Half dolls are hard working dolls, and have such an interesting history ...
The small bottomless pottery or porcelain doll is known as the "half doll" was produced from the late 1800s to the early 1920s. The half doll is a doll that has over time collected many different names. Such as pincushion dolls, tea-cozy doll, and dresser doll. It has also been referred to as tops, pin-head, or whisks broom dolls. These wonderful little dolls have one thing in common, they are all void of a bottom have tiny waists, and are very finely sculptured figurines. The sweet half dolls were produced by the thousand in Germany, France, Bavaria, Japan, and America. They were designed to be made into dolls that stood to disguise or decorate a variety of household objects. Such as whisk-brooms, pincushions, and also added over teapots to help ensure the pot stayed warm. The dolls were often made of Bisque pottery or porcelain. The earlier half dolls were adorned with beautiful wigs, made of mohair, some dolls hairstyles were accomplished by the molding process. In regards to the doll's joints, some half dolls even had movable joints at the arms, the less costly had fixed arms. Some dolls were produced to be adored, a home decoration. However, most half dolls were produced to have a life of toil, destine to work hard at removing lent or keeping a lady's pins in a safe cushion.
The doll's arms were produced in different styles. Such as touching its hair or held close to the body. There were also half dolls that were created with one hand holding an object, such as a flower or mirror. This type of half doll took the artist more time to assure the anchoring of the arms, hands, and fingers. This process took great skill, making sure to preserve the doll's delicately graceful pose. The more difficult poses were the half dolls with their arms held away from the body. This took great skill in the molding process. These intricate figure positions involved using many separate molds, and the fragile parts would then be fastened onto the unfired figure in a semi-moist state using "slip" as an adhesive. A half doll that has separated fingers are the more costly, and harder to come by in today's marketplace.
Wonderful German Half Dolls
Origin And History Of The Half Doll
German Pottery Companies Where The First To Produce Half Dolls
Some of the most beautiful porcelain half dolls were produced in Germany. One of the first pottery companies to produce the half doll was the popular German Pottery company "Dressel" & "Kister". which was located in Passau, a town that is located in Lower Bavaria. Artists used portraits of their subjects to create personal half dolls, they also produced half dolls in the likenesses of legendary characters from history. The German half dolls stood to show the great skills of the doll artists, with delicately sculptured hands, arms, and tiny waists. The dolls were faultless, showing tiny lines on the palm of the hands, and wonderful facial expression.
The half dolls were produced by the thousand in Germany in the early 1900s. In the mid-1900s France, Japan, and America pottery companies began to produce their own lines of half dolls. Although, In the world of collectors no other country produced as fine of a half doll as Germany.
Well-known Companies That Produced Half Dolls:
Dressel & Kister
F. W. Goebel,
Ernst, Bohne & Sohne,
Variety of Half Dolls
A Doll For Him...
There were half dolls made strictly for ladies, and half dolls made strictly for men Only ...
I must mention, gentlemen also made good use of the half dolls, mostly in the form of a lint broom. The half dolls fashioned for the gentleman would have more masculine motifs. As a rule, the motif would be that of animals, such as rabbits, cats, dogs, birds, and soldiers.
La Belle Chocolatiere The Chocolate Girl
What Half Dolls Are The Most Sought After By Collectors?
One of the most sought after half dolls is "La Belle Chocolatiere The Chocolate Girl"
The most sought after half dolls is the likeness of a waitress in a Vienna chocolate shop, holding a chocolate pot and a cup and saucer on a tray. This wonderful sought after the doll was produced by the Goebel porcelain factory in Germany. It was designed to advertise Walter Baker chocolate in 1975. It is said to have fetched the highest price ever known for a porcelain half figure doll. Half Dolls of fine quality are now commanding very high prices. The half doll once had a place in almost every home, covering or decorating some whatnot. Many for good amusement, and some as good workers. Now, these little gems are well sought after to be collected and treasured.
Popularity Of The Half Doll
The Half Doll In The 1900s
Half dolls were made very popular in the early 1900-1930. They were considered extravagances for the owner. Half dolls produced in the early part of the 20th century were fashioned to be somewhat similar to the 18th century Meissen dolls. These dolls were elegant, with elaborate hairstyles, ornate clothing, and wonderful hats. In the 1920s the flapper motif half dolls were produced. In the 1920s, due to greater technology, the dolls began to be mass-produced. The mass production made the half doll affordable to all. Although, with mass production, a cheap, poorly molded, and badly glazed crinoline half doll emerged on the market. These half dolls were being cheaply made and sold in haberdashers, novelty shops, many being made to assemble in the home.
How To Identify An Antique Half Doll
Tips On How To Identify A Half Doll Manufacture
It's not always easy to determine the source or manufacture of a Half Dolls from the marks. Pottery companies such as Dressel and Kister bought molds from other factories with the right to use their trademarks. There was also the "Herend factory", a company that was located in Hungary, which imitated the work of other factories." Herend" also was able to reproduce designs, and replace pieces when the original manufacturers had long since gone out of business. So, there were many porcelain factories reproducing other manufacturer's models. New craftsmen also made new half doll molds but added very similar hallmarks on their finished pieces. Another very big problem is that many old dolls lack any marks at all. Partly due to the artist not assigning any great value to the utilitarian Half Doll in the earlier years they were being produced.
