Skookum Dolls - They are Bully Good

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Skookum Dolls - They are Bully Good
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Skookum dolls, "The Great Indian Character Doll",  were produced from about the 1920's to the 1960's. While a few earlier examples exist, the mass produced ones that collectors most often find fall within those dates. They are characterized by their folded blankets and life-like expressions. While factory produced, they were sold in many places to tourists. They come in a variety of styles and sizes.

Ebay listings for these dolls usually are about two pages at any given time. There are lots of bargains to be found but shop carefully. Condition is your most important consideration. A doll that has damage, for instance a cracked face, is not going to be a good choice. Don't pay a premium price for a doll that is damaged, common, dirty or questionable. There are many similar dolls that were produced around the same time and as interesting but do not command the same price range as Skookum dolls.  Just because a doll has a blanket wrapped around it does not make it a Skookum. Some of the dolls that are sometimes thought to be Skookums are actually Minnetonka, Minnehaha or Milbros.

Skookums can be indentified in several ways. The best indicator is to have an intact oval sticker on its foot that identifies it as a genuine Skookum doll. The style of sticker can be an indicator of its approximate age. The dolls that were made last have brown plastic shoes that say Skookum on the bottom of them instead of a tag. There are many different faces used in the dolls and many are very common. Familiarizing yourself with these different styles is helpful as is noting how they are painted. Skookums tend to have thinner painted eyebrows that some of the other dolls. The look-a-likes may have a thicker eyebrow that tends to slant upwards or more exaggerated curve instead of a more natural look like the Skookums do. The look-alikes may have large pupils - Skookums pupils tend to be in proportion to the other features. Watch out for dolls that have been altered to make them more desirable. One example would be repainted eyes. Most Skookums are the looking to the right side. The looking left are less common and more desirable to some collectors. If the dolls eyes have been repainted, you might not want to buy it. A few years ago, someone was putting buffalo head dresses on them and selling them as original. The materials used for the clothing and shoes will vary depending on the age as well. Dolls with gray hair are NOT Skookums. The materials used for the face will vary as well. Sometimes you will see a very pinkish looking doll in a blanket that may have a "dent" in its face. These are made in Japan dolls made of celluloid and they are not Skookums.  While "reborning" is popular in some parts of the doll world, Skookums is not one of them. Avoid a doll that is "restored".  

The dolls range in size from about 4 inches (a seated doll) to a full 36 inch tall that was used in store displays. Most of the dolls available will be in the 4 to 12 inch range. There are "mailer" dolls which have tags that allowed them to be sent through the mail, some dolls have a canoe or a few other types besides the traditional style doll. The larger a doll is, the less common it is and therefore more desirable. A doll that is in mint condition usually means it has no marks on its face, damage to it or missing parts. Mint dolls will have a head dress or a headband and a necklace. Some dolls have earrings and other accessories. A mint doll will many times have it's original box with it as well.

Skookums never have arms; they are always wrapped in a blanket. The necks and heads will not move (unless they have been damaged). They can have a slightly shiny face or a matte face. Their hair is usually a mohair wig but some human hair examples exist. They will be stuffed with excelsior which resembles straw but is made of a type of  wood shavings. They may have hair ties, beads, earrings, head dresses, feathers or head bands. Some of them, mainly the women and children, will have rounded "moon" type faces. Some of the others will have faces with wrinkles and more "character" including ones with square jaws. Dolls who have gray hair and appear as elders will make an interesting addition to your collection but they are not Skookums.  
Collect the dolls you like but don't pay more than you should. If the seller will not answer your questions or is rude to you, buy elsewhere. A doll that is missing one plastic shoe might be fine for displaying but it should not cost as much as a doll that is intact.  There are several sellers on Ebay who often have Skookums who are knowlegeable and nice. Some sellers are not familiar with Skookums but think that the name alone means the doll commands a high price. You might want to watch the auctions for a while to see the variety of dolls and prices available.  Dolls that are overpriced usually do not sell. Dolls that are desirable usually sell easily. Ebay is one of the best sources, if not the best, for Skookum dolls.

Your collection should be made of up dolls that please and interest you. Your collection does not have to be composed of mint dolls but it should be made of dolls that you really love.

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