Monday, August 30, 2010

Antique Dollhouse Doll

I'm always happy to add another antique dollhouse doll to my collection. They're rather addictive, and their diminutive size makes them easily (though not cheaply!) collectible. My latest find was this 5 inch tall china head, wearing her original, and very lovely, Turkey Red embroidered dress. The tiny German-made doll dates from the late 1800s.

Her simple face painting still manages to convey a gentle, bemused expression, and her rosy cheeks make her look as if she's blushing. What is she thinking about, I wonder?

Here she is in front of her new home, a circa 1900 lithographed paper dollhouse:

She loves to cook, but she should really have an apron on over that beautiful dress!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vintage Allan Doll

Found at the same time as the mod doll case in the previous post (in fact, it was found in the mod doll case) was this vintage Allan doll, companion to Barbie's friend Midge. (I don't have a Midge, so we pretend my Allan has eloped with my Barbie instead.)

Allan was initially only made for a couple of years, from 1964-1966, but this one managed to amass quite a wardrobe in that time.

He's got swimwear (including a snorkel, mask, and fins), tennis togs and shoes, a letterman sweater, jeans, khakis, bermuda shorts, a bowling shirt, polka dotted boxers, pinstriped pajamas, and loads more. Some of my favorite pieces are shown below:

I especially like the two-tone shoes
and the stripey socks!

Allan came in his original outfit of blue swim trunks, striped beach jacket, and cork-soled sandals:

Here he models for us his color coordination skills:


Mod Doll Case & Vintage Dawn Dolls

I found this unusual mod-era doll case the other day. It's a generic case, not affiliated with any particular doll line, but it has great mod fashion illustrations on the front, all done in electric lemon yellow and hot pink.

It's the perfect home for my set of vintage Dawn dolls, made by Topper Toys from 1970-1972. The Dawn dolls were tiny, only 6 inches tall, and featured "real" eyelashes, groovy, glittery clothes, and lotsa makeup. My Dawn dolls came to me from teddy bear artist extraordinaire Peng Peng, who very kindly thought of me as she was de-stashing them (thanks, PP!)

(I suspect the second doll from the right is a special edition "streetwalker Dawn," or possibly "I've run away from home and become a go-go dancer" Dawn...)

 Here's the standard Dawn herself, in all her spangly fuschia glory:

And here's her friend, Jessica, who's a bit less flower-child-like:

For a size comparison, here are the Dawn dolls with a mod-era Barbie. It's like a scene from that old "Land of the Giants" TV show:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Toy Trading Teds

Like many collectors, I'm finding that today's economic challenges are making it more difficult to do all the buying I would like. That's why I'm so happy to discover more and more collectors, dealers, and toymakers are exploring the possibilities of toy trading.

A couple of weeks ago, Michelle Mutschler, a wonderful teddy bear artist from Canada, discovered my blog as she was searching for information on antique British teddy bears. I offered her a couple of my vintage bears, she offered me some of her handmade teds, and quick as a flash, two packages full of bears (and surprises!) were making their way through the international postal system.

My box of bliss arrived last night, with the contents beautifully wrapped.

 And look what was under all that enticing pink paper: five fantastic little bears!

 The tiniest two, in the lower left corner, are only three and a half inches tall, while the largest, in the upper right, is nine. Michelle's bears are made of vintage and aged mohair, velvet, and velveteen, and comprise a wide range of characters, from comical, carnival inspired clowns to primitives and antique-look bruins.

Here are the tiniest teds, "My Old Bear" and "Flora," unjointed itty bitty pocket bears.

 "Martha" is a dotty looking, primitive style bear made of two-tone velveteen wearing a lace doily collar.

 Martha has rather a prodigious schnoz. The other bears try not to stare, as she's rather sensitive about it.

"Grizelda", made of vintage white mohair and red velvet, reminds me of antique clown and harlequin bears.

 Such a sweet face on this one...don't you just want to kiss that nose?!

And last but not least, "Ted E."  has one of the  craziest heads I've ever seen on a bear. Just look at that profile!

 Thanks sooooooo much, Michelle, for your fab teds! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Michigan's Antique Yard Sale Trail Report: August 13, 14, & 15 2010

Last weekend, we followed the Antique Yard Sale Trail, an annual 200 mile secondhand shopping adventure along Michigan's Lake Huron, St. Clair River, and Lake St. Clair shoreline that stretches from Algonac in the south all the way around the tip of Michigan's "thumb" to Sebewaing in the north. Besides enjoying the beautiful scenery from the bluffs along the lakeshore, we saw lots and lots of amazing things for sale, including old gasoline pumps, vintage televisions, and a taxidermied alligator (the highlight of the sale, in my opinion.) And I found several treasures, of course (although I didn't buy the alligator.)

"Fumes," a taxidermied alligator smoking a pipe 
in a relaxing, and utterly unnatural position, was priced at $325.

Can't you just imagine all the decor possibilities?

A 1949 "Suitcase" Sentinel, the first portable television, 
was available for $199.

