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Fresh and beautiful, the dolls came out to play at Morphy's $480,000 auction
Early Steiff mohair teddy bear, honey color, 12 inches, $4,800. Morphy Auctions image.

DENVER, PA.- It was a beauty contest and a price war – that’s how some might have described the setting at Morphy Auctions’ Dec. 4, 2012 Dolls sale, which took in $480,000, inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium. Approximately 1,000 fine antique and collectible dolls lined up alongside a small selection of teddy bears, doll clothing and accessories apportioned into 681 lots. Nearly all found new homes.

The star lot of the day, a stunning 23-inch French bisque bebe doll took the longest post-sale journey of any of the dolls in the sale, having been purchased by a collector in Japan. Incised “Eden Bebe Paris 9” and dressed in an attractively detailed green and cream dress, the doll also sported white leather gloves and a jaunty apricot straw hat with green ribbon. Against an estimate of $1,200-$1,600, the doll rose to the top of prices realized with a winning bid of $18,000.

Following closely behind the French bebe was a doll of quite a different type, but no less charming – a “Maggie Bessie” all-cloth doll manufactured by Maggie and Bessie Pfohl of Salem, N.C. Its delicately painted hair and facial features rendered a distinctly three-dimensional effect, and its desirability was enhanced by the doll’s original clothing – a light-blue day dress, lace-trimmed bonnet and ribbon-tie shoes. The 13-inch American beauty realized an above-estimate auction price of $16,800 and sold to a buyer local to Morphy Auctions.

Another American cloth doll that kept bidding paddles airborne was a 24-inch design by Izannah Walker of Central Falls, Rhode Island. Featuring a molded head and brown painted “hair” with Walker’s trademark corkscrew side curls, the blue-eyed girl doll was attired in a period aqua wool dress that appeared to be original. An antique painted-wood horse on wheeled platform accompanied the doll to suggest a pose that might have been seen in a 19th-century primitive painting of a girl and her favorite toy. Estimated at $8,000-$10,000, the Walker doll was right on target at $9,600.

Designed by the distinguished French doll maker Bru, a 15-inch bisque Circle and Crescent Bru Jne 4 with pensive expression was presented in an exquisite cream satin dress, bonnet and original shoes. It was bid to $10,800. Another French bisque highlight was the circa-1885 Jules Steiner 12-inch bebe, extremely rare Series E doll dressed in a couture ensemble with vivid maroon-satin ribbons and ruffles. The final selling price for the Steiner was $7,800.

Other top-10 lots included a 1969 20-inch Sasha (Morgenthaler) studio doll, $5,100; a 14-inch French bisque bebe doll stamped ‘Depose Tete Jumeau Bte SGDG 5,’ $5,400; and an early Steiff 12-inch honey-color mohair teddy bear, $4,800 against an estimate of $1,200-$1,500.

Dan Morphy, CEO of Morphy Auctions, described the bidding activity as being “a nice chemistry with a very strong Internet presence.”

“We had a lot of new buyers at the gallery for the December 4th sale,” Morphy observed. “One man came in from Philadelphia with his wife, who had just moved here from Russia – just the nicest people in the world. She didn’t speak a word of English, but her husband told us she had always followed Morphy’s sales. I was very pleased to see that she had been successful in buying several nice dolls.”

According to Morphy, the excellent turnout for the sale was largely attributable to the fact that the dolls offered were very fresh and had not been seen in the marketplace since the 1960s or ’70s. “People get excited about that, no matter what the category,” Morphy said. “When those fresh collections come out, so do the buyers.”

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