Amazingly rare is the Effanbee Daisy Baby doll. I have one of these in pieces up in my office and hope I can get to her this year. But here is a near mint Daisy Baby for you. This is the SECOND of these I've seen in my 16 years on eBay so if you're an Effanbee collector I urge you to check this one out.

Twinkie is an Effanbee baby doll made in the 1950s and 1960s. She isn't terribly rare but she's a wonderful classic drink and wet doll. Twinkie comes with rooted "real" hair and with molded hair and both versions are always popular. The one I found for you is pretty unusual because she is mint in her trunk and comes with a whole layette set! Another mid-century baby doll by Effanbee with a beautiful face and cuddly body is My Fair Baby, and this is one you don't see very often.

Another terrific find this week is a Lenci doll in amazing shape WITH her box! These early Lencis are almost never mint in their boxes because they are almost a century old! I have a near-mint Lenci from around 1939 in my shop, but mine isn't nearly as affordable as the one I found for you. If I had the money I would totally be buying this doll! Really my Doll Detective posts are just an excuse to "shop" without spending too much money!

If you like Lenci dolls you owe it to yourself to become familiar with Maggie Iacono dolls, like this Gretta. Maggie Iacono is one of my superheroes! This doll is beautiful and the jointing Maggie uses is ingenious!

Madame Alexander made the Polly dolls (the black version is named "Leslie" if I'm not mistaken)  with the Polly face mold for a really short time before the body style was used on the new Elise face molds instead. At first the Polly dolls used the Nancy Drew face on the Lissy straight leg bodies. They had a Velcro strip glued to their heads so you could change their wigs. Then Polly had a unique face mold, like the one I found for you, and then they were retired. So, when you get the chance to add a Polly to your collection I advise you to jump on it! Before Polly and the newer Elise dolls is the classic Elise, Cissy's "little sister". She's a favorite of mine.I love her beautiful, sweet face and flexing ankles. She's a BJD from the 1950s! A really rare version is the Elise made with the Kelly face. Other Madame dolls I found for you this week are an amazing compo Scarlett with a huge handmade wardrobe and a Sleeping Beauty face doll dressed in the Cissy Queen outfit. As far as I was aware the Sleeping Beauty face was used exclusively for Disney, so to find her dressed in the queen outfit was a surprise. The seller says this is a rare MA release. Both the doll and the outfit are quite rare, in any case.

So, here are my doll picks for the week. I HOPE to be back to you with more next week, but of course it could be a little more or less time until I get the chance to post. I hope you have an amazing New Year's Eve and a wonderful new year. Let's hope 2017 is the year all our wishes come true!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays!

For the first time in 100 years, tonight is both Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah! Usually my sister's family, who celebrate both holidays, travel every other year to New England for Hanukkah. This was supposed to be their year to go up there so our parents planned to come stay with us for Christmas. However, everyone up there came down with a stomach flu so we have a last minute change of plans and my sister's family is coming here now as well. This sort of thing has happened many times in the nearly 20 year history of our marriage, so it's no big deal, except I had to make a last minute shopping trip to pick up extra food and gifts and wash several loads of sheets and towels. Our first guests will arrive in a few hours. The house is sparkling and decorated, the presents are wrapped, the children are wild, and I am about to start marinating the turkey in my special butter-and-wine recipe, so I thought I would take a moment to wish you the Happiest of Hanukkahs, the Merriest of Christmases, and the Joy of any other Holiday (you know that word comes from "holy day") you celebrate. Our oldest son is having surgery on the 28th, so it will probably a little while until you hear from me again. I look forward to a wonderful 2017 for us all and look forward to "talking" to you in the new year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cissy For Christmas

Tomorrow, December 20th, is the last day to ship via First Class Mail so that the package will arrive in time for Christmas, and December 21st is the last day to ship via Priority Mail in time for Christmas. I have to admit, I am looking forward to a little downtime. My extra 15% off sale on eBay ends tomorrow and my HOLLYJOLLY coupon code on Etsy expires tomorrow as well, so I anticipate a slowing in my sales. Please don't misunderstand; I don't welcome slow sales, I'm just tired. This season has been really disappointing due to one buyer on eBay who left me Neutral feedback on Thanksgiving Day. Most people who don't sell on eBay don't realize how harshly sellers are punished for less than perfect feedback. Even though the buyer eventually revised it to positive because she didn't actually read the listing, my sales are down about 60% since I got the feedback. If your feedback isn't perfect eBay hides your listings and makes it so no one sees them to buy them. I reported this situation to eBay but they are ignoring me, so there it is. It just makes it seem futile to work so hard every day and I will be happy to have a break.

