Antique China Head Dolls Identification and Price Guide

China Doll
China Head Dolls (Source: Lot-art)

Even though dolls are merely considered toys for children, they tend to have immense cultural and traditional significance. Dolls from over 4,000 years ago have been discovered by archaeologists, demonstrating that dolls have been in the picture since the beginning of human civilization.

Doll collectors usually pay a high price to get possession of antique and valued rare dolls. While there are numerous types of dolls out there, a type that has recently caught our eye is the china head doll.

This article is written particularly for you if you are a doll collector. Below, we will go over the history, identification, value, and price of the china head dolls so you can get a better idea of how much you should pay for an antique china head doll!

So, what are China Dolls?

Contrary to their name, the origin of the china head dolls is not traced back to China. Instead, they were first produced in Germany between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. Some of these dolls were also made in other countries, including Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and France.

Only the heads made out of porcelain, also known as china, is what gave these dolls their name. Apart from their head, some of these dolls’ neck and shoulder plates are also made from porcelain.

While some china dolls are made entirely of china, most china dolls are made of either leather or fabric. The hairdo of a china doll head was frequently fashioned to reflect the most recent hairstyle trends.

These dolls featured painted facial features and typically had black hair and blue eyes, though blonde dolls and brown eyes were also very common.

Bertha-Character-Doll
Source:Bertha Character Doll 14.5″ – $98.00 (eBay)

The History of China Dolls

As mentioned above, the origin of the first China Head Doll is traced back to Germany, where it was made in the 18th century when the country manufactured its porcelain rather than importing it from China.

Initially, these dolls were made to look like famous young women. For instance, several china dolls were created to mimic Queen Victoria when she was crowned monarch of Great Britain in 1837.

Further, during the reign of Queen Victoria, these fashion dolls were dressed wearing a long wig with real and curly hairstyles, accessorized with a ribbon. Even at this time, most of the china head dolls were made to look like young girls, but boy dolls were also available now, such as the one shown below, listed on eBay.

Antique-German-18-Boy-China-Head-Doll
Source:Antique German 18” Boy China Head Doll – $110 (eBay)

In the early 1850s, the earliest dolls were made to resemble young children, which proved to be a great success among consumers. The doll makers around that time also began offering these dolls in kits or as components, allowing customers to assemble and customize the dolls to their liking.

Their bodies, made out of leather, cloth, or sometimes even wood briskets, were stuffed with sand, straws, or other materials. The size of these dolls could range from anywhere between 1 inch to up to 30 inches.

Fashion china dolls also came into the picture in the middle of the 1800s, dressed in the most recent trends.

For instance, in 1860, these dolls were dressed in red leather shoes and a bolero-style straw headpiece. Some even had pierced ears or sported fashionable boots and stockings.

In 1890, following the McKinley Tariff Act, which made it compulsory for products to be stamped with their origin country, the latest china dolls started to come marked as Germany.

This continued until 1921, when another law was added to the previous act. Now the dolls had to be stamped as “made in Germany.”

The production of a brand-new variety of dolls known as the bisque doll began in France and Germany in the 1880s, which resulted in the loss of popularity of china dolls. By the middle of the century, their sales had drastically decreased as bisque dolls quickly became famous.

With the goal of recreating the original high-quality china dolls, production was carried on in Japan and the United States. The new fashion dolls, nonetheless, were of lower quality than the originals. Antique china dolls attracted the interest of doll collectors and rose in value during the 1970s and 1980s.

Porcelain vs. China Head Doll: The Difference

Ceramic porcelain dolls come in a range of varieties, china dolls and bisque dolls being the most popular ones. While German companies only produced china dolls, bisque dolls were produced by Germans and French.

Both dolls are similar to each other in a manner that both have a porcelain head and cloth body. But unlike china head dolls, bisque dolls were unglazed and had a matte finish to give them a more natural human skin texture.

Hence, even though people use the terms porcelain, bisque, and china dolls interchangeably, it is inaccurate. Even though porcelain and bisque dolls can be considered synonymous, china head dolls are not since they have glazed porcelain heads.

An-Antique-German-Bisque-Doll
Source:An Antique German Bisque Doll

Famous China Doll Manufacturers

Since they produced pieces for resale rather than finished dolls, many factories sadly failed to label their goods. Other factories were bought and sold repeatedly, switching their names and marks while continuing to produce dolls and doll parts.

Some doll makers engraved a doll’s (or child’s) name without mentioning the manufacturer on the shoulder plate. Among the many who made them, only a few china head doll producers were:

KPM Meissen

KPM was one of the first manufacturers of china head dolls. They continued to manufacture dolls from the late 18th century to around the end of the 19th century.They were well known for their porcelain, which was always meticulously modeled and hand painted.

There are a lot of copies and counterfeits on the market today, despite the fact that the company marked many products with KPM and a symbol.

Antique Meissen KPM China Doll
Source:Antique Meissen KPM China Doll – $349.50 (eBay)

Hertwig Porcelain Factory

From the 1860s to the 1940s, the German Hertwig Porcelain Factory produced dolls; they featured distinguishing signs such as the company name or home insignia with an H or cats.

The factory closed during East Berlin’s communist era, but their dolls are worth a fortune even today!

