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Antique German dolls have an undeniable allure that transcends time. These exquisite creations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries hold a special place in the hearts of collectors and enthusiasts worldwide. From their delicate porcelain features to their elaborate costumes and accessories, German dolls encapsulate the craftsmanship and artistry of a bygone era.

Gebruder Heubach bisque head character boy
Gebruder Heubach Bisque Head Character Boy Dolls including Laughing boy marked 6736, Pouty doll marked 7602 and Whistling Jim marked 8774


The story of antique German dolls begins in the early 19th century, when Germany was a major hub for doll production. Germany's skilled artisans, particularly in the Thuringian region, played a pivotal role in shaping the doll-making industry. These artisans crafted dolls from various materials, including porcelain, bisque, composition, and papier-mâché, each with its unique charm.

Porcelain dolls, often referred to as "china dolls," were among the earliest creations. They featured hand-painted faces and delicate, bisque heads, making them highly sought after by collectors today. The 1850s saw the emergence of bisque dolls, which quickly gained popularity due to their affordability and lifelike appearance. These dolls boasted intricately detailed faces and were often dressed in elaborate costumes, reflecting the fashion of the time.

Simon Halbig dolls molds marked 1009 and 1250 bisque shoulder head dolls
Simon & Halbig molds marked 1009 (on the left) and 1250

The late 19th century marked the peak of the German doll-making industry, with renowned companies like Gebrüder Heubach, Armand Marseille, and Simon & Halbig producing some of the most coveted dolls in history. These manufacturers set the standard for quality and innovation, introducing features such as sleep eyes, articulated limbs, and realistic hair wigs.


Kestner - Among the renowned makers of antique German dolls, Kestner is a name that shines brightly. Established in 1804 by Johann Daniel Kestner, the Kestner doll company quickly gained recognition for its exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. Kestner dolls were characterized by their finely sculpted bisque heads, lifelike stationary or sleep eyes, and elaborate costumes. The company was a pioneer in the use of bisque, a type of porcelain, for doll heads, resulting in dolls with remarkable realism and exquisite features. Kestner dolls are highly prized by collectors for their artistic merit and the quality of their craftsmanship.

Kestner doll 143, kestner doll mold XI, Kester doll 167
Kestner dolls mold numbers 143 (center), 167 (right), XI on the left.

Gebrüder Heubach - Another prominent name in the world of antique German dolls is Gebrüder Heubach. Known for its fine bisque doll production, Gebrüder Heubach dolls often featured expressive faces and intricate detailing. The firm was celebrated for its artistic contributions and its legacy in the doll-making industry.

Armand Marseille - Armand Marseille is yet another iconic doll manufacturer associated with the golden age of doll production. The company produced a wide range of dolls, including beloved bisque-head dolls noted for their lifelike features. Marseille's dolls were often used as models for aspiring doll artists and have a special place in the hearts of collectors.

Simon & Halbig - Simon & Halbig, a prestigious manufacturer, were renowned for producing high-quality bisque-head dolls with impeccable craftsmanship. Their dolls were known for their expressive features, delicate painting, and attention to detail, making them highly sought-after by collectors.

Kämmer & Reinhardt - This distinguished doll company was celebrated for its character dolls, which portrayed children and babies with realistic expressions. Kämmer & Reinhardt's dolls often featured distinctive faces that captured the essence of childhood innocence.

Kammer & Reinhardt doll mold 403, flirty eyes, walker doll
Kammer & Reinhardt dolls. Model marked 403 - Kammer Reinhardt mechanical walker doll (center). Simon & Halbig Kemmer & Reinhardt Flirty Eyes Doll (left)

Heinrich Handwerck - Known for their quality, Heinrich Handwerck dolls are highly regarded by collectors.

Antique German dolls are more than just collectibles; they are windows into the past. These dolls provide valuable insights into the social and cultural norms of their time. The clothing, hairstyles, and accessories of these dolls offer a glimpse into the fashion trends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the evolving role of women and children in society.

Moreover, antique German dolls have played a significant role in the development of the toy industry. Their production techniques and design innovations laid the foundation for the modern doll-making industry, influencing subsequent generations of doll makers.

What makes antique German dolls so enchanting, even to this day? Several factors contribute to their enduring appeal:

Craftsmanship: German doll makers were renowned for their attention to detail and craftsmanship. Each doll was carefully sculpted and painted by skilled artisans, resulting in lifelike features and exquisite facial expressions.

