Kewpie dolls are bisque dolls based on the Kewpie characters created by the American illustrator Rose O'Neil.
Origins and history
The characters first appeared in 1909, in illustrations for the magazine 'Ladies' Home Journal'. The illustrations, which resembled early comic strips, were drawn and written by Rose O'Neill who had been inspired by the Cupids she drew whilst illustrating love stories for the magazine.
The characters went on to appear in both the Woman’s Home Companion and Good Housekeeping for the next 25 years, and the first paper Kewpie dolls appeared in Woman’s Home Companion in 1912. They were hugely popular, and the characters were trademarked a year later in 1913.
The first bique dolls were manufactuered by the German company J. D. Kestner Co. in 1913, and a wave of merchandise including books, cups, plates and novelty items followed. Although the enormous popularity of the characters began to fade twoards the later years of the 1920s, the characters continue to appear on a range of items to this day.
Collecting Kewpie dolls
Original antique Kewpie dolls are now highly collectible, with the best and rarest examples selling for thousands of dollars. However, there were a large number of fake dolls made as far back as the 1920s, so even old dolls will not always be genuine.
Genuine dolls were produced by manufactureres such as Kestner, Cameo, Jesco, Krueger and King, and will have the name of Rosie O’Neil engraved upon their right foot. They will also have red and gold hearts upon their chests. Kewpie dolls based on original designs are still produced in bisque today, but these will feel smooth to the touch whereas the bisque of the early 20th century will have a far rougher texture.
The best advice for people looking to collect Kewpie dolls is to become a member of one of the many collectors clubs and societies around the world. These organizations can offer information on starting a collecting, along with advice on how to spot fakes and modern reproductions.
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