Repainting Cissy with help from the cat
As if that weren't enough, today I got some hate mail through eBay from another doll seller. You would think people who share the same profession would try to support one another, but sadly it is not the case. I can't even tell you how often I get nasty messages from people telling me my things are priced too high or not any good. Today it was a criticism of this Cissy doll I just finished, which my heckler feels is not restored well enough. My suspicion when I get these kinds of messages is that they come from people who aren't confident in their own listings. If you're really involved in your work and keeping busy selling you don't have time to send random hate mail to strangers. I sure hope I've raised my children better than so many other people seem to have been reared.

Cissy with new paint and lashes

All I have to say about this doll restoration is, Try it yourself, Sweetie Pie, and see how you do. I have actually been working on this doll for over a year because I got so frustrated I had to put her aside for a few months. When Cissy arrived I could see she had a really amateurish re-paint of her eyebrows and eyeshadow and lashes, almost as if a child had painted them, and she needed new brush lashes. That would not have been a big deal, except someone had apparently already tried to replace her brush lashes and really botched the job. They gouged the plastic in her eyelids and got super glue or something like that all over the place so the bad painting was cemented on. I had to sand and sand the eyes to remove the paint but the plastic was still scratched. I sanded and sanded that, both by hand and with various Dremel tool attachments and got it as smooth as I could. You can still see some scratches, however. At this point I put the doll aside and puzzled over what to do about her. I considered just taking her apart and selling her piece by piece for parts. I just really hate to do that, however. Then I considered filling the scratching in with epoxy, but I worried that would make the damage even more noticeable. In the end I decided to paint several layers of base paint over the eyes, sanding between coats. Once I built up a fairly smooth surface I repainted the lashes and brows and added a tiny bit of eyeshadow. I replaced the brush lashes with long flutter lashes and left them long rather than trimming them as I usually do, to help cover the eyelid area.

You can still see some scratching.

In the end I feel pretty good about Cissy's eyes. Her long lashes are a little unusual, but they're pretty and now you really only see the scratching if you turn her to the side and really look for it. I had to put her in bright, direct light to get them to show up in photos at all. The rest of her face looks wonderful and I even got her one-eyebrow-raised expression that can be so difficult to reproduce accurately.

The Alexander mark

Cissy will never be confused with a mint doll. One of her vinyl elbows had a nick that I repaired, and I left another little nick inside her shoulder joint. It doesn't show unless you pull the arm out of the socket and since it's inside the joint repairing it would cause the arm to lose mobility. Cissy also has one knee that's kind of loose. I restrung her head and arms but her head is still somewhat loose. One of her hips is tight as well. These are all little nitpicky things, but fixing them would be a major project. It would require taking the arms and legs apart and possibly splitting even the torso to remove the walking mechanism. I just don't feel like the issues are severe enough to risk possibly breaking the doll to repair them.

A repaired elbow

This nick is visible only when the arm is pulled out.

It's not really necessary anyway. Despite her vintage issues, Cissy is still a lovely doll, and she can sit and stand alone and poses well. Her wig is full and gorgeous and I gave her a new set. The blush on her hands is nice and bright. Her eyes are green without all the yellowing of the whites you sometimes see and they function well. Cissy could function perfectly as a display doll and most of her problems would not be visible at all.

Her hands have original blush.

Her shoe elastic is a little loose.

