Collecting Dolls: Alt, Beck and Gottschalk

An antique, late 19th century doll by Alt, Beck and Gottschalk

Collecting dolls has never been an area of interest for me – not because I don’t appreciate them but because there are other areas that fascinate me more. However, I was intrigued with this doll when a client brought it to me for evaluation. The doll had been in his family for decades- it belonged to his grandmother who received it as a gift when she was a child, and it had been a precious heirloom ever since. 

I enjoy doing research on antiques, especially in areas in which I am less familiar. I found out that most of the mid 19th century dolls made by the maker, Alt, Beck and Gottschalk, (known in the industry as ABG) had black hair and blue eyes. Those in the late 1800s had blond locks and blue eyes. The rarest dolls made by this company had brown hair and brown eyes. This is the type of information that affects value. This doll was made circa 1890.

A close up of the beautifully painted face of this doll.

There are many classifications in doll collecting. Beyond age and manufacturer, dolls are categorized by age, gender, body construction, and materials – just to name a few. This doll is classified as a ‘young lady or young adult.’ A similar example could be seen (at the time this research was done) in the Museum of Play’s website in Rochester, New York.

The doll would be described as: 14 inches in length with a muslin-stitched body, wax hands, bisque legs with painted boots. The head is china with rouged cheeks, painted eyebrows and eyelashes around blue glass eyes. The mouth is closed. The nostrils are accentuated. The hair is blond and sculpted with a painted ribbon in the curls. The ears are “pierced” with small dark bluish glass beads. 

Detail showing the painted black boots.

The two-piece costume is of a late Victorian vintage style consisting of a jacket with contrasting edging and lace on wrists. The skirt features ruching, (gathering into folds) tea-stained beige edging, and a short train. The quality of the sewing (a combination of hand sewing and machine stitching) on the garment indicates that this clothing, although era-appropriate, was not the original dress offered by the manufacturer when it was made. 

It’s amazing that the original wax hands survived because they are delicate. Obviously well treasured by the family.

Beyond originality, condition is important. So is visual appeal and this doll has both.

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