Monday, March 31, 2008

My new Elise display

Recently I got a new Elise to go with the outfit I had custom-made to look like my vintage 1920s wedding dress. I wanted to put her on display, so I had to move around my dolls around a little. I have more dolls than I can display in my cases, so periodically I move some out of the cases and into storage, and bring up others who haven't been displayed in a while.

Anyway, this is my new display:

The Elise in the champagne-colored dress is my wedding Elise. She was quite an ordeal — I'll blog about that in a future post.

The Elise in the yellow formal gown also has quite a story to her.

In the back row, you can see my white Elise Ballerina peeking through. If you'll remember from my post on how to date an Elise Ballerina, her white tutu means she is from 1958, Elise's second year in production.

In the other corner is another of my favorite Elise dolls: an all-original Elise wearing a blue-checked taffeta dress. I'll also blog about her in a future post.

The doll in the middle of the back row is not Elise, but Active Miss from 1954. She is also deserving of her own blog post.

How to date your early Elise Ballerina

Update: Since the writing of this post, I've found different information about how to date Elise ballerinas.  I will write a new post with the new information soon, and update this post with a link to it.

In an earlier post, I introduced you to my first Elise, a white Elise Ballerina. This post will discuss how I determined what year she was made in (1958).

You can date an early (i.e. hard plastic) Elise Ballerina by the color of her tutu. According to Linda Crowsey's 2008 price guide,

* Yellow tutu = 1957
* White tutu = 1958
* Gold tutu = 1959
* Pink tutu = 1960
* Pink tutu with an upswept hairdo = 1961
* Blue = 1962

The years 1963 and 1964 are a little trickier — no color is specified, only that 1963 ballerinas wore small flowers and 1964 ballerinas wore large flowers. However, I think these Elise Ballerinas have either the newer vinyl Elise head or the vinyl Mary-Bel head, and so are easily distinguished from the earlier Elise dolls.

These Elise dolls also appear to have matching Cissette ballerinas. For instance, a gold Cissette ballerina was made in 1959 to match Elise. I also have a white Cissette ballerina whose wig dates her to 1957 or 1958. I'm assuming it is the latter date, since that would correspond with when Elise wore her white tutu.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Elise I'd love to have

This mint-in-box 1963 Elise Scarlett O'Hara appeared on eBay about a month ago. Scarlett is one of the Elise dolls I would love to be able to add to my collection, and this doll was a particularly beautiful example. Still in her original box with the original tissue and hangtag, she was about as perfect as a vintage doll can get.

Dream with me, will you?

I restyled Snow White's hair correctly!

I was just looking at an auction on eBay for an almost-all-original 1952 Snow White, and it turns out I restyled Snow White's hair correctly!

Here is the picture of the eBay doll's original hairdo (used with permission from rebeccade):

If you look closely, you can see that the hair is pulled back in a piggy tail on each side, then combined into a single tail in the back. You can also see a little bit of the metal barrette (actually a heavy metal wire that hooks into the piggy tail on each side to hold them up) peeking out from under the pink ribbon.

By the way, the seller notes that the pink ribbon is replaced, but she included the original one in the auction, and they look nearly identical.

I have a picture of my Snow White's hair after I restyled it, from almost the same angle:

As you can see, I got the style right — all I'm missing is the barrette and a pink ribbon!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Elise Ballerina

Fortunately, not every good deal has to be a project doll. I do love my project dolls, but sometimes I feel equally as strong an attachment to an almost-perfect doll.

In a prior post, I mentioned that Madame Alexander is one of my favorite 1950s doll manufacturers to collect. This is especially true for Elise, the 16-inch pre-Barbie fashion doll that Madame Alexander started making in 1957. She made this type of Elise until the early 1960s, when she changed over to the skinny, flat-chested Elise body.

When I was a kid, my mom sometimes would let my sister and I play with her childhood dolls, all but one of which were Madame Alexander. My favorite of these dolls was a redhead Elise Ballerina wearing a pink costume. As a result of this childhood attachment, when I started collecting vintage dolls one of my first missions was to find an Elise Ballerina.

