Hard plastic, vinyl, and rubber dolls. You probably had one and if you are a doll collector, have several. These substances which in part come from plant resins and other combined substances have proved to be the most versatile in creating beautiful and durable dolls that are nearly immortal. They can’t be melted like wax dolls, dented like metal dolls, scuffed like wooden dolls or broken like porcelain dolls. They won’t deteriorate as easily as a doll of cloth or plant materials might. Even fragile early rubber, if cared for properly will last decades.
The earliest rubber dolls seem to be the rubber heads, c. 1860. Some of these have been associated with Charles Goodyear. Artist Ruth Newton created rubber dolls for the Sun Rubber Company, including baby Amosandra from the Amos and Andy show. Sun Rubber also made Gerber babies and one piece dolls with speak mechanisms. These will deteriorate, but in the right temperatures, can last indefinitely. Magic Skin dolls by Ideal and other companies had hard plastic heads and latex bodies that were meant to feel more like human skin. The trouble was that they later turned dark brown, and sometimes, even dried up and cracked. If cared for, however, some of these dolls remain in mint condition today.
After World War II; production of plastics really stepped up. Hard plastic began to replace bisque and glazed china for items like holiday ornaments, Christmas figures, and dolls, especially small dolls like the Frozen Charlotte types. It also began to replace the fragile and flammable celluloid in many instances.
Admiration’s Carole Sue is featured by Michele’s Antique Dolls. This little doll is made in Hong Kong, c. 1958, with her original green, checked skirt and coordinating blouse. She is 7 inches high and has molded-painted white shoes. Carole Sue is part of a time-honored family of 7 and 8 inch hard plastic dolls from the late 40s, 50s, and 60s that include Ginny, Muffie, Ginger, 8 inch Alexanders, Sandra Sue, and much more.
Patti Playpal and companion dolls like them made by various companies have a devoted following to this day. By the late 50s and early 60s, Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls were made in hard plastic, along with Hollywood Dolls and other competitors, including the 7.5 inch “Dress Me” dolls used by Carlson Dolls and Molleye Goldman.
Ideal reissued Shirley Temple as a vinyl doll during the 50s, and again during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Many beautiful early vinyl dolls from Vogue and Effanbee abound, and these are in great shape. They include Royal Dolls in elaborate costumes, Effanbee’s Miss Chips and various other character and historical series, Vogue’s Ginette and Miss Ginny, Dollikins by Uneeda, Ideal’s Tammy, Remco’s Heidi and Friends, The Little Chap Family, G.I. Joe, Barbie, Tressy, Goetz Sasha and more. Large vinyl babies of the early 60s with speak mechanisms often doubled as store mannikins.
Drink and wet dolls of the early 60s were popular everywhere and carried by Woolworth’s, Kresge’s, Newberry’s, and other now defunct dime stores. Ginny was soon made in vinyl, and Furga and other European doll companies soon made lovely dolls for sale by Sears, King Norman Toys, Magic Kingdom, and other toy stores. Alexander created Elise, Grandma Jane, the 14 inch First Ladies, Little Women, Scarlett, and other favorite dolls in vinyl. These are now vintage, sought-after collector’s items.
Dolls of these various types of plastics became popular “forever” after Pat Smith began writing her Modern Collector’s Dolls series. Some collectors like to specialize in one company like Horsman or Effanbee, while others mix it up. No matter how you collect, plastic, vinyl, and rubber dolls are here to stay.
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