Diversity: The German doll industry produced a wide variety of dolls, catering to different tastes and budgets. From small all bisque dolls to large composition dolls with bisque heads, there is a German doll for everyone.

Historical Value: Antique German dolls offer a tangible connection to the past. Owning one is like holding a piece of history in your hands.

Aesthetic Beauty: German dolls are not just toys; they are works of art. Their intricately designed costumes and accessories showcase the fashion and style of their respective eras.

Identifying Antique German Dolls

Identifying antique German dolls can be a fascinating endeavor for collectors and enthusiasts. One key aspect of this process is deciphering the marks that can be found on these dolls. German doll manufacturers often stamped or marked their creations with specific symbols, numbers, or letters that provide valuable clues about the doll's origin and age. To effectively identify a doll based on these marks, collectors should consult reference books or online resources that catalog and explain these markings in detail. Pay attention to markings on the doll's back, neck, or head, as well as any labels on the bodies. These marks can reveal the doll maker, production year, and sometimes even the doll's series or model, offering a glimpse into the rich history of German doll craftsmanship. Careful examination and research are essential for gaining insight into the unique characteristics of each antique German doll and understanding its place in the world of doll collecting.

Here are some examples of identification marks:

Kestner doll 146
Made is Germany 146 - Kestner doll mold 146

Simon halbig doll 1009
S 9 H 1009 DEP - Simon & Halbig doll mold 1009

Armand Marseille baby doll 980
Germany 980 A 0 M D.R.G.M. - Armand Marseille mold 980 character baby

Collecting Antique German Dolls

If you're interested in collecting antique German dolls, here are a few tips to get you started:


Familiarize yourself with the various types of German dolls, manufacturers, and their historical context.

Condition Matters

Pay attention to the condition of the doll. Originality and minimal restoration are highly prized by collectors.


Ensure that the doll's authenticity is verified by experts or reputable dealers.


Set a budget for your collection and stick to it. Antique German dolls can vary widely in price.


Display your dolls in a way that preserves their condition and protects them from dust and sunlight.

Antique German dolls are more than just playthings; they are cherished artifacts that encapsulate the artistry, history, and culture of a bygone era. Their timeless appeal continues to captivate collectors and enthusiasts, making them highly sought-after treasures in the world of antiques. As you embark on your journey into the world of antique German dolls, remember that each doll has a unique story to tell, waiting to be discovered and appreciated for generations to come.

Take careful look at a doll made by Lynne and Michael Roche. You'd never guess that two individuals had worked hand in hand to create it. Beautifully designed, elegantly proportioned and carefully crafted, each Roche doll is a meticulous piece of art.


Source: February 2001 • Doll Reader , Pages 54-55


Married for 22 years, the Roches are embarking now on their 21st year as a doll making duo. Their harmonious convergence of talent combines Lynne's training as an artist with Michael's expertise as a woodworker.

"Michael does the wood and ceramic parts of the bodies," relates Lynne. "I create the model for the head, paint the dolls and design their clothes. Michael comes in toward the end and works on it and makes the masters and molds."

Lynne and Michael Roche Doll
Ellie (right) and Louisa are 19 inches tall. Dressed for winter in naturally dyed wools, hand-knitte jerseys, bonnets and scarves, they have soft, curly mohair wigs and glass eyes. Ellie wears a jumper wil appliques inspired by the illustrations of the peg-wooden doll books by 19th-century British author Florence K. Upton. Louisa's jumper features aboligues of velvet and silk pansies on her bib and bag. Seen here as available in numbered editions, Emily and Louisa also will appear in limited editions wearing different clothes and accompanied by 1930s-style prams.

Collectors are attracted to the nostalgic quality of Roche dolls. Lynne says that she gets ideas for her dolls' clothing from the past and from fairy tales. "Generally, they hark back to the period of my childhood from the 1950s and 1960s. I grew up in a suburban setting outside of London.

Her dolls often wear knitted clothing. "I really don't like using fancy silks and lace," she relates. "The dolls wear day-to-day clothes, but they sometimes are a bit more fanciful. I use a lot of cloth that has been naturally dyed, and I mix appliqués and embroidery for the detailing along with other things that interest me."

Lynne describes the dolls' clothing as conservative. "There is at times some kind of restraint about the clothing that appeals to me the mixture of using woolens and cottons and natural sorts of fibers. I like layered things."

It's important to both Lynne and Michael that the clothes not overwhelm the doll.

"We think it's essential that we keep the clothes in proportion to the size of the doll. The bodies are very important to our dolls, and they must articulate well when they wear the clothes."

