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Reproduction or Antique? How Best to Enhance a Doll Collection

by Letha Berry (03/24/09).

When talking with a doll collector, the conversation inevitably turns to those dolls that make up our “dolly dreams.” We secretly envision going to a yard, garage or estate sale where we find that elusive doll sitting on a box or shelve wearing an impatient look that says: “Well, I have been waiting all day for you to come buy me.” For some collectors, it is a wonderful French Fashion doll with an articulated wooden body. For others it may be a Bru, a Jumeau, a Rabery et Delphieu, or perhaps a Gaultier Bebe. For many collectors these dolls will remain only an elusive dream.

Clairmaid Parian, circa 1966, my personal collection

Clairmaid Parian, circa 1966, my personal collection

Kling Parian, circa 1870, my personal collection

Kling Parian, circa 1870, my personal collection

During my years of collecting I have come to think that most doll collectors can be divided into one of two types. Collectors who I would classify as belonging to Type One love their dolls but tend to look at them as either an artistic or financial investment. Some Type Ones strive for perfection in their collections and tend to focus on its purity, while others focus on the monetary value. They patiently build collections that inspire awe for the pristine dolls that they have acquired.

The other type, Type Two collectors, also love their dolls and, while they hope their dolls will increase in value, they tend to look appreciate the pure enjoyment they derive from them as opposed to their monetary value. A well-worn or well-loved doll, especially if there is a sentimental association, may well be viewed as the highlight of their collection. Many collectors that I have talked with explain this affection for a well-worn doll with expressions such as “I look at them and wonder what long-ago child held and played with this doll” or “Just think how many little hands have held and loved this doll.” I, too, have had these thoughts as I look at my dolls. While it seems that these two ideologies are very different, and may appear to be separated by a wide divide, the love of dolls is a thread that unites all doll collectors.

Like all self-proclaimed doll addicts, I have dolls that I aspire to own but I am forced to live with the realization that, in all likelihood, they will remain mine only in dreams. In my seemingly endless search for my next acquisition, I admit that I have found a few reproductions so well done, that they could easily fulfill the “dream doll” I crave, as well as enhance my collection. If, at some point, a collector happens to locate a well-done reproduction of a dream doll, at an affordable price, she can save a great deal of money while satisfying their dolly craving. Twentieth-century American doll maker Emma Clear is well-known not only for her Humpty Dumpty Doll Hospital, but also for producing excellent reproduction Parian and China Head dolls. Her dolls are desirable among collectors and can easily fetch several hundred dollars, as they are very eye-pleasing, and extremely well made. One of her employees, Neva Wade, who signed her dolls Clairmaid, also produced some wonderful reproduction dolls in the 1950′s and 1960′s. Emma Clear and Clarmaid dolls are marked on the shoulder plate with their last name and either a two- or four-digit number to identify the year the doll was made.

Emma Clear Signature, 1939

Emma Clear Signature, 1939

Clairmaid Signature, 1966

Clairmaid Signature, 1966

During the 1950s through the 1970s, many china-head dolls were made by home crafters using kits or at local ceramic shops. I admit that I made a few figurines during the late 1970′s and still have them; there was a wide variety of doll heads and limbs available but I never dabbled in those. Generally, the paintings on these are of a poor quality, and frequently there is a very fine crazing on the surface glaze, which is not seen in antique china-head dolls. Therefore their value is very low. These types of dolls are frequently seen for sale on eBay or at local sales, mislabeled as antique china-heads by those who are not knowledgeable of dolls.

China Head from kit, circa 1970

China Head kit, circa 1970

Antique Lowbrow, circa 1890

Antique Lowbrow, circa 1890

Crafter Doll, circa 1960

Crafter Doll, circa 1960

It is my personal belief that collectors should always add the best example of a doll that their budget will allow at the time. The purchase of any doll—be it antique or reproduction—should always be well thought out. This ensures that your purchase will likely hold its value and can be resold if your circumstances change allowing you to upgrade to a finer example at a later time. Collecting should always bring enjoyment, and we should only collect that which speaks to us, regardless of its age.Which type of doll collector do you believe I am? What kind of doll collector are you?

Letha Berry is a Worthologist who specializes in dolls and accessories

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22 Responses to “Reproduction or Antique? How Best to Enhance a Doll Collection”

  1. Linda Masters says:

    Great, informative, interesting article. Almost makes me wish I collected dolls! It could happen . . .

  2. Letha Berry Letha Berry says:

    Hello,

    So glad you enjoyed my article and found it informative. Dolls are representative of the time period they were made in and are a wonderful way of studying the changes in a culture. They are really almost like a time capsule. If you enjoy history then you will enjoy the study of dolls. I will warn you though that doll collecting can be a very addictive hobby.