I found the lace teddy "basic" Cissy dolls wore. It's not tagged but it's instantly recognized by collectors. I reinforced fragile areas of the lace. I also got an original "diamond" ring worn by basic Cissy dolls. Then I found vintage Madame Alexander stockings, shoes, and a fan for Cissy. These items came from various Portrait dolls and fit Cissy perfectly. Finally I made Cissy a faux fur stole, so she can stay warm. I decided against dressing Cissy, since she won't command the high price needed to justify buying or sewing her a dress. My hope is someone who has hoped for an "entry-level" Cissy will buy this one and maybe make her a lovely wardrobe. She deserves it after all she's been through!

A Cissy wearing the basic outfit usually commands between $500-$800 when fully-restored. Since this one has some flaws I have her listed far below that with a Best Offer option. She would really make a wonderful display doll or model, or even a great play doll for an older girl who can be careful with her. In fact, if she doesn't sell I may just keep her to model for me. I have already gotten offers on her, albeit none high enough to accept so far, so I expect she won't be around too long. There's still a tiny bit of time to put Cissy in a stocking or under the tree if you hurry! I have more beautiful dolls in my shops on Etsy and eBay and there's still time to order those too, so I hope you will.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Doll Detective

Earlier this week I mentioned a new service I've been working on and now, on Saturday, I finally managed to get some time to tell you about it! Pretty much every week I have someone contact me because they are trying to find a rare doll. They usually want to know if I have one (I rarely do) and what it would cost to buy one, or they want to buy one I featured in my blog which belongs to my daughter. Often I will hunt, sometimes for months, for one of these dolls and buy it and then sell it to my client, but that adds a lot of middle-man cost to the doll. Fairly often someone tells me they'll make it worth my while to sell them a doll, but then wants me to sell it for less than it cost me to buy it. I also have frequent requests from people wanting me to price a doll for them to sell or identify a doll for them to sell.

Don't get me wrong, I love talking about dolls, and I love meeting doll "people." However, these kinds of requests are eating up more and more of my time. As much as I would love to be able to help everyone in the world with their doll problems, I really needed to figure out a way to make a least a small amount of money as payment for my efforts. Research of this type does take away from the amount of time I have to restore and sell dolls for my shops.

Finally, I think I have come up with a great solution for everyone: my new Doll Detective affiliate links service. At least once a week I will try to post links to rare and desirable dolls I find. I will be happy to search on request for you. Then I will create an affiliate link to the doll and post it in my Doll Detective posts. If someone clicks on my link and makes a purchase I will get a small payment, usually a few cents per purchase. I have a few affiliate links up on Pinterest already and so far I average about 7 cents per click. So, I won't be getting rich from this service but I hope it will pay enough to allow me to continue to respond to all the requests. Please be aware, in most cases these are NOT my listings. I have not seen the dolls in person and I don't know the sellers. I am relying on the seller's listing for accuracy, as are you, and take no responsibility for the doll's authenticity or the seller's actions.

My first featured doll MIGHT be a super rare Valentine Manikin or Mannikin, requested by a reader nearly a year ago. I've been searching and searching. The Manikin was a knock-off of Uneeda's multi-jointed Dollikin. The Manikin doll is so hard to find I have never seen a photo. I thought I had one years ago and still think maybe I did, but the buyer wasn't sure. This doll is a little different but has the typical Valentine face. I wonder now if the doll I previously restored was a Twisting Pixie doll instead of the Manikin. At any rate, either of these dolls are rare, and I can tell you the one in my link is rare too, because I've never seen another one like her:
Valentine Manikin

Speaking of Uneeda dolls, here's another one I've never seen before, described by the seller as a Little Girl doll. This doll has a Dollikin 2S type face and she is jointed at the elbows and knees, but she is a walker. Uneeda made a Dollikin lady doll and a Dollikin baby doll with multiple joints, but is it possible they also made a toddler or little girl Dollikin? Maybe so. In any case, I look at dolls every day and I've never seen this one before, so she's unusual. See what you think:
Dollikin Girl Doll

Next up is a Dollikin lady, never removed from the box. These dolls aren't terribly rare, but it is not common to find them new in the box, and this one has a fairly reasonable starting bid. She has cloudy eyes, which may need replacing, but of course if you read my blog you know you can buy eye replacement kits from me:
Dollikin in Box