Lynne and Michael Roche doll
The Roches also create dolls with porce. lain heads and hands and bodies made of cloth. Lynne designs the bodies of the cloth dolls. Molly is a new baby doll who is loosely jointed at the shoulders and hips. She is available in four different costumes that represent flowers, including Anemone (left), Daffodil (right), Bluebell, and Rose.

How well the dolls articulate is Michael's department. A former furniture restorer and maker, he produces the beautifully shaped pieces that, when put together, comprise a Roche doll.

"The shapes are very traditional," he says of his dolls' bodies. "We use wood whereas doll makers around the turn of the 20th century used composition for the bodies. I used to use a mixture of woods that worked for different parts of the body. We mostly painted the bodies at first. People started saying that they liked seeing the wood so we stopped painting them."

Nowadays, Michael carves the bodies from lime wood. "It works well for carving and has a nice, close grain, so I use lime now exclusively." "Its got a pale color, too," adds Lynne.

Lynne says that she looks to antique dolls for inspiration for body shapes. "We're very influenced by the old dolls. I collect antique dolls and undress them and look at the bodies. There are so many different and fascinating body shapes and mate-rials. I think that's why bodies have always been important to us."

In the mysterious ways that artists work, Lynne's fascination with antique dolls somehow transfers into Roche dolls. Barrie and Danny Shapiro, proprietors of The Toy Shoppe in Rich-mond, Virginia, have offered the Roches' dolls in America for many years, and, Barrie observes, "Not only collectors of fine contemporary artists seek Lynne and Michael's work, but so do people who know and collect rare antique dolls.

While Roche dolls are not meant as toys for children, Lynne says, "I always think of my dolls as dolls that you actually can play with. That really is important. I always enjoy hearing from people that they change the clothes, make clothes for them and change their positions. Quite a lot of dolls are hands off. You hardly can touch them.

Lynne and Michael Roche doll
Louisa, undressed except for her panties, displays the craftsmanship that goes into each wood and porcelain doll created by Lynne and Michael Roche. The wood portions of the doll are made of lime wood. Lynne designs the porcelain face of each doll, and Michael carries out the molding process. Michael creates the doll parts that are wooden.

I like the idea that ours can be han-dled-that they're more like dolls than sculptural pieces. We love receiving pictures of groupings of our dolls that people have arranged we get many during the holidays.

The Roches create their dolls in their 18th-Century yellow-colored sandstone house in the city of Bath. The city, originally home to Michael's parents, appeals to them artistically. "Its a very harmonious place to live visually," says Lynne. "It has hills all around it so it doesn't sprawl out. You can get into the countryside very easily. And it's a small enough city that you actually can walk around it very easily." “It only takes a quarter of an hour to walk from one side of the city to the other, adds Michael.

Not only is Bath surrounded by hills, but it also contains a few, and the Roches live on one.

"Our hill is about five to 10 minutes from the center of the city walking down the hill and about 20 minutes walking back up," laughs Lynne.

Lynne and Michael's house on a hill contains a ceramics room and a woodworking shop in the basement.

"We have a garden and fish in a pond," says Lynne. "Our house is filled with dolls. It's a lovely place to live and work."

In addition to fish in a pond and many dolls, the Roches have cats- five of them. "There are cats all over our studio," describes Lynne. "I work in one room that has two baskets, and there usually is one cat in each of them." Occasionally, cat motifs find their way onto the clothing of the Roches' dolls.

When they're not making dolls, the Roches are seeking inspiration for new ones. They enjoy long weekends looking for antique dolls in Paris. Since they appreciate furniture, they also make frequent trips to the American Museum just outside Bath. "They have room settings going back to Colonial times, ," says Lynne, and a facsimile of George Washington's garden.

"It's kind of our favorite place to escape."

The fact that Lynne and Michael share their free time together helps unify their artistic vision. Ultimately, their dolls, and collectors, benefit. As Barrie Shapiro says, “Sometimes in the world of art and creativity, there is a magic that happens when a husband and wife work together. Lynne and Michael Roche are an excellent example of how one partner contributes and interacts with the other and how their work is made special because of that."

New York in the 1950s witnessed the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, only to have the Brooklyn "Bums" depart for Los Angeles in 1957. Doll enthusiasts would also lose something wonderful as the Arranbee Doll Company, another New York institution, ended its reign as one of the most prolific doll manufacturers of the twentieth century.