    Letha Berry

  3. Susan Lawson says:

    Enjoyed the article very much. Wanted to clarify a point you made. If I understand what I have read and people I have talked to, Emma Clear had an employee, Clara Wade, who also made dolls and signed them Clarmaid. The C has a small w in the curve of the letter C, then the remainder of the word, Clarmaid. Clara Wade had a daughter (?) named Neva Wade Garnett, who made many wonderful reproductions also, and signed her dolls Neva. She also was a published author about painting reproduction dolls. I believe she was the daughter of Clara Wade, but am not sure. I have a Clear, a Clarmaid and a signed Neva doll.

    • Laurie Morrison says:

      You are right. Clara Wade’s daughter was Neva Wade Garnett.
      I knew both of them personally. Neva was my mom’s best friend, from teen years through the golden years. They have all passed on. My mom left me some of Neva’s beautiful dolls. Neva, was a very talented and gifted artist.

      I may be interested in selling the dolls, if there’s a market. In fact Neva’s daughter, Dona is my sister-in-law.
      She will need to help me with the information on the dolls
      I have aquired.

      Thanks for your information.

      • Laura McGuire says:

        I’m so happy to have found your comments about the Callie Lou dolls… I’ve only found 4 references on the internet. I have recently acquired 3 Callie Lou Reproductions – 2 with dates of 1973. Do you know if Neva or here daughter made more dolls than you mention here? Thanks!

      • Laura McGuire says:

        I have listed a 22″ Callie Lou French Fashion Doll with the 1973 mark on Ebay (Item #230452576642)… It only has a few days left. You might want to watch and see what it goes for! Thanks again for the stories!

  4. Jan Lee says:

    I have a question for Laurie about the Clairmaid and Neva dolls… I have one that is black or mulatto and a smiling mouth with teeth. Is this an original creation or a reproduction? Did Clara or Neva ever do doll artist original creations? Or just reproductions? By the way I have a Clarmaid Bye-lo baby that is prettier than the real ones. Thanks for your information.

    • Laurie Morrison says:

      Hi Jan,

      To answer your questions about Clarmaid (Clara Wade),and Neva dolls (Neva Wade Garnett).

      1. Clarmaid did some originals dolls. The only one I could get information on, was an original doll called Jane Erye.
      2. Clarmaid did make the black doll you have, but her grand-daughter didn’t know if it was an original too.
      There’s a doll like your’s listed on Rubylane.com
      3. Neva Garnett did make two original dolls. One was called
      Calli-Lou, she was made as a little girl, and the other original was called Tess, which was like a french fashion doll.
      4. There’s a person that studied under Neva Garnett, her name is Jan Garnett, though no relation to Neva. I hope this helps. Possibly Jubliee Mold Co. could be Jan’s business. If you can track her down, she may have more information for you.
      I hope this helps you.

      • Jan Lee says:

        Thamks Laurie! Will see what I can learn and post more if I come across more info.

      • Mary says:

        Hello, do you happen to know what year is the Neva Wade Garnett original Tess Doll? I have a french fashion doll that is marked “Original Tess Copywrite 1984 Neva W Garnett #14″. Do you know if this is an actual original made by Garnett, and how many in this series? Thank you for any help you can give me.
        -Mary

  5. Laura Bercea says:

    Hello,

    My grandmother was a neighbor and employee of Clara Wade in Paradise CA. Clara’s daughter Neva Wade Garnett was a friend of my grandmother’s as well. I remember my grandmother going to work at the “doll factory” and have several dolls that she made the bodies for. Neva was a frequent guest in my grandmother’s home. I also as a small child attended doll guild meetings with my grandmother Sarah Bush in Sacramento. Between my Mother, Aunt, and myself we own several dozen dolls, doll heads, arms, legs etc. produced under the Clarmaid mark. While we do not wish to sell them at this point we would like to insure them. Could you help us with an unofficiall valuation?

    Thanks!

  6. Jan Lee says:

    Hello Laura,
    I noticed that a marked Clairmaid doll–an FG with a leather body is for sale on ebay right now. she’s very nicely dressed with a starting bid of $399. So that could give you an idea of value. But you may want to watch that particular auction and see if anyone bids and buys it. Sometimes you have to watch over time to get an idea of value. The item number is #140393207674 If it doesn’t sell, that may indicate the price was too high.
    You’ll need to watch over a period of months to see several dolls sell to get an idea what yours are worth. Ebay is a good source of that kind of information but you’ll need to spend some time to do the research. If you don’t have complete dolls or your dolls are not nicely dressed, that has an impact on value.