My Elise Ballerina was a great find, to be sure. I only paid about $125 for her, despite the fact that she is complete and unplayed with: She still has her hair net in her hair, and her toe shoe ribbons are still in the factory bows. Her only flaw is that someone apparently didn't like her flowers, and removed them from her tutu. She is also missing her flowered tiara.

As you can see, she is exquisite and well-deserving of her place among my favorite dolls. In my next post, I'll discuss how to date an early Elise Ballerina.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wendy Bride project doll

I mentioned in a prior post that I love having "project dolls" to fix up and complete. This Madame Alexander doll is probably my biggest project doll of all time, and is not yet complete.

She is tagged 14-inch "Wendy Bride," and is somewhat of a mystery. The outfit and hairdo are identical to those worn by the Lucy Bride produced in 1949 and 1950, which is pictured on pages 77 and 79 of Patricia Smith's Madame Alexander Collector's Dolls. A lovely color picture can also be found on page 196 of Linda Crowsey's Collector's Encyclopedia of Madame Alexander Dolls 1948 - 1965, though Crowsey doesn't reference her as Lucy. According to Crowsey's 2008 price guide, a 14-inch Lucy Bride books for $1,000 and up in mint condition.

I got the doll for an extraordinarily low price — less than $30, if I remember correctly. This was because she was an amputee — she was missing one lovely suntanned leg.

She had her dress and was otherwise in good condition, though, so I decided to go ahead and buy her as a project doll. It took me about a year, but I finally found a nude, bald 14-inch strung Maggie with the same suntanned complexion. I bought the parts doll, restrung Wendy with the new leg, and resold the parts doll (poor dear) for almost the same price I paid for her.

I am lucky enough that my mom has an all-original Lucy Bride in the 17-inch size. Using her outfit for comparison, I've found my doll the appropriate underwear — a pair of white satin undies with a single square snap in back, authentic Madame Alexander — and shoes — white satin center-snap shoes with a smooth snap, the careful stitching characteristic of Madame Alexander, and fuzzy bottoms.

All I am missing now are her stockings and her veil. I've managed to find the correct stockings for another doll — a Madame Alexander Alice in Wonderland — but I doubt I'll be able to ever find the correct veil.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One of my favorite Gingers

I typically have a handful or more of what I call "project dolls." These are dolls that need something — or a lot of somethings — in order to make them complete.

This Ginger is an example, although I actually started with the outfit and not the doll. From the time I acquired the first piece of the outfit, to the time I finally found a doll to wear it, this project doll took about three years to complete.

Why do it that way? Well, for one thing it's often less expensive, as mint, complete dolls typically command a pretty penny. But my biggest reason is that I enjoy working with my project dolls. It gives me a mission, a list of things to watch for as I browse eBay, and often gives me my doll/shopping "fix" at a lesser price.

The pink dress and bloomers were the first pieces of this outfit that I acquired. That was back when I didn't realize the outfit was supposed to include a pinafore; after I learned that, I found the pinafore (untagged) by recognizing it in a picture of a lot of vintage 8-inch doll clothes. The hat I also found as a lot, and convinced the seller to sell it to me separately.

Finally I found the doll. This can sometimes be the hardest part for me, because I like to look for a really good deal. And that she was: I bought her for only $17, and all I had to do was rebraid her hair (the rubber bands had come out, but the hair was still parted and crimped from the braids, so it was easy to do). I even managed to find vintage pink ribbon that looks like original Ginger hair ribbons!

All said and done, I think I spent about $80 on this doll. It seems like a lot, but it seems to be a sought-after outfit: Pre-recession I saw a Ginger wearing this outfit, incomplete and not in as good condition, sell on eBay for considerably more. Regardless, spending time completing the outfit gave me many more hours of enjoyment than winning a single auction ever could have.

Note: This outfit is also Holiday Series #444, though evidently an earlier version of the other one I have. There is also a later outfit, which is pictured in another of my Ginger catalogues, which is (I think) orange with a white organdy apron and a different hat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My first Cosmopolitan Ginger

In a previous post, I mentioned that Cosmopolitan Ginger is one of my favorites of the 8-inch toddler dolls from the 1950s. Madame Alexander dolls are another of my favorites, but I'll discuss that in another post.

