Collecting antique china dolls is popular enough that reproductions also abound. It can be quite perilous for uninformed collectors to buy china dolls unless they have first learned to spot the reproductions.
The most commonly found reproduction china dolls are those made by companies such as the Mark Farmer Company of California circa 1940s-1970s. The Mark Farmer Company started out as a family run novelty toy company back in the 1940s. The first so-called Jennie June reproduction china doll they made proved so popular that they branched out and began making more different models and in different sizes. They pulled molds directly from original antique dolls that customers brought to them, as well as creating some of their own models. Most of their products are marked Mark Farmer. Here are 2 examples. First is a boxed kit with head, arms, legs, catalog and instructions for assembling the doll. Second is a novelty doll vase head lying on top of the catalog that shows the product.
The Mark Farmer company was not alone in the field though. There were other companies making similar dolls during the same time frame. In addition there were many home hobbyists who bought molds for these dolls and cooked them up in their home ovens. These home painted versions often exhibit crazing in the glaze due to being fired at a low temperature, and the inexperience of the maker. The paint technique of these dolls is frequently poor as well. The example below shows home painted fussy detail work on the eyes, and off colored lips in a deep garnet red.
There were other commercially made china and parian reproduction dolls made in Japan and marketed in the US throughout much of the 20th c. These dolls are relatively well made and are frequently mistakenly listed as antique German dolls on eBay. Marked labeled examples have been located that prove their true provenance though. There were several different models produced but the 2 Japanese dolls most often misidentified as German are seen below; the large 6" tall flat top model on the left, and the smaller 3" tall model with pierced ears on the right. These models were made in both blond and black hair and in both unglazed parian bisque and glazed china. They were each made in only the one size, unlike the German dolls where each model came in a range of sizes. Note the inset image of the label found inside these heads. These heads have been found in packages labeled A. A. Importing Company, Inc. This is a trading company founded in 1934 and still in business today. They were originally a distributor for kerosene lamp parts and accessories, but around the time of World War II branched out into selling imported crystal, glass and porcelain. They would not have been importing from Japan while we were at war with Japan, so those products would post date the end of W.W.II in 1945. These dolls are likely to date from after 1945 and possibly as late as 1970s.
Another Japanese reproduction was marketed by the trading company Brinn, circa 1970s - see example below. These dolls were sold in kits for home assembly. The parts are sometimes stamped Made in Japan. The heads sometimes have a Brinn sticker inside the head. They are not always marked with these labels, but this model always has an impressed 5 on the back of the shoulder plate. Other trading companies may have carried these products too.
Some 20th century china and parian dolls have earned value in their own right for their high quality and beauty. The dolls made by Emma Clear in the 1940s are a good example of well made china and parian dolls of this period. Most of her products are marked. The example below is marked Clear and the year on the back of the shoulder plate. The body has a stitched on label from Emma Clear's Humpty Dumpty Doll Hospital of California.
Ruth Gibbs also made a charming series of small china dolls in the 1940s, shown here with a red checked body.
The Royal Copenhagen company also reissued 3 doll shoulder heads circa 1978-1981, a large lady, smaller lady and small boy. These are not really reproductions since the original company made them based on original molds from the 1800s. They hold good value, though a fraction of what an example from the 1800s would have. Here are the 3 reissued shoulder heads. The small boy head is marked on the inside of the back of the shoulder plate only. The small lady head in the middle and large lady head on the right are marked with model number and painter's mark inside the back of the shoulder plate, and with the Royal Copenhagen triple wavy line and DENMARK on the outside. Note that a tick mark below a letter in the word Denmark is a date indicator. The original antique Royal Copenhagen dolls do not have the word DENMARK printed on them.
In the 1980s Avon and Hallmark sold novelty china head dolls. The Avon doll had a skirt filled with scented sachet. These dolls were made in Asia.
There continue to be handicrafters and artists making reproduction and artistic versions of china and parian dolls today. The Seeley company has long sold molds for this purpose.
None of these dolls are fakes pretending to be antiques. They are 20th century products made in tribute to their antique predecessors. It is only in recent years that they have begun to be mistakenly identified as antiques. Nothing beats a well trained eye to help the collector detect the new
from the old. The more actual antique dolls you see and handle the easier
such detection becomes.
Always remember that just because something came out of grandma's attic, that doesn't automatically mean it is a genuine antique. Grandma went shopping throughout her entire lifetime. Most of these dolls can be considered vintage by now anyway.