Saturday, May 10, 2003

Before Barbie, kids dressed up paper dolls

Antiques detective

By Anne Gilbert
Enquirer contributor

It isn't often a large collection of paper dolls, some dating to the late 17th century, comes to auction. When a collection appeared at the April 12 Skinner auction in Boston, prices ran from $206 for several full-size Sunday funny paper doll sheets, including a rare uncut Dick Tracy, to $22,325 for a possibly 17th-century lady with mica overlays.

The first paper dolls were reported in 1280 by explorer Marco Polo. He told of seeing paper figures of humans being used as part of Chinese religious rites.

Question: I purchased this blue and white Chinese vase with stand in 1989. It has the the letters LIEXE and is presumed to be Qing Dynasty. Can you tell me its worth ?

Answer: If of the Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty, it should have seal or "chop" marks on the bottom. The Dynasty was from 1644 to 1916.

This appears to be European, done in the Chinese manner, but show it to a museum Asian curator for authentication. Chinese porcelain fakes, reproductions and copies have been made for hundreds of years.

Paper dolls as we know them weren't seen until the 18th century, when often life-size, jointed paper dolls were created and used as jumping jack toys or marionettes.

Paper dolls printed on sheets of flat paper were made in the early 19th century in England, Germany and France. Some were hand-painted. Others were printed in black and white, to be colored by the buyer.

Early subjects were usually ladies and their costumes. Then, in 1810, paper dolls went from fashions to fun when S.J. Fuller Co. of London made paper cutouts for children. They combined booklets with stories of the paper doll characters. Among the most popular was Little Fanny, who came with six costume changes.

By 1854 the first paper dolls for children were made in America. The publishing company of Crosby, Nichols & Co. of Boston mae a paper doll named Fanny Gray. Along with several costumes and a booklet of verses, the doll came in a box and with a wooden base.

By 1859, Godey's Lady's Book began publishing a series of paper dolls - six boys and six girls - each with a set of fashions.

Rafael Tuck & Co. Ltd. of London (19th century) can rightly claim to be the originator of "celebrity" paper dolls. Not only did he print his "Six Famous Queens" series, but also famous stage stars of the day, including Jenny Lind and Maude Adams.

By the early 20th century, newspapers and magazines such as McCall's and Ladies' Home Journal offered the Lettie Lane Paper Family and Rose O'Neil's "Kewpies."

From the beginning of the film industry, "movie stars" were turned into paper dolls. But not all celebrity paper dolls were movie stars in the 20th century. One of the most popular was - and is - Barbie.

Remember, should you find an old sheet of paper dolls, don't cut it. Most collectors are looking for paper dolls from the 1940s through today in uncut books, sheets or boxed sets - they have the highest value. The original box for early paper dolls adds to their value, too.

Contact Anne Gilbert by mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. Photos cannot be returned.

Furniture school selective
Glass blowing enchanting art
Both butterflies and people like this shrub
Before Barbie, kids dressed up paper dolls
Native plants put down roots worth saving
Parkening's hands make strings sing
Alloy mates eager to engage
In the know
Circle This
To do this week
Get to it!