Ginger is one of my favorites for quite a few reasons: I like her face the best, she has cute outfits, and she's relatively affordable when compared to Ginny, Muffie, and Wendy/Alexander-kins. However, Ginger was also the very first doll I had from the 1950s, and the beginning of my doll collection.

When my mom was working at Goodwill some year ago, she found a little 8-inch doll in one of the bins there. She pulled it out and brought it home. It was a little forlorn thing, with loose arms and Medusa hair, so she had it fixed at a local doll hospital and gave it to me for Christmas.

(As an aside here, I later realized that this doll hospital wasn't really worth its salt. It overcharged for restringing, something I discovered is actually amazingly easy to do yourself. The doll hospital also washed the doll's hair without restyling it, something else that I went back and fixed myself later on.)

The doll hospital didn't know what kind of doll she was, so I researched her on my own and discovered that she is a Cosmopolitan Ginger with small eyes. I started looking on eBay to find her appropriate clothes, and ended up finding her some friends as well. Here she is wearing the basic Ginger dress and a separate coat, #960:

With more than 30 Gingers and Ginger knock-offs in my collection now, I've realized that my first Ginger is either a knock-off or has a replacement wig: Although clearly vintage, her wig is unlike any other I've ever seen on a Ginger. It most closely resembles Jill's angel-cut wig, but there are some differences so I'm not sure.

In any case, she is my first Ginger and will always be a part of my collection, no matter how little money she is worth in comparison.

Some people's trash...

I found this darling little doll — a Cosmopolitan Ginger — just recently on eBay. She and another Ginger were offered nude as "fixer-uppers" for $22. Her problem? Her eyes don't open quite all the way.

I bought them without a second thought, and boy am I glad I did. The brunette's eyes don't appear to open all the way because of a factory flaw, where one eye is set a hair below the other. (In other words, one eye does open all the way.) Not a huge deal, especially when you consider her minty braids, original hair bows, and high-color cheeks.

The outfit is an original Ginger outfit that I have had sitting in a box, literally waiting for the perfect doll to wear it. I got the outfit over a year ago from Daisy, a well-known doll collector and dealer here in Colorado. The outfit is listed in the Ginger catalogue as Holiday Series #444.

I also have a box for the outfit, which probably adds somewhat to the value. (Too bad it's not a box for the doll!)

I still need to find socks and a hat to complete the outfit. I think the hat is the red one that you sometimes find with daisies, sometimes with red berries and green leaves. I haven't decided yet whether I'll actually replace the hat — I'd be afraid it would snag those perfect braids!

Ginger is one of my favorite toddler dolls from the 1950s (Madame Alexander's Wendy/Alexander-kins being my other favorite). Besides the fact that I like her facial expression the best, Ginger also has some adorable outfits, and is relatively affordable to collect. I'll tell the story of how I got started collecting Gingers, and showcase some of my favorite dolls, in future posts.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Restyling Snow White's hair

Although most of what I do to fix dolls is cleaning and restringing, sometimes I will restyle their hair. I did this on my 1952 Madame Alexander Snow White.

The first thing I did was to strip Snow White and wash her gown. While her gown was soaking, I washed her hair as well. Then I slicked it down with conditioner to tame it and make it easier to brush. After getting the knots out, I left the conditioner in for a little while before rinsing it out.

I decided not to use those pink rubber rollers from the 1950s, as I don't like the stiff, crimped curls that they create in saran hair. Instead, I opted to allow the hair to retain its soft wave, which didn't really wash out very much during her "bath."

I didn't know how Snow White's hair would have been styled from the factory, but after looking at some pictures I decided it would be most authentic to do it like Madame Alexander's Alice in Wonderland from the same era. Alice's hair along the browline is held back in a little piggy tail on each side, and then both are combined into one a little lower down.

I also decided to tie each side with thread to match her hair, since that is the way Madame Alexander dolls came from the factory.

