Dolls are works of art in their own right, and many people collect them as a means to remember their childhood or simply because they are wonderful to look at. Composition dolls ceased production in the 1940s, but their charm still persists for avid collectors.
Composition dolls consist of composites of sawdust, glue, and sometimes some other materials, such as wood flour and resin. Only dolls with composition heads are considered as such; it is important to know this as some early dolls only had bodies made of composite. These antique and vintage dolls are more durable than the fragile dolls from the eras before them, but less durable than the hard plastic dolls that came after, which lead to their demise. Though durable, composition dolls are vulnerable to damage or even breakage with excessive use, and their finish can suffer in drastically changing temperatures and humidity.
The Shirley Temple doll is arguably the most popular composition doll. Another popular celebrity doll is the Baby Peggy doll. Non-celebrity composition dolls usually consist of baby dolls and Mama dolls. Mama dolls are toddler dolls that have criers that say "Mama" when pressed, while baby dolls are made to resemble babies. After Shirley Temple dolls were released, a surge in little girl and teenage girl dolls came about. Dolls before the 1920s tended to have painted eyes and moulded hair, but in later years, they had realistic wigs and eyes can could open and close with movement.
When shopping around for a composition dolls, you may find original antique dolls, reproductions, or restoration dolls. Original dolls are aged but have no or minimal restoration done on them, while restoration dolls have had repairs or part replacements. Reproduction dolls are made from the same mould as an original doll and are essentially copies that may have been made recently. While original dolls are desirable, you should expect blemishes on their finish. Crazing, a process of developing fine cracks, is one blemish type often seen on original antique dolls due to their age and exposure to the elements. Light crazing is usually acceptable to most collectors, though some dolls may have heavy crazing and chipping that require proper restoration.
Composition dolls should not be exposed to heavily fluctuating temperatures or humidity, and ideally, they should be kept in a display case to keep dust off them. Also, do not use any chemicals or fluids to clean your dolls; instead, just use a dense cotton material to buff them. Moreover, leave the wigs and clothing alone, unless they are completely replaced. Only professionals should carry out repairs to composition dolls, as they are precious collectibles and require the utmost care and skill to refurbish.