Published: April 22, 2003
Dolls…and more Dolls
By Tom O’Hara
WEST SPRINGFIELD, MASS. – The first weekend in April was one of the largest gatherings of small, inanimate people, even in West Springfield. Well people, not exactly. It was a gathering of more than 200 collector-dealers of dolls.
People dolls, baby dolls, animal dolls, cartoon dolls, stuffed dolls, china, porcelain and bisque dolls, you name it, it was probably there. Officially the 36th semiannual Eastern State Doll, Toy and Teddy Bear Show and Sale was produced at the Eastern States Exposition Better Living Center.
Founded by Dick Robbins about 23 years ago and now owned and operated by Newman Chittenden and Martin Fasack, the event is the largest doll, toy and teddy bear show in the East. Its emphasis is clearly dolls with about 75 percent of the collector-dealers exhibiting all kinds, from modern Barbie and Ken and GI Joe to some early homemade rag dolls about 200 years old. Doll paraphernalia was also exhibited and for sale. Toys for dolls, dollhouse furniture and exotic dresses and gowns, most from earlier periods, were available.
Some specifics. Nancy Stronczek is an antiques and dolls dealer from nearby Greenfield, Mass. At this show her offerings included some Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls and a collection of three Nineteenth Century Black Heritage rag dolls. Rag dolls were made usually as a gift to a child out of remnants of fabrics and stuffed for form. Not usually of large size, Nancy’s were each about 15 inches tall, depicted black Americans and were in excellent condition aside from some foxing, showing on some of the fabric. Each was priced from about $950. A manufactured Horsman babyland rag doll with a painted face was $875 in her booth.
Beth Snyder, Bethany, Conn., is a doll and toy dealer and also shows some Christmas rdf_Descriptions. To this show she brought some of everything but among the most notable rdf_Descriptions were a chanticleer doll, circa 1912, in the original court jester outfit ($625) and two Steiff rdf_Descriptions, a parrot for $625 and frog at $85, both from the 1950s.
Puss-n-Boots came to the show in Deborah Fratino’s booth. Made about 1900, his condition was so good it seemed he never played much, but that is part of why he was worth $850. Accompanying him to the show was a black beauty sunbather in an African hairstyle, made of ebony-like material and priced at $8,500. Fratino believed she was from the early Twentieth Century.
Details in dollhouse furniture can be very fine indeed. Fratino had quite a few pieces, all no bigger than a matchbook but the beds had patterned coverlets and rope strung frames and commodes with laurel wreaths and knobs on the doors, all in excellent condition.
Unique Gallery is something of a specialist in the doll field, dealing in vintage dolls clothing. The outfits were originally made for baby-sized dolls and smaller, of linen, silk and lace and now are worth from about $100 to $300 each.
A different kind of toy was the barn and barnyard complete with accessories offered by Patricia Vaillancourt from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. She also offered some of the most valuable dolls at the show including a Toddler at $5,800; a 1907 Jumeau for $2,800 and a French type Belton for $3,300.
The Doll Shop, Seekonk, Mass., brought an Effanbee Patsy with steamer trunk. Golliwogs, a type of black American doll, came with Shelley Smith from Bethlehem, Conn. Raggedy Ann came with many escorts, but Eagle Trading Co., Berkley, Mass., brought many of her in different outfits. A teddy bear came in a vintage wedding dress, courtesy of China Cupboard, Marion, Ohio. Dolls from around the world were shown by several collector-dealers including Moira Hatton of Stafford Springs, Conn., and Carol at Priscilla’s Toys, Floral Park, N.Y.
Susan Walter, Montpelier, Vt., had a Steiff bulldog named “Bully.” At about 15 inches tall, he was in excellent condition and had a collar with ten Steiff buttons on it. Usually a Steiff piece will only have two such buttons, in the ears, reinforcing them to the head. Walter said she has received offers for the collar alone, but it will remain with “Bully,” for $4,000. Walter’s collection included a child’s riding stuffed donkey, circa 1948, and other toys included a Nancy McGlamer store, circa 1910, either French on German. Suzie’s Dolls, Willoughby, Ohio, had a case full of infant’s toys from about 1920 through the 60s.
The show gets great support from collectors. It is not strictly a local affair. An ice storm on Saturday morning adversely affected the number of visitors, but the diehards still came. Newman Chittenden said after the show that most dealers had done enough business to satisfy their needs.
The event is at the same place twice each year with the next event on November 1-2. For more information, contact the Maven Co. Inc, 914-248-4646.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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