Talk about collectible dolls, and you arguably can’t keep Kewpie dolls out of the conversation. Made since 1912, Kewpie dolls are well celebrated among antique doll enthusiasts. But then, if you own one, you must have pondered if Kewpie dolls are yet worth anything.
Yes, Kewpie dolls are still valuable, although the value varies depending on the design and condition. Kewpie dolls in action like The Lawyers Kewpies can cost over $500, while those in classic standing pose can be valued as low as $10. Aside from the posturing, Kewpie dolls with original paper labels command a higher value. The doll’s condition also determines its value. Hence those whose paint and bisque are yet in unaltered condition sell higher.
Due diligence demands that before we dive fully into the evaluation of Kewpie dolls, we at least learn a bit about how the dolls came about. How did these dolls come to have such rich historical appeal?
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What really are Kewpie dolls?
Rose O’ Neil designed the first set of Kewpie dolls in the early 1900s. Manufacturing started in 1912 with the first models of Kewpie dolls borrowing their design inspiration from comic strip characters Rose O’Neil drew.
These characters were baby adaptations of Cupid, the famous god of love. This further explains why the word “Kewpie” is a fun and cheeky lingual variant of Cupid.
The design procedure has changed over time. At first, bisque material was prevalently used in manufacturing those dolls.
Composition, herein a mix of resins and sawdust, later became commonly used in producing Kewpie dolls. Composition – as the material of choice – was succeeded respectively by celluloid and soft vinyl.
What determines the value of Kewpie dolls?
The earliest models – especially those made from bisque and signed by Rose O’ Neil – are yet coveted for their rarity. If you have one of such Kewpies, particularly one in molded clothing whose condition is yet excellent, you can expect to auction that for at least $1000.
Later variations of Kewpie dolls made from composition, celluloid, and soft vinyl are not highly valued as the earliest bisque models.
But aside from the material makeup and the original paper label, other factors that determine the value of your Kewpie dolls are the doll’s posture, bisque, and paint condition.
Kewpie dolls in classic standing pose (in no action) are valued less than those in motion. In the collectible market, you can rarely get a Kewpie doll in action for less than $125. However, those in standing pose can be acquired for as low as $10-$25.
Having established this, let us move on to examine some of the most (and least) valuable Kewpie dolls in circulation today.
Which are the most valued Kewpie dolls?
Antique Kewpie with Broom and Dustbin
These Kewpie dolls are yet a favorite of doll collectors. This doll comes with the traditional baby Cupid character but this time further enhanced with a broom and a dustbin.
For an “in-action” Kewpie doll (as it appears to be in sweeping action) like this in yet perfect condition with the original label yet intact, you can expect such a doll to be valued north of $400.
The Lawyers Kewpies
This is one of the most famous Kewpie dolls in the early bisque category. It is a bit bigger than the traditional Kewpie doll, coming at the height of 3.5 inches.
Featuring two Kewpies reading, the Lawyers was one of the earliest Kewpie models emanating from Borgfeldt manufacturers. This Kewpie doll – if in perfect shape – is valued above $500.
Talk about a moving demonstration of affection, and the Kewpie Huggers come to mind. These dolls – originally by Rose O’Neil – are detailed as they lock each other in an endearing embrace.
Enhanced with their characteristic blue wings and golden top knots, the Kewpie Huggers were darlings of doll lovers back in the twentieth century. If the original labels are still in place and the bisque condition has not deteriorated, this Kewpie doll can be exchanged for up to $300.
What are the least valued Kewpie dolls?
Not all Kewpie dolls are that eminently valued today. Kewpie dolls made from soft vinyl are not as coveted as those original porcelain versions.
Latter-days Kewpies (typically those made around the ’70s) from manufacturers like Charisma Dolls didn’t fully integrate the historical appeal of the original ones designed by Rose O’Neil.
Variants like “Just Like Mommy” produced by Charisma Dolls, can go for $29.95. The Vinyl Kewpie, Made in Hong Kong Circa 1970s, exchanges for around $10.
How can you preserve the value of your Kewpie doll?
Indeed, there is much you can do to preserve the value of your Kewpie doll. This has to do with how diligently you maintain your Kewpie doll.
Remember, the bulk of Kewpie doll purchases are inspired by artistic appreciation. Therefore, if your Kewpie doesn’t look good in the eye – as seen in dolls whose bisque and paint condition, as well as original paper label conditions, have degraded – you can’t expect it to be valued much.
So what can you do to enhance the value of your Kewpies?
First things first, you have to keep the dust and dirt off. Few things turn buyers off at an auction or yard sale than a dirty Kewpie doll.
Before displaying your Kewpie doll- say in open shelves – spare the effort to dust it thoroughly. Periodically, your Kewpie doll should be washed.
Dish detergents – or mild soap – would do with a clean washcloth. We seriously discourage the use of chlorine bleaches when washing your Kewpie dolls.
We have been inundated where doll owners inadvertently emblazoned permanent marks on their Kewpie’s cheeks. This was done by cleaning such dolls with abrasives. Unavoidably, such cheek marks wreaked dramatic damage to the value of the dolls.
If your Kewpie has porcelain components (and is aging), avoid having to rub excessively on the doll to remove stains.
This commonly hurts the finish. Such stains can be eliminated with cleaning by gentle cleaning with a soft, damp cloth.
Mold and mildew will deteriorate the condition of your Kewpie faster than you anticipate. This is why breathability is a large part of preserving Kewpie dolls.
Therefore, don’t keep your dolls in airtight plastic containers. You are better served by keeping your Kewpie in closed cabinets in cool sections of your home.
The lighting is critical. Unmitigated exposure to the sunlight would damage the hue of your doll, causing its components to fade in no time. And if your Kewpie is made from vinyl, directly exposing your Kewpie to florescent lights can cause them to develop a greenish hue. This will reduce its value.