Porcelain Dolls

The hype surrounding porcelain dolls is seen everywhere from classic literature to modern horror films.  Every little girl has looked with shining eyes at a pretty little porcelain doll at one point or another, admiring her perfect curling locks and dress stitched with care.  Produced since 18th century, thousands of porcelain dolls are manufactured yearly today.  Where did this fascination begin?

The first porcelain dolls, china dolls were manufactured predominantly in Germany starting in 1840.  They were made of white glazed porcelain with hand-painted features, stockings or boots and molded hair.  Often, these “old-fashioned” dolls were made to look like women, rather than children, with a body of cloth or leather and porcelain extremities.  Produced in large quantities reaching into the millions, these china dolls were soon replicated in America and China.  These original dolls differ from successors in their characteristic glossy appearance.


Soon to follow, parian dolls gained popularity with their unglazed porcelain faces and inset glass eyes from the 1850’s onward.  As the porcelain doll developed through World War I, they took on more complicated features and were given goat or human hair atop their porcelain heads.  As their reputation grew, every young affluent girl wanted one, necessitating industrial manufacturing of clothing and accessories for these fashion dolls.  Sometimes, Paris companies such as Jumeau and Bru would design the bodies while German companies manufactured heads.


A large shift in the industry and intended audience occurred as dolls were created to represent children, rather than grown-ups.  By the late 19th century, child-like figures overtook the market.  The most notable of these porcelain dolls were French bebes which grew in popularity between the 1860’s and 1880’s.  Made of the highest quality material and with great skill, these dolls weren’t produced for long before cheaper German imitations drove French bebes to a lesser quality and production cost.  The original bebes dolls are worth thousands of dollars on the collector’s market today.

With lower prices and increased production, porcelain dolls found their way into children’s hearts across the world.  Smaller unarticulated bisque dolls called penny dolls were popular into the early 1930’s when the United States began production.  Up until this point, porcelain dolls were viewed as toys rather than as collectables.  Artists such as Emma Clear first envisioned the porcelain doll as an elaborate and delicate collectable as hobbyist reproduction began in the United States.  By 1980 the hobby grew to include Europe, Australia and Great Britain and was of such great interest that large scale seminars were held by companies such as Seely’s and Wandke.  Many of these original dolls were created for an adult collector’s market.


Because so many variations of porcelain dolls have been in circulation, their value is contingent upon time period, location, material, manufacturer, quality and condition.  The most expensive doll ever sold was a rare and unique Kammer & Reinhardt bisque doll that sold for the hefty price of $373,417.  Desirable characteristics for collectors include consistent tone and slight translucency, artist craftsmanship, attention to detail and articulated bodies with wooden joints.  Most 1860-1890 fashion dolls go for at least $2,000 and can easily be worth more than $20,000 if from a well-known source such as Bru and Huret, while later, cheaper dolls might be worth only a few hundred dollars.

No matter the price, these fragile little ladies have always engendered wondrous fascination.  Still produced in large quantities today in China, they’re here to stay for little girls and collectors worldwide.

Vintage Treasures Into Modern Novelties | Glass Insulators

It takes a special kind of person to turn old thrown away items into beautiful and useful keepsakes; someone with an eye for design, with the capacity for creativity and the drive to innovate something unique and lasting.  I am not this person, but looking around the Stamp & Coin Etc. shop, my mind begins to turn with ideas about refurbishing hundreds of items I don’t even know the names of.  Customers come in to the shop searching for their next creative project in objects long forgotten.
With the gleam in eyes that see endless possibilities, they tell me all about how excited they are to upcycle and recreate.

Image by Napa Style

Image by Napa Style

With all of the pressure towards consumerism in America, there’s something truly desirable about creating modern treasures from the past.  Refurbishing is affordable and eco-friendly; ultimately adding a wistful charm of an untouchable period of time in your home – if you have the knack for it.

An item that we have a ton of are glass insulators.  They are lovely little glass caps that range in shades of blue, green, orange, purple and clear among several hues.  Seemingly useless nowadays, it turns out vintage insulators make a charming, functional array of goods today.  This out of date technology, with a little creativity and care becomes a habitat for small plants, a chandelier or a coat rack.  The only limitation is imagination.



by Mark Kintzel

by Mark Kintzel

At about three dollars a piece at our store, glass insulators are a great way to add a bit of history to your home.  The oldest insulators pre-date the Civil War and thus are a prized collectible today.  Like several other collectible items, various styles were produced, some in more limited quantities, making them rarer and consequently more valuable.  Subtle nuances in style and appearance differentiate glass insulators by date, location and manufacturer.

With Pinterest as my guide, I’m going to create hanging candles with my insulators.  What will you do with yours?

Collecting Vintage Hatpins

As some of the more obscure and intricate types of jewelry, hat pins have been all but lost in the memory of fashion.

Hats in history weren’t always made with practicality in mind. Many hats did not stick to their wearers’ heads without help. This is where hatpins came in.

Hatpins were invented in the 1850’s to pin down straw hats, and reached their popularity peak between the 1890’s and 1920’s. The stems of the pins reached as long as 12 inches at one point.

Hatpins are beauties of their own. Tiny, detailed ornaments on the end of the pins like flowers, leaves or jewels decorate the hatpins. They started out with simple designs and became more detailed over time. The most common was a black or white bead on a pin, a basic design that went with everything.

If you collect hatpins, it’s important to keep an eye out for fakes. Sellers will pass pins that are not genuine off as vintage or antique.


Types of fake hatpins include (source):

Fantasies – hatpin styles that don’t come from any particular period, but are sold as if they are authentic historical pieces.

Reproductions – hatpins that resemble pins from a specific period, but are actually brand new.

Marriages – A melding of new and old, where either the stem or the top is an old piece combined with new.

If you’re wondering about a hatpin, check one of the best sources, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders by Lillian Baker.


Antique Keys and Locks

Locks and keys have always been precious tools. They not only have a practical use to them, but also a certain symbolism and mythology. We use them every day and if we temporarily lose them we have a minor panic attack. They’re so much more than everyday objects: they give us security.

Historically, the more keys you own, the more property you own and the more wealth you have, symbolizing a higher social status.


These are just a sampling of the practices surrounding keys and locks:

  • In Viking culture, women received keys as wedding presents after they were married, and they wore them on the outside of their clothes to indicate their status.
  • The bows on keys (that top part with the design, more prominent when considering antique keys) often took the shape of religious symbols like crosses and trefoils around the Middle Ages when superstition ran rampant.
  • Europeans at the time of the Middle Ages believed that iron had the power to ward off evil and demonic spirits. These malevolent beings would get into buildings through keyholes as well as other openings, so many door pieces featured iron dragon heads to scare the spirits away. Blacksmiths even set two pairs of tongs in the shape of a cross to protect their forge when they left work for the day.
  • Superstition said to never put keys on a table because that would lead to chaos and disagreement.SONY DSC

In 1848, American Linus Yale and son created the cylinder lock (or pin tumbler lock) that we still use today. The key for this lock operates the pins inside the lock, setting them at the right intervals to turn the cylinder and unlock the lock.

When it comes to collecting keys, you can recognize the era and sometimes the country of creation by the key’s design. An antique key has three parts: the bow (the part you hold and turn), the bit (the lock) and the shank (the long part of the key).

Keys also make great, cheap home decorations for those who like to use vintage decorations in home décor.

Do you own any antique keys or locks?