The Curious Collector: Readers Get Answers on Porcelain Dolls

(This article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of DOLLS magazine)

Dubbed “Agnes,” this bisque doll is was made by Carl Knox factory in the Czech Republic.

Carl Knoll Bisque

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could help identify my doll. She belonged to my grandmother, who received her as a gift from her grandmother in 1906 when she was 10 years old. “Agnes,” named in honor of grandmother, is 36 inches tall.

ANSWER: Your delightful antique doll with bisque head is marked with the entwined “C” and “K” of the Carl Knoll porcelain factory, located in Carlsbad in what was formerly Bohemia and is now the town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.

The Knoll factory was founded in 1844 and stayed in business for more than 100 years. It produced luxury dishes and fancy goods such as figurines, vases and other porcelain objects, in addition to some doll heads.

According to Jurgen Cieslik’s “German Doll Encyclopedia,” the region around Carlsbad had 39 porcelain factories in 1900. It was well suited to the porcelain manufacture because of the abundance of raw materials, particularly fine kaolin that was needed to make high-quality bisque.

The intertwided “C” and “K” indicate the Carl Knox porcelain factory, and the “1906” is likely the mold number, not the date.

The Knoll factory also sold porcelain slip to German doll makers, possibly including the J.D. Kestner factory in Ohrdruf. 

The “1906” on your doll’s head is likely the mold number rather than the date, though sometimes a mold number corresponds with the date it was first designed.

Your doll has a beautiful face with lovely painting detail, including multi-stroked eyebrows and lip accenting strokes. Just looking at her, it is easy to see the high quality of the Carlsbad porcelain. Also, she is a wonderful large size and makes an impressive statement. You are so fortunate to have such a remarkable family heirloom!

Japanese and German Dolls

QUESTION: These two dolls belonged to my great-grandmother. The baby doll is 10 inches tall and is marked on the back of the head “Nippa” with a backwards “N” and “M” inside a clover-like shape. The larger doll is 17 inches tall and is marked “Annand Marspille Germanic.” I would appreciate anything you can tell me about them.

ANSWERS: Your baby doll has a bisque head with a composition body. It dates from 1917 to 1921 and was made in Japan.

These two dolls come from both ends of the world. The baby doll hails from Japan, while the girl doll was made in Germany.

What you are reading as “Nippa” is actually “Nippon,” the Japanese word for Japan. It was used on imports until 1921, when the United States required that the word “Japan” be used instead.

The “M” mark is likely that of Morimura Brothers, the largest exporter and producer of Nippon dolls. Its business expanded greatly because of the First World War, when imports of bisque-head dolls from Germany ceased and doll sellers were forced to seek an alternate source. Japanese manufacturers stepped in to fill the void.
Although some Nippon dolls were very good quality, they usually were not as nice as the German dolls.

To restore him, he looks as though he just needs cleaning, restringing and possibly replacing the mohair wig.

Value would be about $40 to $50 if the head is perfect, with no cracks, chips or repairs.

Your girl doll was made by the doll factory of Armand Marseille in Koppelsdorf, Germany. It’s often hard to read the incised letters correctly if you’re not familiar with the names and the script, but you were quite close.

Marseille was the largest manufacturer of bisque-head dolls in the world from 1900 until 1930. His porcelain factory produced heads not only for his own dolls but also for a large number of other German doll factories and jobbers or assemblers.

Your doll probably was made just before the start of World War I, in about 1914. She has a bisque shoulder head on a leather or imitation-leather body with rivet joints, composition lower arms and cloth lower legs. She was a “value priced” doll and was widely sold through catalogs such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward.

Her body seems to be in very nice condition, and her face just needs to be cleaned and perhaps her hair combed.

Her value would be $65 to $75 without clothing if her head is perfect, with no cracks, chips or repairs. How lucky you are to have these two dolls as part of your family heritage.

A. Glenn Mandeville has written several books about collectible dolls. Send your queries about vintage and modern dolls with photos to or Curious Collector, c/o DOLLS, P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000.

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