Dolls and photos courtesy of Heather Wasserman

Arranbee dolls

Source: Summer 2018 • Doll News Pages, 98-106


Living in Brooklyn as a child, one would assume that Arranbee dolls were sold at the popular toy and department stores within the five boroughs of New York City. The company did advertise at times in the trade publication Playthings as well as store catalogs. Yet, Arranbee dolls never crossed our path. Fortunately, I have long since remedied that situation.

Arranbee doll
On the left, an all-original early 1930s composition 12-inch "Nancy" with molded hair and painted blue eyes, marked "Arranbee Doll Co." on her back; dress tag reads "NANCY An Arranbee Doll." Original pink-fringed dress and onesie is closed with safety pins. On the right, a rare 11-inch black "Nancy" variation in composition has molded hair, side-glancing painted black eyes, and a loop for hair ribbon, marked "Arranbee Doll Co." on back. ca 1930s

Within the first few years following WWI,

a 19-year-old Polish immigrant named William Rothstein and his associate,

Mr. Berman teamed up to form the Arranbee (R&B) Doll Company. The company would occupy a few different show rooms and manufacturing locations in Manhattan, New York, as it expanded and in later years there was a facility in Hicksville, Long Island, New York. In addition, there was a showroom in San Francisco, California. Partners had come and gone, and by 1947 Mr. Rothstein was the sole proprietor until his sudden death in 1957. The company had also been affiliated with the Vogue Doll Company from the 1920s; the early Vogue "Toddles" is believed to be an Arranbee doll. About a year after Rothstein' s death and a valiant attempt by the family to keep the company operating, Arranbee was sold to the Vogue Doll Company, which continued carrying their line. By the early 1960s, Arranbee dolls ceased to exist.


As with many doll companies at the time of Arranbee' s inception, doll heads were imported from Germany, while the bodies, accessories, and wigs were typically made domestically. In this case, bisque heads were mostly made by Armand Marseille and to a lesser degree, Simon & Halbig. "My Dream Baby," produced in the 1920s, has Marseille markings and the numbers "341" and "351," depending on whether they had open or closed mouths. The dolls were produced as Caucasian and black, in various sizes, with composition or cloth bodies. As the company prospered through the 1920s, there was a need to produce their own dolls and apply for patents. With that feat accomplished, the next bisque-head baby dolls were then marked "Germany/ Arranbee." A version of "Dream Baby" would be on Arranbee' s roster for virtually their entire existence.

Arranbee doll Nancy
This 16-inch composition "Nancy" has her original mohair wig and open mouth with four teeth. She is marked "NANCY" on back of head.

With the "Roaring 20's" era coming to an end and the Great Depression rearing its ugly head, the company secured a manufacturing facility with the capability of creating well-made composition dolls at competitive prices. It was at this time that Arranbee's "Nancy" was first introduced. The company hired Ruby Hopf as their costume designer. As is evident, her ensembles were innovative and well made. Even the dolls' shoes were distinctive. She would remain with Arranbee for the duration. "Nancy" has had many faces, from the composition painted-eye, painted-hair little Effanbee "Patsy-type" with short, early-1930s dresses, to dolls with various face sculpts, sleep eyes that may have smoky eye shadow, and human hair or mohair wigs. The outfits ranged from everyday wear to gowns fit for a princess, somewhat reminiscent of Princess Elizabeth. They were available in sizes from 12-inches tall to 20-inches tall. The name "Nancy," for reasons unknown, would be a recurring name on the company's roster.

In 1938 when World War II was looming, and big bands were serenading, one of the most beautiful composition dolls made by an American company was introduced, Arranbee's "Debu'Teen." Ranging in size from 11-inches to 22-inches tall, this doll wore a young adolescent girl's dreamy facial expression, as if she were wondering what the future held.

Arranbee Doll company

The dolls were either full-body composition or a composition shoulder plate with a movable head, cloth torso, and composition limbs. There was also a less common variation that has the shoulder plate and 'swing' composition legs, usually seen in a "mama-type" doll. The wigs are human hair or mohair. Some of the dolls have tin eyes, which appear to last but as collectors agree, when a different consistency was utilized, over time the eyes can crack. It appears to be a very common occurrence with many composition dolls of varying companies. Interestingly, Arranbee seems to have produced more brown-eyed dolls than most, if not all, other companies of the time.

"Debu'Teen" was the doll that initially solidified my intense affection for the Arranbee Doll Company, whether it is partly because she reminds me of photos of my mother as a child or that she simply catches the eye with her pensive faraway expression, somewhat on the brink of adulthood. The doll's ensembles have withstood the test of time, ranging from school-appropriate skirts and dresses, to gowns with real fur jackets.

