German Bisque Doll

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Unglazed bisque dolls were the most prevalent type of doll made in Germany during the 1800s and early 1900s. German dolls were lifelike, made of quality materials, and reasonably priced.

Firms that produced bisque dolls in Germany included Armand Marseille, Simon and Halbig, Kammer and Reinhardt, Heubach and Kestner among other firms. These less expensive yet equally attractive dolls from Germany satisfied a growing market in the late 1800s for childhood toys. German dolls were not as elegant or fancy as French porcelain dolls nor were they in the form of adults but rather, these German dolls took on the likeness of children, toddlers, and even babies.

When it comes to German bisque dolls which are the most common types of china dolls, the firm established by Armand Marseille in Germany had a strong foothold on the market. The German bisque doll manufacturer established his company in 1885. The firm was located in the Thuringia region which hosted many pottery firms because of the natural deposits of clay found there. From 1900 to 1930, Marseille’s factory was the largest supplier of dolls’ heads in Europe and today these dolls continue to appear on the antiques market.

Most German bisque doll heads had painted faces (eyebrows, lips, rosy cheeks, etc.), glass eyes and formed teeth. One of the most popular Armand Marseille dolls are from the company’s Dream Babies line of dolls with the mold number 341 found on the back of the doll’s neck.

What to Look For

Doll mold number markHowever, the most common Armand Marseille dolls were those that derived from the 390 series of dolls. Marks for these popular German dolls are found on the back of the doll’s head near the neck along with the AM logo and country of origin by law, that is Germany.

Identifying a German bisque doll is easy as the mark reads the name of the firm, “Armand Marseille” and “Germany” with a mold number indicating which mold was used to form the doll’s pottery bisque head.

When it comes to evaluating the market value for German bisque dolls, condition is a highly significant attribute. Any damage to the bisque head, inclusions on the composition matter body or loss of a wig negatively impacts value. German bisque dolls are often cherished collectibles and handed down from generation to generation. These high quality, well made dolls will hold their value over time. Keep the dolls out of direct sunlight and free of dust or dirt.

Get an online appraisal of your German doll from Dr. Lori.