For my fellow Lonely Doll lovers, here is a super-rare Haut Melton pressed felt Edith doll. I actually found TWO of these listed this week! This is the cheaper of the two, although still not a low-price doll by any means. I would just love to own one of these (hint for any readers who have me on their gift list!): Haut Melton Lonely Doll

Betsy McCall dolls are pretty easy to find unless you want the multi-jointed 29 inch version. These were produced for a very short period by both American Character and Uneeda. They were featured in photographic illustrations on the Betsy McCall paper doll sheets in 1962 because their amazing poseability makes them perfect for photo-illustrations. I had one for a short while and before she sold I used her to make a series of adorable (if I do say so!) cards and prints: 29 Inch Betsy McCall

Effanbee's Baby Button Nose is one I have constant requests to find. Baby Button Nose has been produced by Effanbee since the beginning, the first being a composition doll called "Butin Nose." This week I found an even-more-rare black Button Nose! I rarely have black dolls in my shop because they typically sell out within hours. Vintage black dolls are so collectible, they are always a great buy, especially when the doll is unusual to begin with: Black Button Nose

I have a modern Button Nose by Ann Timmerman for sale in my store right now, and I can tell you, she's an amazingly beautiful and lifelike doll. And I can vouch for THIS seller and authenticity! People who come to our house always comment on how gorgeous she is and ask about her: Modern Button Nose

Cissy isn't all that rare, but she's always popular, and some of her outfits are really hard to find. Here's Summer Morning, definitely an unusual Cissy, and to top it off she's mint in her box! Summer Morning Cissy

Coco, by Madame Alexander, is one of the rarest of the rare. She was modeled after Coco Chanel and only produced until Ms. Chanel objected. I have never been fortunate enough to find on of these I could afford. I found one for you, but she's not exactly affordable: Coco

So, these are my rare doll picks for this week's Doll Detective post. If you have requested one of these I will be contacting you to alert you. If you still want me to buy and restore the doll for you feel free to contact me and we will negotiate a price. Please make sure to check my Etsy and eBay stores for tons of rare dolls, already located and restored!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Littlest Angels

Nancy Ann Storybook Snow Queen

After a much-needed sojourn to the beach this past weekend, I am now putting the pedal to the metal trying to finish up a few last minute projects in time for them to ship. December 20th is the last day to ship First Class via USPS and the 21st is the last day to ship Priority, as long as they need to arrive by Christmas, so I wanted to get some little angel ornaments done this week.

The skirt is hand-beaded.

The Nancy Ann mark

The doll has a hanging loop.

A stand is included.

The doll can be a tree ornament.
A few months ago I bought some nude Nancy Ann bisque Storybook dolls from the 1940s. As I mentioned, I envisioned them as angels, but while I was working on the first one she expressed a desire to become a Snow Queen. Honestly, that's how it is sometimes; certain dolls just insist on taking their own path. I made her a silver and white ensemble, with an embroidered and beaded tulle skirt and a faux fur stole. Her crown is silver fringe. She turned out beautifully and makes a wonderful winter centerpiece or display while standing, or can be hung from her loop on a tree. The nice thing about the Snow Queen is she isn't confined to a certain holiday or time period for use; she can be used in any winter scene or diorama!

Nancy Ann Storybook Angel

The second doll was perfectly happy to become an angel. She wears a tiered golden tutu embellished with Swarovski crystals and sequins and a golden halo. Her wings are real feathers. The angel can also be displayed on her stand or hanging from her loop on the tree.

Each doll has a box.

The boxes are from different dolls.

The boxes have lots of wear.
Each of these dolls is about 6 inches tall, and each comes with a doll stand a Nancy Ann box. The boxes are marked for different dolls and each has lots of wear. They are still fine for standing up to display your doll, however. You can find these and many other dolls in my Etsy and eBay shops and I hope you will check. My stock is getting rather low, I'm happy to say. We have had a ton of unexpected medical bills for our special needs son this year and with Christmas so close I really need the sales and the money! I am burning the midnight oil tonight to finish a Cissy doll, so I hope you will keep your eyes peeled for her. These are ready to ship! Keep watching the blog for an important announcement of a new service I'm about to unveil, as well. I've been holding some 24 hour flash sales here and there on eBay, so you will want to keep an eye out for those, and I am offering 20% off any order from my Etsy shop with the code HOLLYJOLLY through December 21st. Happy Shopping!

