What’s it Worth: Kestner Shoulder-head Doll

This antique doll came from Germany's renowned doll maker, Johann Daniel Kestner Jr.. But what's it worth today?

Kestner Antique Doll

Kestner Antique Doll

Kestner Shoulder-head doll


What can you tell me about my beautiful shoulder-head doll? She dates to about 1880, is 23 inches tall and has Kestner markings (mold Dep 10-154). She’s in great condition except for one tiny finger chip.

—S.T., Thief River Falls, Minnesota

What’s it Worth?
Johann Daniel Kestner Jr. was known as “The King of Dollmakers.”  The German company he founded produced dolls from the 1820s to the 1930s but is best known for the bisque dolls made from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

Shoulder-head is the name given to a type of doll in which the head, neck, breast and shoulder are all one piece and the head does not move. Extremely popular in the 1890s, this model sold for about $5 wholesale and featured plaster-dome heads that were nearly flat at the back.

Your antique doll’s exquisitely modeled face has blue-gray eyes and many features associated with Kestner dolls—upper teeth, a jutting upper lip, full lower cheeks and a slight double chin. Her body is gusseted kid leather, and the hands are cupped, with separate thumbs. A tiny finger chip is not considered a serious defect; it could be repaired with no loss in value.

Doll values have tended to go down as more heirloom dolls reach the marketplace. Still, your doll is worth about $650, more if the body is in perfect condition and you have her original clothing.

—Barbara J. Eash (Country Woman Magazine’s Antiques Expert)


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