Collecting Dolls: 20th Century Dolls

Collecting dolls: 20th century dolls – At the beginning of the 20th century dolls began to be made in a variety of new materials, especially celluloid, composition and plastic, but also in fabrics such as stockinet and felt. French and German manufacturers continued to produce dolls and adapted to the new media, especially celluloid. Some manufacturers even brought out new versions of dolls in celluloid made in moulds previously used for bisque dolls.

American composition dolls from the mid-20th century and later tend to be slightly more expensive than their German counterparts. American manufacturers steadily increased in prominence, making dolls in all media.


New York was the most important production area, with companies such as E. I. Horsman, the Ideal Novelty & Toy Co. (which made the first ever Shirley Temple doll; they were made in huge numbers during the 1930s and later – the earlier examples are the most desirable and authentic) and the Acme Toy Company.

shirley-temple-doll1 shirley

Shirley Temple Doll 1930s Ideal Flirty Hazel Eyes Comp. $355.00

However, the biggest impact was made with Barbie, probably the most successful selling dolls ever, introduced in 1959 by the American firm Mattel. The most collectable Barbies are the brunettes and those with titian hair, as there were made in smaller numbers than the blonde models. Look out also for advertising 20th century dolls, such as those made by the American Character Doll Co. to promote Lee Jeans and the English-made Bisto Kids, inspiring customers to buy the famous gravy.


Sindy dolls

Barbie’s main rival from the 1960s was Sindy, first produced by the British firm of Pedigree Toys and Dolls. Sindy is younger, cuter and less sophisticated than Barbie, although she also comes with full sets of clothes and accessories.

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As this is the period of mass-production, collectors should scrutinize 20th-century dolls for quality and also condition – not all these materials were robust: composition can craze and flake and soft fabrics perish easily. Nevertheless, there is a huge range of affordable and attractive dolls available to choose from, and with such a choice, every collector is bound to find something to suit their tastes and their pocket.


Barbie® Collector “Mad Men” Barbie dolls, 2010, designed by Barbie designer Robert Best, Mattel


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