Antique German Bisque Dolls History

By Deborah Harding
Many antique German bisque dolls, feathers, silk, other fancy ornamentation
doll image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com

Antique German bisque dolls are some of the most plentiful dolls on the market today. Although bisque dolls were also made in England, France and Denmark; the German dolls were most popular because of their affordability. Today prices for an antique bisque German doll can run anywhere from $150 USD for a plain doll to $20,000 for one with a trunk full of original clothing and accessories.

General History

German bisque dolls were manufactured from around the 1840s through the 1930s. German dolls made from 1860 to 1890 were fashion dolls made to represent women of the day in fancy, elaborate clothing that only the rich would wear. These dolls came with an entire wardrobe, including accessories.

Dolls called dolly-faced dolls came into popularity from 1890 to 1930. These dolls had a more youthful looking face. Baby dolls started to emerge that had expressive faces. They were called character dolls and many had teeth and open mouths instead of closed lips. Consequently, the dolls with closed lips are more valued today because there are so few of them.

Bisque

Bisque is made of porcelain that was pressed into molds. After it set, the molds were removed and the bisque was ground down around the edges to be smooth then fired. Tint of the skin and eyebrows were painted on. The porcelain was fired once again which resulted in a natural skin look that was not glazed and shiny like China dolls. German bisque was made near Thurgingia because clay was readily available there.

Identification

There were no requirements for marking dolls until 1891 when country of origin was required. Many dolls had markings on their shoulders or the back of the head. During World War II most large doll maker sites were destroyed by bombs along with all records that would identify the type of mold used and age of the doll. This made dolls manufactured before World War II difficult to identify. Dolls made after World War II have easily identifiable markings.

Royal Kaestner Dolls

Royal Kaestner dolls are some of the most beautiful dolls from Germany and some of the largest as well. The company produced dolls for over 50 years and they have bisque heads, arms and legs. The bodies are beautifully made of exquisite kid. Royal Kaestner dolls are stamped on the body with a crown and bow. These dolls are hard to find because not many were made.

Armand Marseilles Dolls

Armand Marseilles dolls were made in Germany and are much more plentiful and more affordable. The body is also made of kid but the quality is a little lower than that of the Royal Kaestner. The company was founded in 1885 and produced heads for other doll makers at first. Most dolls made in the 1900s have a mold number and the letters AM under the wig on the back of the head.

Kammerer and Reinhart Dolls

Doll makers Kammerer and Reinhart are also called K & R dolls. Their dolls were made in many different sizes. This company bought heads from other manufacturers because they did not have their own bisque factory until they purchased one from their suppliers in 1902. They produced the dolly-faced doll and were famous for character baby dolls. The marking of this manufacturer is a Jewish Star of David with the letters K & R inside.