Kewpie dolls have been around for a century and still captivate serious collectors and recreational doll enthusiasts alike. The big rolling eyes, chubby stomach and pointed hair are instantly recognisable as "Kewpie" and have inspired further commemoration in the form of knick-knacks, dishes and postcards. Reproductions make it challenging to determine the authenticity of your kewpie doll, and the copyright logo will not guarantee that your kewpie is an original. However, look for clues as to the true vintage nature of your kewpie in a few distinguishing guide points.
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See what material your doll is made from. Chances are you can tell what general era a kewpie doll was made in by what it is made of. The earliest Kewpies, assembled in Germany circa 1911, were made of bisque, which was a popular material used for dolls at the time. Because of its fragility bisque was later replaced by celluloid composition, plastic or vinyl. For a true vintage kewpie doll, and one that is highly sought-after by doll collectors and kewpie enthusiasts, look for the bisque or unglazed pottery that characterised the original manufactured kewpie doll. Celluloid is also an early material although it could be indicative of a knock-off.
Check for wings and colour of wings. The presence or absence of wings may not be a telltale sign, however the colouration of the wings could hint at when the kewpie doll was produced. If the wings are blue, it is likely to be an antique kewpie, whereas nude wings are more typical of later vinyl kewpie dolls.
Determine who the manufacturer is. This cannot always be possible since earlier toy manufacturers did not print their names on their dolls as contemporary dollmakers do. However, if you know the manufacturer you can roughly estimate the time period in which the doll was produced. The original collaborating sculptor of the kewpie doll founded his own doll company in 1925 and received merchandising rights to the kewpie upon the death of the doll's creator, Rose O'Neill. Upon his retirement in 1969, rights then passed to Strombecker, followed by Milton Bradley and more recently, Jesco. Each of these companies developed their own version of the kewpie.
Look for special markings, signatures and costumes. Antique or early kewpie dolls will bear any of the following marks: the artist Rose O'Neill's signature or name printed on it, a "Made in Germany" emblem, a red and gold paper heart on its chest or a round label found at its back. Single out kewpie dolls in costumes, for those are likely to date from an earlier time and be valuable to collectors.
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