Arranbee Doll Nannette
An adorable all original unmarked composition 15-inch "Nancy" is dressed in the elusive blue 'petal' dress, which has attached onesie. She has a curly blonde mohair wig and blue tin eyes. As this doll demonstrates, many Arranbee dolls have ribbon or lace attached to wrists.

Another young Arranbee model that co-existed with "Debu'Teen" for a while was "Nannette," spelled with the extra 'n'. This doll has the body construction of a "mama-type" doll, with a composition head and extremities, as well as a "swing" cloth body. Her costume design is that of a younger child. The popular "Nancy Lee" made her debut in 1943 after Arranbee ceased to produce "Debu'Teen." An all composition delight, "Nancy Lee" had a younger appearance than her predecessor. She came in varying heights, with a mohair wig and a wardrobe that included school dresses, skating ensembles and gowns. Additionally, there was a Southern Series, perhaps a rival to Madame Alexander's "Scarlett O'Hara."

Arranbee Doll debu' teen
A 13-inch composition "Debu'Teen" with red mohair wig and light brown eyes and marked "R & B" on her head and back, wears a beautiful detailed yellow gown. Shown is an 18-inch original composition "Debu'Teen" in a felt dress and hat with a human hair wig, marked "R & B" on her head. Her pin reads "COMMUNITY CHEST " and in a heart "I GAVE," which may not be original.

Following World War II and the introduction of hard plastic dolls, Arranbee kept up with the times and introduced the hard plastic "Nanette," spelled without the extra 'n', and a hard plastic "Nancy Lee." These beautiful dolls were available from 14-inches to 21-inches tall, with mohair, floss, or synthetic wigs. Some had a walking mechanism, and their extensive wardrobe included school dresses to evening wear, some of which had real fur-trimmed gowns and muffs. Occasionally, it is difficult to differentiate between "Nanette" and "Nancy Lee" as many, but not all of the "Nanette" dolls have pointed chins. Sometimes the original hangtag is the only means of identification. By the mid-1950s, when vinyl dolls became the rage, Arranbee continued producing "Nanette," using a vinyl head and later, a fashion doll that closely resembled Ideal's "Miss Revlon."

Arranbee continued its success in the 1950s with the Little Angel Doll Series, with the original baby dolls of this series being introduced in the 1940s. There were babies

in all hard plastic, cloth bodies, then followed by 10-inch and 12-inch hard plastic young 'sisters,' "Little Angel" and "Littlest Angel." Some of the original outfits can be easily identified since hard plastic "Nanettes" had the same dress designs. The Little Angel Doll Series evolved through the 1950s as the dolls then had vinyl heads and bent knees, extensive wardrobes and even cases to carry around all the clothes and accessories to a child's 'play date'. In addition, Arranbee presented the successful "Coty Girl," a friend or rival to Ideal Toy Company's "Little Miss Revlon," to showcase Coty cosmetics. There were also several more baby and little girl dolls produced in the later 1950s, continuing after Mr. Rothstein's passing, then later by Vogue.

As with some of the dolls from the "Golden Age" era, there is evidence that doll companies shared molds; therefore, the similarities on certain faces and body types are no coincidence. Even after extensive research, companies that borrowed 'what from whom' becomes somewhat murky to discern in many cases.

Nancy lee an r & b

Arranbee Doll Nancy lee
Shown on the right are two adorable hard plastic Nancy Lee dolls, both marked "R & B" on their head, wearing mohair braids and dressed for school: On the left, is a 21- inch all original doll wearing an "alphabet" dress with a detachable pinafore and blue oilcloth matching shoes; on the right is a 14-inch all original doll with a detachable apron for her dress and a handbag assumed to be original as it was purchased as such and is fastened to dress.

Because some dolls are unmarked, or have faint marks hidden in their limbs, it is up to the enlightened collector to recognize how individual companies give their dolls their own distinct personality. Furthermore, in some instances, to pin down the exact dates of each doll's actual place in a given line has been a challenge.

The dates listed may not be exact, as different sources seem to vary by a year or two. Nevertheless, what is crystal clear is that Arranbee produced some of the most gorgeous, well­made and beautifully costumed dolls during the 40-plus years of their glorious existence. Many of Arranbee' s creations have maintained their original beauty and continue to bring immense joy to those of us lucky enough to possess them.

Nancy lee an r & b

nanette lee an r & b
This lucky 21-inch hard plastic "Nanette" walker has her original red dress with fruit on it and a wonderful handmade wardrobe including summer and winter pajamas!

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