China Dolls - An Introduction:
China dolls are dolls made of glazed bisque which gives them a shiny appearance (unglazed bisque is what antique child dolls with glass eyes and wigs are mostly made of, such as well known child dolls by Armand Marseille, Kestner, Jumeau, and others. China dolls generally have molded hair and painted eyes (although not always).
Years of Production of China Dolls:
China dolls were produced from approximately the late 1830s through the early 1900s (until about 1930) with the greatest number produced from the 1850s through the 1890s. Many millions of china dolls were produced, mostly in Germany, during this period.
Companies that Produced China Dolls:
China dolls were produced by many countries, but by far the majority were produced in Germany by nearly all major doll companies of the 19th century, including Kestner, Alt, Beck and Gotschalck, Hertwig and many others. Some early china dolls were made in France (very rare) and some china dolls were made in the 20th century by American dollmaker Emma Clear.
Material and Sizes:
As mentioned, china dolls are made of glazed bisque (porcelain) which is generally left white (not tinted). China dolls are made in nearly every size from under 2 inches for tiny china Frozen Charlottes up to over 30 inches.
Body Types of China Dolls:
China dolls generally only have heads made of glazed bisque--the bodies are usually cloth or leather, sometimes with glazed or unglazed lower arms and legs. Frozen Charlottes or Frozen Charlies are totally made of unglazed bisque, usually in 1 piece without jointing.
Prices and Values of China Dolls:
The most common china dolls are Low Brow china dolls, made in the millions in the 1890s (so called because their hairdo has bangs and lays low on their forehead, giving them a "low brow"). Most low brow china dolls can be purchased for between $100 and $300 depending on the size. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the earliest 1840s very rare china dolls and elaborate, hard to find hairstyle china dolls which can be worth several thousand dollars.
Marks on China Dolls:
Most china dolls are unfortunately unmarked, which makes it very hard to tell which company made which doll. Occasionally, a doll is marked on the inside of the shoulderplate; some Alt, Beck and Gottschalk china dolls are marked with a number on the back of the shoulder plate. Emma Clear dolls are often marked Clear / 39 [or other 2 digit number, inside of the C in Clear).