If you like something you really go through anything to get that one special item.
Most recently, I became fascinated by the Lenci all felt Italian dolls. After doing internet research to learn about the nuances of the different faces and the nuances of each years designs, I chose one doll that I liked.
No one here in Knoxville really knew anything about the dolls, and kept referring me to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg doll shops, of which there ere few.
After many, many phone calls, I was led on a wild goose chase to Knoxville by someone that said that they had Lencis for sale. I was excited to the prospect of peeking and seeing how they were made and finally clutching one. A piece of advice, never believe it, you want pictures before you schlep all around town to make sure what they say they have, the really do have, because they may not.
I visited the antique shops and auction houses, as each one said they had felt dolls. Some simply really did not have any, but every antique shop and auction house I went to admitted that they do not as a norm, take in dolls. One proprietor admitted they don’t know what is real what is not, what has value and what does not. To them it is a catch as catch can, If someone is willing to pay a price it must be a good buy or an antique. What I did notice is that many antique dealers go by how the doll is dressed. They will also do a cursory image search and if it looks like a doll in a doll book, it must be that doll. but they are not textile experts and often polyester and nylon lace fool many an auctioneer and poorly painted faces can fool the uneducated.
This too can fool a Lenci collector.
At some of the antique malls you can see all felt dolls in glass cases. Locally none with identifying marks, though the price tags can fool you into thinking it’s a Chad Valley, Lenci, and the other doll names.
What I did see was a number of felt dolls with crudely hand painted features and plastic joints. Yes they were all felt, but not antique, not Lenci or any of the other designers of the late 19th early 20th Century. From my trials here is what you should do when trying to track down a Lenci or other all felt antique dolls.
When choosing an all felt moderb version from the actual time period the dolls you will have to look for a few things.
Look for thick felt in what were crisp but softer colors. A hand tag in either gold or silver with a hang written in pencil number on the reverse of the tag.
Features were painted and some even had glass eyes,
The bodies varied between all felt to heavy weight muslin.
Joints were either sewn( saddle stitch, buttoin hole or blanket) or wood/ cork disk to disk with a cotter pin.
Lenci dolls had applied ears. Depending on when the doll was made it was either a single layer felt ear or a dual ear.
Lenci had approximately 20 different faces and a few different bodies.
Zig zag appearace stitching from the Ladder stitch closures and attachments were common.
Signature on the sole of the foot
Do your research before going on a Lenci Hunt in your local area. Online dealers like Rubylane, Therialuts, Christie’s etc at all legitimate and have doll specific information and knowledgeable staff.
If you do find one locally, ask for photos to be sent of all angles. Many times there will be a file of provenience. Ask for it. If it looks too good to be true, ask for an appointment to go and se it and take your own photos.
Hopefully the general notion of do your research before hunting will aid youin not being taken, duped or ripped off.
If you can participate or obtain the catalogs from Theriaults, its an investment that cant be beat. While you may think its nothing more than a catalog, the detailed information that can aid you in hunting that treasure doll or getting that treasure from your own home when the local fare is very limited, will be indispensable.