Vintage Paper Doll Collections Still Come To Market
By Anne Gilbert
Surprisingly, collections of uncut vintage paper dolls
are not only around, but can be reasonably priced, depending
where you find them. When we say “vintage,” we are referring
to paper dolls made mid-20th century. Bunte Auctions in
Elgin, Illinois, recently offered 151 lots on eBay from private
collections. Among the most interesting were: two Marilyn
Monroe paper dolls with six pages of costumes; a Gone With
The Wind reprint featuring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh, stars
of the film; and “Well Dressed Girl” featuring fashions of 1959.
Sometimes, antique paper doll collections come to auction,
some dating as early as the early 19th century. Such was the
case at a 2003 Skinner auction where there was a threedimensional
figure of the 1830s, dressed in a delicate, handmade
tissue costume trimmed in gold leaf paper. It fetched $999.
Paper dolls have along history. They were first reported
in 1280 by explorer Marco Polo. He told of seeing paper
figures of human beings as part of Chinese religious rights.
However, 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.
In the early 19th century, paper dolls printed on
sheets of flat paper were made in Germany, France and
England. Some were hand-painted in color while others
were printed in black and white to be colored by the
buyer. The subject was usually ladies and their wardrobes.
It wasn’t until around 1854 that paper dolls were made
in America for children. The publishing company of Crosby,
Nichols & Company of Boston created a paper doll named
Fanny Gray that came with several costumes and a book of
verses along with a box and wooden base. Godey’s Lady’s Book
began publishing a complete series of paper dolls, six girls and
six boys, in 1859. They came with a set of the newest fashions.
The best known publisher of 19th century paper dolls is
Rafael Tuck & Company, Ltd. of London. He is considered
to be the originator of celebrity paper dolls. They included
his “Six Famous Queens” series, as well as famous stage
stars of the day, such as Jenny Lind and Maude Adams.
By the early 20th century, newspapers and magazines, such as
McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion, offered the Lettie Lane Paper Family and the Rose O’Neil’s
“Kewpies”. In the 1930s, newspaper comic strips offered paper
dolls of the comic
do, don’t cut
Better to frame
Keep in mind
there have been
reprints made of
some of the most
Look for the
Marilyn Monroe, uncut with
pages of costumes.
Gone With The Wind,
uncut, a reprint.
(All photos: Bunte Auction Service, 755 Church Road, Elgin, IL.