One table held a beautiful display of vintage hatboxes, shoes, and ladies' accessories, including this swanky faux leopard print head wrap and scarf. I was mightily tempted...

At the other end of the collecting spectrum, a dealer had a yard full of rusty treasures, including vintage sleds and this old Gulf gas pump:

If, for some reason, you needed a Greyhound bus sign, 
this dealer could hook you up:

And what did I buy? Something I've always wanted (who wouldn't?!): a vintage cast aluminum kiddie spring-rider animal from a playground. 

We mounted it on a piece of plywood cleverly embellished with fake grass for an authentic outdoor look. It now serves as an additional seating option in the living room.

Antique Child & Electric Eye Teddy Bear Photo

Some of my favorite non-toy collectibles are antique photos of children with playthings. They're wonderful items on their own, with the glimpse they give of history and the charm of the children, but they're even more wonderful when you discover you own a toy seen in a photo.

One of my favorite antique teddy bears is the Electric Eye Bear, a novelty item made around 1908. These large bears (21 - 24 inches tall) featured electric bulb eyes that actually lit up courtesy of a battery pack concealed in their portly tummies. They were constructed in an unusual manner, with non-jointed legs in a permanently standing position. Many were also accessorized for some reason as circus bears with collars, bells, and nose rings. I'm very fortunate to have found two such bears, one of which still retains his glass bulb eyes.

 I've seen many, many pictures of children with teddy bears (they were a very popular studio prop from the 1900s onward) but I had never seen one of these rare bears in an antique photo until I stumbled across this:

 The little girl is just adorable, and she caught my attention so much that at first I didn't even notice the bear. But when I did, I was stunned to find it's an electric eye: the profile is unmistakable. What a lucky little girl she was (and so am I!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Antique Dollhouse Toast Rack

Last week I scored an antique dollhouse miniature that I've coveted for a long time, but I could never bring myself to pay its hefty asking prices. It's a tiny toast rack, complete with four slices of toast, made in Germany by Gerlach from 1915 through the 1920s.

 My 5 inch china doll has added the toast rack to her breakfast table.

The rack is made of a soft metal and the toast is a composition-type material. It's incredibly fragile and very beautiful.

It's an irony of miniature collecting that sometimes the smallest things have the highest prices. This tiny object, only an inch and a quarter tall, usually comes with a three-figure price tag! The only examples I've seen in the two years I've been looking were priced at $135 and $110, which are typical for this piece. I resisted these offerings, firmly telling myself there was no way I was going to spend $135 on an inch tall toast rack, and am I ever glad I did, because the one I found last week was somehow unknowingly priced at only $14.99! Sometimes, the toy collecting gods smile upon us, and things like this happen...thank you, toy gods, thank you.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Coming Up Next Week...

... the greatest antique dollhouse miniature find I've made so far, along with the rarest child-with-teddy-bear photo I've ever found, as well. Yippee!

Vintage Weeble Camp-About

Another great travel-themed toy from the 1970s was the Weeble Camp-About, made by Hasbro. The Weebles were a delightful competitor to Fisher Price's Little People, roly poly egg-shaped 2 inch characters who, as their ads proclaimed, "wobble, but don't fall down."

An extensive line of Weeble playsets was produced before they, like Fisher Price's Little People, were discontinued due to choking concerns, and their popularity and relatively short production span make them highly sought today.

The Camp-About includes a truck, camper top, boat with trailer, motorcycle, picnic table, and Mr. and Mrs. Weeble.

The interior features two bunk beds and a kitchenette, all very cozy:

 Off they go, on another road trip:

(Incidentally, as a child I had an aunt who I thought looked just like the Mrs. Weeble. I thought this was a great compliment, as I perceived Mrs. Weeble as very cheery, soft, and pleasant-looking. As I gaze at her now, though, I'm glad I never mentioned this to my aunt, as I expect she would not have been flattered.) 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fisher Price Play Family A Frame House

The Fisher Price people in the previous post (1960s Nifty Station Wagon) might be traveling to this lovely vacation resort, the Play Family A Frame house, made in 1974. These kitschy structures were all the rage as holiday homes across the United States in the 1960s and '70s, and Fisher Price's 11 inch tall version is absolutely adorable. From the aqua green roof tiles to the faux-Bavarian balcony, built-in kitchen, cozy fireplace, and comfortable patio, they got all the details just right.

The roof opens to form a patio, revealing the two story rustic interior:

The patio includes a picnic table and barbecue grill, and I've added an umbrella table from a different FP set:

Inside, the built-in kitchen is done in classic '70s orange, and there's a cozy fire and braided rug (well, sticker versions, anyway):

Outside, there's a balcony and a deck on each end. You can see bunk beds through the doorway on the top floor. I've added a FP checker table and a couple of visiting cousins to the deck.

 It all looks so inviting, it makes me wish I could visit!

To see more (real-life) a frame homes and learn about their fascinating history, take a look at the book A-frame, by  architectural historian Chad Randl: