How do I tell the difference between new and old lenci dolls? This is a question I get asked occasionally
- if you are new to Lenci doll collecting this can be a confusing issue.
The Lenci dolls made during the 80's and 90's up until the Lenci factory closed in the early 2000's can be considered the "new" Lenci dolls. These Lenci dolls were made during the boom in doll collecting that occurred at the time. The Lenci company under the direction of Beppe Garella produced dolls for collectors in the style of the earlier famous antique Lenci dolls of the 1920s and 30s. They made molds for the heads that were based on some of the original head molds, and made fine wool felt outfits for them basing the patterns on original wool patchwork outfits of the Lenci glory years, and simplified for mass production. These dolls and outfits were finished to a high standard and sold in limited editions. Each had a Lenci tag and certificate and a number on the back of the neck.
Some were sold on the Home Shopping Network. Most of these dolls have synthetic hair, except for a very few special editions that had mohair. You can still find examples of them on eBay.
Lenci Aldo and Alice Dolls Made in Italy 1984 COA Hand Tags Coa Catalog+ Boxes
End Date: Sunday Apr-30-2017 22:39:07 PDT
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LENCI FELT DOLLBETTINAITALIAN ARTIST ARTE GIOCO 1984COAHANDTAGORIGINAL BOX
End Date: Monday May-1-2017 8:41:23 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $180.00
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Lenci 19 Doll Lucrezio Felt Nurmberg Toy Fair Exclusive Italy ca1994 MIB COA
End Date: Monday May-1-2017 14:05:13 PDT
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LENCI Doll MIRTILLO blueberry 324 499 Felt Cloth COA 970179 presentation box
End Date: Tuesday May-2-2017 10:36:55 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $65.00
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Apart from the number on the back of the neck - and the cert and box, there are other differences between these dolls and the earlier Lenci dolls. The remake Lenci dolls are made using a different technique than the older and more famous antique lenci dolls, the faces are molded by a different method, so they have a different "look" and face paint is done in a different style. The bodies of the newer Lenci remakes are soft stuffed like plush toys whereas the antique Lenci dolls bodies and legs are firmly stuffed with excelsior or some even have hollow molded felt bodies, and the arms are stuffed with kapok.
Serious Lenci collectors go for the Antique Lenci dolls that are rare and made to a standard that is difficult to replicate today. This means the prices of the remake dolls have not appreciated much and you can often buy them for the same or even less than their original cost.This is an opportunity for Lenci collectors who appreciate these dolls.
In my own opinion the Lenci Googly model is one of the most successful of the remakes. The large features of the Googly were more easly transferred in the molding technique in contrast to some of the smaller remakes where some facial definition was lost. The Autunno Googly doll pictured above is a remake and very good rendering of the original 1930's googly that is very rarely found today. A great website for those interested in the Lenci dolls of the Garella Era is http://www.avventuralenci.it there are archive materials including original catalog scans and rare photos of production
The old antique Lenci dolls made in the 1920's and 30's do not have a certificate and rarely have an original box, they do not have a number on the back of the neck, the hair looks like human hair - in fact Lenci did use human hair on some of the very early dolls made in the very early years around 1919-1922 but from 1923 until WW2 the Lenci dolls mostly have mohair hair with few exceptions (such as mascottes that had felt hair). Sometimes they have an original paper tag attached to the clothing, but most have lost their tag because these early dolls were playthings and mascots and were given as gifts and so became used and eventually rare and valuable. The Lenci dolls of the 20s and 30s are rarely seen in near mint condition , a near mint condition Lenci doll can fetch over $1,000 to several thousand dollars for the rare models.
Elena Scavini,whose nickname was "Lenci"( pronounced "len-chi") was an artist and she employed artists to design her dolls so they have that special touch of artistry in their design, it is said that the mold for the very popular 300 series pouty doll was based on a plaster model of a childs head that Elena Scavini was known to have in her workshop. This plaster head was commonly used by sculptors and artists studying the human form and was based on the famous fountain with the statue of the peeing boy in Brussels, Belgium known as "Mannekin Pis" . The similarity is apparent when you compare the following picture of the 1920s Lenci 300 Series boy doll to the photo of the statue below it - notice that even the downward angle of the head is retained in the Lenci doll.
Image source: eBay.com
If you are new to doll collecting and Looking for a genuine antique Lenci then there are some pitfalls to be avoided if you are searching on eBay. The first thing to be aware of is that the word "lenci" is often used to describe any old cloth doll with side glancing eyes, and "lenci-type" is a term that refers to a doll that was made in the style of the Lenci dolls by competitors of Lenci, but not actually made by Lenci. It takes a bit of study to learn to recognize the faces of the genuine Lenci dolls, refer to the pictures and gallery section on this website and watch the ebay auctions of the more expensive Lenci dolls to see what the experts are bidding on and your knowledge will increase. A useful book is Lenci: The History and the Dolls,it is a great reference for identifying each Lenci series and has color pictures of rare Lenci dolls and examples of each type, Lenci history and more.