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)

 

jessica 1 April 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

How can you write in to find out what a doll is worth?

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sharon 2 April 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Hi, Jessica,
Just go to the very bottom of our home page. You’ll find a link that says “Submit a Story.” You can put “Ask the Antiques Expert” in the subject line, upload a photo of the doll and write comments that we’d need, along with your contact information. Here’s the link: http://www.countrywomanmagazine.com/submit-a-story/
Sharon

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Whitney 3 November 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

We have this same doll that has been passed down in our family. I have been doing research to try to determine what the dolls original dress would have looked like, with little luck. Do you know how I could find out this dolls original costume?

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sharon 4 November 24, 2014 at 10:49 am

You can find more information from your public library. They carry most of these books, or have access to get them. Or buy used ones on line very inexpensively:
Treasury of German Dolls,album 1 by Lydia Richter, HP Books:
Kestner , King of Dollmakers, by Jan Foulke, Hobby House Press
Spinning Wheel’s Complete Book of Dolls, Albrt Christian Revi, Galahad Books
German Dolls, Identification & Values, Patricia Smith, Collector Books
The Annual Blue Book Doll Price Guide, Jan Foulke
Also, there are annual doll and teddy bear shows in most larger cities. Walk the aisles and speak to doll collectors with your questions and take your doll with you. You will find many answers there.

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