Here are the results:

Although it's not perfect, it's considerably better than the played-with look she had when I got her!

Fixing my favorite Maggie

This 18-inch Madame Alexander Maggie is from my mom's collection. She's wearing one of my favorite Madame Alexander outfits: a dress with an open back to the skirt, and a ruffled half slip/underwear combo underneath that peeks through the back. The collar matches the plaid slip/undies combo.

The other day, I was at my parents' house when I noticed something didn't look right in one of my mom's doll cases. At first I thought Maggie had fallen over, since I could just see the top of her red-wigged head, propped between two other dolls' shoulders. However, it turned out that her stringing had broken and her head had popped off.

We restrung Maggie the same day. It turned out someone had restrung her in the past, but improperly. The rubber band wasn't old at all, but was just a basic rubber band — which is probably why it broke so quickly. Also, the long hook inside her head was missing, so the person restringing her had jerry-rigged one using a shorter hook and a twistie-tie — the kind you close produce bags with at the grocery store.

Honestly, after seeing that I was glad the rubber band broke, because otherwise I wouldn't have known about the poor restringing job. Now I had a chance to do it right.

I have a collection of replacement hooks, which I got as part of a restringing kit I once purchased on eBay. I found a hook that was almost as long as her original head hook would have been, and restrung her. Despite the time it took to get the replacement hook on right, within 30 minutes Maggie was as good as new!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Table Mountain Doll Show

Today my mom and I went to the doll show and sale that the Table Mountain Treasures Doll Club puts on every spring. This year they did their "doll tea," which cost $6 (but you get to keep the teacup and saucer).

This is one of the best doll shows in Colorado. There are several other good ones, but this is the one that usually has the most vintage and antique dolls. (The other shows often have a lot of other dolls and toys, with only a few booths with a good selection of vintage dolls.)

I didn't buy anything today, but I may end up buying something as a result of the show. A seller from whom I bought one of my favorite Elise dolls a few years ago may have a dress for a Little Miss Nancy Ann doll I have (currently dressed in a Little Miss Ginger outfit). Also, a hat she has may be a perfect addition to a 14-inch "Made in U.S.A." doll that I have.

I love going to good show. Some sellers charge exorbitant prices, but there is still something to be said for experiencing the dolls in person: their hair, clothes, the way they feel and move and smell. Buying online is just not the same.

New blog, new doll: Minty Margot

Since I'm just starting this blog, it seemed appropriate to write my first post about one of my most recent acquisitions: the doll my sister gave me for Christmas in 2007.

She is a Madame Alexander Margot from 1961, complete with her original purple satin gown, tagged slip, undies, stockings, high heels, earrings, and hair bow. Her fingernails are painted, and her left hand even has a "ring" — a stone pasted onto her ring finger.

Madame Alexander made Margot using the Cissette mold. (Cissette is a 10-inch pre-Barbie fashion doll that Madame Alexander launched in 1957 as a more affordable alternative to the 21-inch, ultra-luxurious Cissy.) She is identifiable by her hairdo, which is more sophisticated than Cissette's usual 'do, and her blue eye shadow.

Margot wore a number of different outfits, but as is common with Madame Alexander's vintage fashion dolls, the ones wearing formal outfits are now worth more than those in street dresses or other more casual outfits.

This Margot appears on page 107 of Linda Crowsey's Collector's Encyclopedia of Madame Alexander Dolls 1948 - 1965 (a must-have resource for any Madame Alexander collector). According to the book, the doll is worth $400 - $900. Although doll values are always for pristine mint dolls, I would say my Margot is near-mint, her only flaw being one slightly stretched-out shoe elastic. As a result, I'd estimate that she would probably command close to, if not as much as, the low end of that range — if I were to part with her, that is.

I'm so pleased with my new doll (thanks sis!) that I'm displaying her front-and-center in my primary display case. (I have another case full of dolls, plus probably another case-full in storage.)

This post is something of an oddity for the purpose of this blog, as my intent is to showcase dolls I have fixed up and made beautiful again. However, I was so excited about my newest doll that I just had to blog about her. I promise my next post will feature one of my "rescue" dolls!


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