OK, admit it--somewhere, in the past, there has been a troll in your life. Perhaps you were a child during the 60s and found a troll doll hanging out of your Christmas stocking on Christmas morning, or maybe you found a troll animal sitting under your tree. If you were in college during the 1960s, you may have had a groovy troll decorating your dorm room. Or, perhaps you bought one of the more recently made trolls--either as a souvenir, or out of simple baby boomer troll nostalgia.
However that troll got there, you are in good company--trolls have been immensely popular dolls, and there seems to be a troll or two in almost any household you come across. There have literally been thousands of varieties of troll dolls produced, by many manufacturers. In fact, trolls were the second biggest selling doll of the sixties (the troll heyday!)--right after Barbie!
Trolls have been a part of folklore forever--as bad and mischievous creatures who lived in caves, in logs, and under bridges. Trolls are believed to be good luck, which certainly has helped the sale of troll dolls--troll dolls can be found in houses, in cars, even at work, purchased with the hope that they will bring luck to their owners.
Trolls in their collectible form were first created by Thomas Dam and his family, in Denmark in the 1950s. The first Dam trolls were carved in wood. Later, they were made of soft rubber, and finally, vinyl. The trolls made by Thomas Dam's company became known as "Dam Things," and these are the most popular trolls with collectors today. Most collectors believe that the Dam Thing trolls have the most character, the best clothing, and the highest quality.
Although Dam Things made the most well-known and most collectible trolls, many companies got on the troll bandwagon and began to produce trolls in the mid 1960s. Most of these trolls are unmarked, so it is often difficult to identify trolls from any of the "clone" troll makers. Many of the clone troll manufacturers were from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the trolls they made were cheap imitations and of low quality. These low-quality trolls flooded the market in the mid-1960s, which caused trolls to become less popular--troll popularity peaked approximately in 1966. Trolls went downhill from there, and became almost invisible by the 1980s. However, starting in 1989, troll production started in earnest again, when troll nostalgia hit big, causing the second boom-period for trolls in the early 1990s. Trolls became ubiquitous again, and were found in nearly every toy shop and gift shop. Today, trolls are not as common as in the early 1990s, but can still be found. Today's trolls are made by several
manufacturers, including Dam Trolls which only sells their current trolls in Denmark.
Types of Trolls
The variety of trolls that have been produced is almost overwhelming--one troll collector, Lisa Moss*, has over 4,000 types of trolls!! There have been ugly, pretty, mean, strong, fat and skinny trolls. Some people think troll dolls are cute, others think them outrageously ugly. There have been Rasta trolls, and pencil topper trolls, and numerous holiday themed trolls (santas, elves, reindeer). There are ballerina trolls, college trolls, and "shapely" female trolls with boobs. Trolls have been made out of vinyl, wood, hemp, rubber, glass, porcelain and ceramics. Even the hair on trolls heads have been varied--mohair, fur, nylon, straw--nearly anything you could think of. The nicest troll hair--often mohair--was found on the early 1960s Dam Things trolls.
Some of the rarest and most sought-after trolls include animal trolls (trolls made to resemble various animals--lions, giraffes, cats, etc.) moon trolls, 2-headed trolls (extremely rare!) and black trolls (also very rare). Large Dam trolls (12" and over) are extremely desirable.
In addition to trolls, collectors seek out licensed troll merchandise--everything from sheets, plates, blankets, jewelry, and banks, to costumes, watches, books and gift wrap.
Collecting Trolls: What to Look For
In addition to the rare trolls mentioned above (animal, moon, 2-headed, and black), look for original 1960s Dam trolls in their original costumes, with their hair and body in good condition. Dam trolls had felt clothing that was often riveted to the body (very different than the clothing on the later Russ trolls, which often is made of synthetic fiber and has Velcro closures). Many older trolls are found naked today because the felt was fragile and often disintegrated.
Prices on trolls range from only a few dollars ($1 to $5) for late, common Russ trolls, to $200+ for rare 1960s Dam Things animal trolls (like giraffes and lions). Smaller, more common animals can be $25 to $50. Non-Dam troll animals can be much cheaper, especially if their tags are not attached. Small 1960s trolls can be found for $15-$30.
Trolls have been delighting children and collectors now for nearly 50 years. So this holiday season, consider filling the stocking of a loved one with a current or vintage troll doll. You may bring back fond memories for a baby boomer, or you may open up the imagination of a young child to the expansive world of the magical trolls.
*much thanks to Lisa Moss, a member of my doll club. This article was prepared based partially on a marvelous presentation on trolls that was made to my club by Lisa. The photos on page two of this article are from Lisa's extensive collection.
Currently Available Troll Book
By Jan Lindenberger. Current prices and almost 600 color photographs in this book give the collector a real edge on any troll-hunting adventure.
There are several other troll books available which are out of print; they can be found at second hand stores or on eBay.
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Denise Van Patten, © 2000. All rights reserved.