Texas City antiques shop owner comes across a rare German doll
Sometimes, baby dolls aren’t meant to be played with because they’re special, fragile, collectible and expensive.
Scott Koenning of Rainwater Trading Co., 411 6th St. N. in Texas City, recently purchased at auction a blond-haired Schoenau & Hoffmeister bisque doll, made in Germany in the early 1900s.
The bisque, or china head, is attached to a body with moveable ball joints at the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and hips. The head and neck fit into a socket, which allow the head to move in a fairly realistic fashion. Handmade in Burggrub, Germany, some of the dolls have names, but also are identified by other marks on them.
Most of the bodies are the same, but the faces differ. And the face on this one is memorable. She has a dimpled chin and expressive features, with four porcelain teeth, feathered eye lashes, blushing pink cheeks and shaded lips. Her deep blue eyes close when she’s horizontal, but are communicative when open.
The doll is dressed in a long, ornate sage-colored outfit, which is lined with hand-beaded lace. She has lacy pantaloons and knee-high socks. Her leather shoes are buckled at the top.
Her long blond wig, made of mohair, can be combed, styled or curled with a curling iron and bobbie pins.
Koenning has been able to trace the doll back to the early 20th century, when it belonged to Charlotte Jean Smith of Belton, Texas. She gave it to her daughter, Lydia Smith Taylor, who sent it to the Youngblood Doll Hospital in Arlington, Texas, in 1961 for an overhaul. The doll’s joints were replaced, according to a detailed letter from the doll hospital, explaining all the steps taken to repair and restring it.
Koenning has other German dolls and disassembled parts. By looking at the intricate parts, it’s understandable why these dolls command such high prices. The complex structure of the moveable joints make them lifelike. But there’s a limited market for these dolls and an even more limited supply. This rare one with its provenance sells for $550, but that includes the letter from the hospital and photos of the original owners.