Marks, if any, will be on the tapered base of the doll or inside the small opening of the lower unglazed section. Look for the Goebel, Heubach and Dressel and Kister half dolls, all are well known to have made lovely half dolls. Capodimonte also produced some exquisite half dolls. Other countries that produced wonderful examples of half dolls America, the UK, and of course later in Japan. All have made wonderful half dolls, that are well worth collecting.
Size Matters When It Comes To Identification Of A Half Doll
A good rule is if it's too big or too small it's not an older half doll. The older German half dolls were from 2 to 6 inches tall.
Materials and Characteristics Of Half Dolls
The better quality Half dolls are made of porcelain or bisque.
The German companies painted their half dolls much of the time by hand. This produced a finer quality to the doll's features. If you see a sloppy paint job, the doll is that of a company that massed produced half dolls. Always look at the features of that delicate facial paint. Check the fingers with the same workmanship. The older German half dolls will also have mohair wigs.
Half Doll Hallmarks or Marks
Half Doll Hallmarks
The larger majority of old antique half dolls posses no hallmarks at all. Many will be marked simply " Germany "or "Made in Germany". Some will have a number present at the waist of the doll, which will be four or five numbers impressed into the pottery, and void of any color. Half dolls that were produced in Japan, will be often marked with the word "Japan" or "Made in Japan," due to stringent import laws. The more famous pottery companies,
such as Dressel, Kister or Goebel, marked their half dolls with their company's distinctive hallmark/mark.
© 2012 Sharlee
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Sharlee (author) on January 12, 2020:
Yes, I have. Many were produced in the early to mid-1900s. Some were made as shades along with a lamp base, some the skirt was on a wire base, and a bulb wired underneath the skirt. I have also run across half doll lamps that had ormolu ornated bases with the Half doll attached. The Half doll lamp value would depend on the style of the lamp when the lamp was made, and condition. Those made in the early 1900s are worth more than the ones produced in the 1940s and 1950s.
Martha Nickle on January 12, 2020:
Have you ever come across a half doll that was made for a lamp? I came across one recently and would loves to get more info on it. Great Article?
Sharlee (author) on October 20, 2019:
Wendy, Thank you for your visit. I also collect and love half dolls. I have two tips to help you spot an antique half doll. The better ones were made of Bisque or fine thin shiny porcelain. Shine a bright light through the doll, you should be able to see a bit shine through. Another tip, the older half dolls were handpainted. They will have finer crisp well-painted features. And then if you're lucky enough the doll will have a hallmark. If the doll is dressed her clothes will naturally smell dusty, and have some discoloration, and perhaps the clothing will appear a bit worn. Although some have been taken good care of and can appear well preserved.
Wendy on October 19, 2019:
I love half dolls, and have been collecting for years. Lately, though, I've been getting some from eBay. Even though they say "vintage" in the description, I sometimes get them and they are too perfect. No wear, no sign of use, etc. I'm guessing I'm getting some repros. Do you have any other information on how to spot reproductions on German bisque? Your article is very helpful...just looking for more. Thank you!
Sharlee (author) on August 06, 2019:
Thank you for your visit, and nice comment. Please feel free to copy and use it.
Shirley Wagner on August 05, 2019:
Very good host. Can I pop copy this article to to use in my antique display case. I will list you as the author.
mel-kav on July 16, 2018:
I've only seen a few different kinds of half-dolls in my life. I never realized how many styles there are - or how popular they had been. Interesting article.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on June 07, 2018:
I saw a few of these when I was a child and found them intriguing. Wish I'd started a collection way back then.
Sheri on November 03, 2015:
Hi. What do you know about vintage felt face tea cozies? I believe the one I have is made in Germany. She is quite beautiful with amazing detail.
Sharlee (author) on July 12, 2013:
@andrea-m-gaty: The doll in the top photo is that of a vintage blond half doll from Germany. She is considered a "Fancy". Posed in a demure position, hands to her chest, with open elbow. Her cheeks are very rosy, and she has red lips. She is wearing a pink, blue, flowered French styled dress, and matching hat. She is a little over 3 inches tall, and well painted with good detail, evenly glazed. The mark is on the back of her base and shows 17243. her value will vary depending on condition. If mint she is realistically worth about $150.00. However, many antique dealers will hold out for as much as $300.00. Over the past years the price has declined. Most half dolls are selling for about $150.00. If worn worth drops to about $50.00. If chipped or cracked she is valued at about $20.00.
andrea-m-gaty on February 12, 2013:
I have the exact doll in the top picture with the pink top, looking for more information regarding origin, maker, and worth. Can anyone point me in the right direction?