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen

If you've been reading this blog for a long time you might remember the time I went to the Apple Festival and found a Mary Ellen doll being used as a mannequin in a thrift shop. That was really exciting because Mary Ellen is one of Madame Alexander's rarest dolls. Mary Ellen debuted in 1954 and was made for two years only, in 1954 and 1955. She is 31 inches tall and can wear real baby clothes in size 24 months or 2T. Mary Ellen's original outfits were luxurious. Catalogues from the period describe dresses of taffeta, organdy, and wool with accessories of plush and kid leather.

The distinctive charcoal gray eyes

The walker bar was cut.

The doll is marked

A Mary Ellen doll in mint condition easily commands upwards of $300. I believe I've seen one in the original box, but she was not mint and that was many years ago. Mary Ellen is easy to identify because she is huge and marked on her back. She looks a great deal like the "play pal"sized Sweet Sue walker dolls of the period, except Mary Ellen has really unusual and distinctive dark gray eyes, like charcoal gray. Mary Ellen had one piece plastic arms in 1954 and then in 1955 she got vinyl jointed arms like Cissy's.

I restrung her.

A wire bar keeps the hips from falling in.

A wire helps keep a loose arm in place.

This Mary Ellen, as I noted, was being used as a mannequin and was in unfortunate condition. She had been repainted at some point and the paint on her arms was flaking. Her face paint was chipped. I think she had a hair cut. The inside of her body was mildewed. I ended up getting her for $30 because when my daughter carried her over to the counter to ask how much she was one of her arms fell off!

Her worst issue by far, however, was the fact that someone removed her walking mechanism. The problem with taking out the walker is the doll must then be strung and because the dolls were made to have their hip balls attached to a walker bar they are often not large enough to fit outside the hip joint. When the walker bar is removed there is no tension pushing the hips apart and the elastic stringing cord pulls the hip balls inside the body. That, in turn, makes the head loosen and fall forward. I had to look all over the house and garage for something to hold the hips apart. I was hoping to find a dowel rod but we didn't have any narrow enough to fit inside the legs. I ended up twisting aluminum fence wire into a strong bar. After I got the doll strung I forced the wire inside each hip joint to push the hips apart. One arm was loose (it probably attached to the walker in some way as well) so I made a wire hook to hold it inside the body. This solution works pretty well, although sometimes you have to kind of maneuver the legs around the wire bar when you are trying to help the doll into a sitting position and the arm still occasionally falls off.

Styling hair

The finished doll

The wire bar holds the hips apart.
When I was finished with the stringing I worked on Mary Ellen's hair and repainted her face. Her eyebrows were re-painted during her earlier restoration and I don't love them but I left them because I'm not sure I could do much better. Madame Alexander's eyebrows from this period are really unique and it's hard to get them just right. I just filled in the chipped places and gave her some blush. Her eyes were kind of cloudy but a cleaning with turpentine made them lustrous again.

The re-painted face
If I ever decide to sell this doll I may paint the eyebrows again. I am not selling Mary Ellen right now because for one thing, she makes a great mannequin for the baby clothes I sell and for another my daughter loves her. My daughter would be extremely offended if you suggested she still plays with dolls (although she does, especially when her friends come over) but she is captivated by Mary Ellen's ability to wear real baby clothes. She also loves fashion design and she can use real kid patterns to make clothes for this doll. So, I decided to give Mary Ellen to her as a Christmas gift.

I was able to find a twill sailor dress with brass buttons from around the same period as the doll. A gorgeous pair of shoes came in a big lot of doll clothes and I was thrilled to see they fit Mary Ellen. The shoes feel like real kid leather and suede and they're beautifully beaded. Now Mary Ellen has the same elegance and quality of costume as she would have originally. She will make a beautiful mannequin for me and a sweet companion for my daughter. You can find restored dolls, many just as rare as Mary Ellen, in my Atelier Mandaline shops on eBay and Etsy, and I hope you will check.

Mary Ellen fits in my own childhood chair.