Kewpie Doll

The cupid baby sweet faces of the vintage Kewpie Doll are hard to resist. Many might remember their Grandmas and Great Aunts having the cherished breakable figurines proudly on display, and fondly recall a rare visit when they actually touched or played with them. These babies are celebrating a hundred year history since their inception in 1909 sparked by the love of a cartoon character drawn by Ladies Home Journal’s American illustrator, Rosie O’Neill.

Originally in unglazed bisque these large eyed baby-face dolls, most less than 3″ tall, were in a variety of poses, sitting up, crawling, lying on their tummies or on their backs. Most were rigid but some rare Kewpie dolls have jointed arms. The typically naked little cherubs have some rarer painted-on clothes versions bringing high value on the collector market. The signature sign of an original bisque Kewpie is the miniature painted wings tucked up behind their neck and for the most part painted with blue tips. Many Kewpie dolls were unmarked and produced primarily in Germany and France, but also in the US and Japan.

The collector value is higher for those early versions, marked and unmarked, and in different poses or attire. Value ranges from $40 – 60 up to $700 and higher for a rare find. A Rose O’Neill’s signature mark, O’Neill, on the base of the foot, star shaped hands or heart-shaped or circular labels is a great find. One of the rarer O’Neill’s is a German Kewpie soldier doll, with moulded clothing complete with a helmet and a gun valued in the $400 range. Also in the 1920’s unmarked Kewpie-style bisque bride and groom pairs for wedding cake toppers were popular and often value over the $100 mark.

By the 1930’s a celluloid version created a toy-like dolly Kewpie more for play than display and in 1949 these cupid-like dolls were available in hard plastic in many sizes and clothing outfits, by many makers, and fast became a best-loved toy for young girls everywhere. A consumer-mania took over as these dolls, said to be one of the first toys based on a cartoon character, and consequently showed up in advertising and even song lyrics over the ages. Remaining as popular still today, especially in Japan where these sweet charms rival the Hello Kitty marketing mania.

It is always a wonderful moment of childhood nostalgia when seeing the cherub faces no matter what the size, style or era. The century-old love affair continues for these highly collectible Kewpie Doll darlings.