Antique HERTWIG China Head Doll
Source:Antique HERTWIG China Head Doll – $131.19 (eBay)

How to Identify the Manufacturer of Antique China Head Dolls?

The majority of china dolls lack markings or only have size numbers on them. The doll may occasionally have the name of the manufacturer and the model number imprinted on it. You can look up the doll’s specifications to determine the manufacturer if the doll is unmarked.

For instance, one can tell that a china head doll was created by the Kestner firm if there is a tiny unpainted area between the bottom and upper mouth of the doll. On the contrary, the lips of Alt Beck & Gottschalk’s dolls were also painted but divided by a black line.

Nevertheless, recognizing a doll as a china head doll and speculating about its maker is insufficient. You should also be sure the doll is an antique rather than a subpar reproduction.

So moving on, let’s talk about how to identify china head dolls!

China Head Dolls Identification

Almost two centuries after they were first manufactured, china dolls are still extremely popular and considered super valuable by antique lovers.

Up until a few years ago, finding authentic china dolls could be challenging, for there are a number of flea markets and thrift stores that you’d have to wander before you could find yourself an eye-catching piece.

But today, locating these dolls is easier thanks to the internet and technological advancements. Not to mention the huge variety of e-commerce stores, including eBay and Etsy, where you can easily find antique china dolls from the comfort of your home.

Here are some tips on how you can identify antique china dolls:

1. Glossy Appearance

As we have previously mentioned, a china head doll’s head, shoulders, and neck are made out of white glazed porcelain. This gives the dolls rather shiny skin, making them stand out from other types of antique dolls.

2. Customized Clothing

China head dolls were dressed to reflect the trend of the era they were manufactured in. If you are searching for a rare china head doll belonging to a specific time period, look for the hairstyles and dresses that were popular during that time.

3. Carefully Painted Features

Their painted features are a major distinguishing factor between real antique china dolls and fake ones.Authentic china dolls have features that were carefully painted. You can clearly see the neatness in the work upon a closer inspection.

If the paint is smudgy or it looks sort of unprofessional, it is highly likely that the doll you are looking at is not an antique piece and is merely a replica of the original china head dolls.

4. Black Specks

If you are able to spot black specks in the glazing, congrats because that’s the sign of a real antique china head doll. These specks are basically tiny particles of dust that ended up there as a result of the firing process during the glazing, which means you cannot find them in the replicas.

Replicas, on the other hand, have finely crazed glazing. Just closely evaluating the glazing of a china head doll will give you a clear idea about its dating and if it is an authentic piece or not.

5. Country of Origin

If the china head doll is stamped as made in any country other than its actual German origin, it is not an antique piece.

Remember how we mentioned china head dolls were only the production of the Germans? The United States, Japan, and other countries began their production post World War II.

Check out this video to learn how to identify and date china head dolls correctly!

Factors that Affect China Head Dolls Value

Condition

The value of a specific china head doll depends on a number of things. It goes without saying that the head and body are the most crucial components.

If the doll’s head has flaws like cracks or missing details, its value will suffer. The doll’s value will be diminished if you discover that some of its body parts are missing.The value might decline if the doll has undergone repairs that altered its structure and incorporated new materials.

The price will increase with the condition, particularly if the doll still has its original box. The six grades of condition for China dolls are:

  • Mint
  • Near Mint
  • Very Fine
  • Fine
  • Good
  • Poor

Outfit

The doll’s outfit is also crucial to its worth. The doll’s price may increase if the original garments are still on it and are in good shape. Finding a china head doll with intact original clothing is like winning the lottery because original clothing is frequently either damaged or missing in these antiques, so it is quite rare.

Manufacturer

The company that created the doll can also affect its value. Since KPM Meissen was among the earliest and most well-known manufacturers of china dolls, its dolls are rare and among the most expensive.

Special Features

It will be pricier if the doll has rare characteristics or resembles a well-known personality like Queen Victoria.

China Head Dolls Prices

After going through the factors that can affect the value of china dolls, the examples shown below will give you an idea of the average price of china head dolls. Although in general, china dolls can be sold for as low as $100 or as high as up to $2,000 depending on their distinctiveness.

Here are some china dolls currently listed on Etsy and eBay, along with their prices:

1.Antique China Doll 22 inches long dated to the 1860’s – $150 (Etsy)

Antique China Doll 22 inches long dated to the 1860's - $150 (Etsy)

2.Beautiful Antique Civil War 18” China Head Doll – $450 (eBay)

Beautiful Antique Civil War 18” China Head Doll – $450 (eBay)

3.Stunning Antique China Head Doll (circa 1875) – $466.80 (Etsy)

Stunning Antique China Head Doll (circa 1875) - $466.80 (Etsy)

4.Beautiful Antique 12″ German Blonde China Head Doll – $281.40 (Etsy)

Beautiful Antique 12 German Blonde China Head Doll - $281.40 (Etsy)

 

Final Thoughts

China dolls may have lost their appeal as toys many years ago, but as valuable and highly sought-after treasures among antique collectors, their value has increased with time. These dolls’ intricate costumes and glazed porcelain heads make them unique.

Do you possess any similar antiques, such as china heads? Where did they originate from, and what is their history? Can you tell about the era they belong to by looking at their clothing and hairstyles?

We are curious about your rare dolls, so tell us all about them in the comments below!

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