    • Elaine says:

      Hi Jan: I finally found someone who has knowledge on The Humpty Dumpty Hospital, Clara Wade and Neva Wade Garnett. I purchased my 1st doll off ebay 13 years ago, she is a reproduction Tete Jumeau marked Calli Lou, finally found information on this doll looking through old Doll Readers. The information that was listed was Dolls of Distinction by Calli Lou, Paradise California. This past summer was back in Minnesota and found a N1123 (believe thats the mold #)on a body marked Humpty Dumpty Doll Hospital, also, a couple of weeks ago I found a reproduction french or german fashion doll marked Clairmaid. I guess things come in 3′s. I am so glad to find this site and people willing to share this information. I will continue to check back often. Elaine

  7. Julie says:

    Neva wade has out several books she was a skilled artisan in antique reproduction dolls, she signed them Callie Lou, some have said that was her first doll and her imaginary play mate while growing up in the Kitchen of Emma Clear (mama clear as they all called her) Her mother Clara (Wade (Clarmade dolls) worked with and for Emma clear, they did the doll constructing in the kitchen where little Neva played as they didnt hire outside babysitters. Clara also put out some of her own reproduction dolls and some more contemporary “antique style” molds like the charming black dolls which are a tribute to Leo Moss.
    Neva grew up in the same line doing fine antique reproductions , I have 3 of them all signed Callie Lou
    I also have 2 of her books. These beloved dolls are of the finest workmanship and materials of the time. Two of the dolls have real antique doll eyes and one is in a silk dress with antique silk trim. Neva was doing in the 60-70s what the finest reproductists today do usng real human hair and antique fabrics on some of her state of the art dolls. Her dolls are few and far between they do come up for resaonable prices on auction sites but in my mind they are the Bru of tomorrow because they are quite rare in actuality. never being a mass marketed doll each one hand made individually.

    • Lorita Anderson says:

      I took a seminar from Neva Wade Garnett in Paradise, Ca in the mid 1980′s. She, in my opinion, was the best reproduction doll artist ever-also a great teacher. I have a Bru that I bought from her. She also signed dolls: Neva, then the date.

  8. Sheila Miller says:

    Hello,

    I have a 1965 clarmaid doll. Does she have any value?

    Thanks,

    Sheila

  9. Sheila Miller says:

    I have a 1965 Clarmaid doll. Does she have any value?

  10. How exciting to find this information. I was working on the doll collection at the Gold Nugget Museum in Paradise today and found a doll marked Clarmaid. I remembered reading something about them in connection with Emma Clear so started an internet search as soon as I returned home. The one in the Museum collection is dated 1959, and is beautifully dressed, including the underclothing. I had the good fortune of meeting Neva Wade Garnett, but it was after she had stopped making dolls. Her husband was in poor health, and she said she had no desire left to make any more dolls. I wish that I had been living in Paradise during the heyday of doll making activities here. It’s difficult to dig out the history, and I’d love to know more. If you are from this area, and have the history, I’d love to meet and talk with you so I can put some of the info in my doll blog.

  11. Julie says:

    Neva Wade signed most of her dolls Calli Lou after the imaginary friend in the book The Dollmaker (which was her favorite book – she felt she connected with having an imaginay friend of her own)
    Clarmade dolls are made by Neva’s mother (Clara Wade) she signed them Clarmade (Clara made)
    She was trained and worked with Emma Clear with little Neva at her feet.

    Calli Lou was not just the name of a doll, I have 4 Neva dolls of different molds all marked Callie Lou and 2 have dates which were after Clara Wade was finished dollmaking.

    The black Leo Moss “looking” dolls were also made by Clara when Neva was beginnng her apprenticship.

    • Jeanette Niblett says:

      So nice to get all this info. I’d like to clear up one thing though. In an article that Neva Wade Garnett wrote for Doll Reader Magazine, June/July 1982, entitled “Three Generations of Doll Artist, Part I”, she says that “Shortly after I married and moved to New England, my mother, Clara Wade, went to work for the Humpty-Dumpty Doll Hospital in Redondo Beach, within walking distance of her home” So you can see that the myth that keeps on circulating about Neva being at her mother’s feet while Mrs. Wade trained with Emma Clear is not correct. However, Neva did learn doll making skills from her mother much later, after Clara Wade moved to Paradise, California. If you’re interested in the complete story, get your hands on Doll Reader, 1982, June/July, Aug/Sep and Oct.

      • Jan Lee says:

        Jeannette,
        I found two those wonderful articles in a stack of magazines I already had and enjoyed them immensely. Thank you so much for telling me what issues to look for! I had the June/July and October. Now I just need to find the August/September. I have several two Bru s made in 1967, one signed Clarmade and one Calli Lou. They look almost identical, just lovely girls. It was interesting to read about the challenges and struggles, including carpel tunnel syndrome, surgery, and recovery time involved that Neva experienced. This makes me appreciate my dolls so much that she and her mother created. Of course, I’ve read Neva’s book about painting French dolls, but these articles really offer a more personal insight into these remarkable women’s lives. I would love to find a doll signed by the granddaughter mentioned in the articles, and have all 3 generations represented in my collection! Does anyone know how she signed her dolls–article said her name was Donna Garnett Kizziar..maybe DGK? It would be fun to discover more. Thanks for the info!

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