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  closeup of Ginny Doll face

Ginny Dolls - their long history is part of our American history!

The name of Vogue is the one most closely associated with the Ginny Doll, but over the decades, Ginny has been in the care of many companies, all going back to 1922 when Jennie Adler Graves first reached a capable hand into the world of dolls. Graves, residing in Somerville, MASS., was a skilled seamstress, and her talent for making children's clothing caught the attention of an acquaintance who asked her to fashion some clothing for dolls for a charitable event. As the story goes, this friend was less than ethical, and actually took and sold the dolls! Graves might have been upset over this, but being a resourceful woman, she realized she might learn from the situation and turn her talent into a profitable venture.

Mrs. Graves created Ye Olde Vogue Doll Shoppe, and her first endeavors included purchasing a number of charming Just Me dolls, manufactured in Germany. She set her imagination to creating delightful costumes for these dolls and Robert Marsh Department Store began stocking them in their Boston location. Just Me dolls are rare and quite valuable these days, and any collector owning a recognized Jennie Addler Graves-dressed doll would have a treasure of great worth in their keeping. For more than 20 years, these pudgy, beautifully-clothed dolls were an excellent success. But Ginny had yet to be born.

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Between 1937-1948, Jennie Adler Graves also turned her hands to a series of American-made Vogue Toddles dolls. These adorable 8" dolls were made of composition and had chubby toddler-like faces. Eyes and features are painted, and there is molded hair beneath their fluffy, mohair wigs. Most of the dolls have blue eyes, but a few have brown, and doll collectors have remarked that most Toddles' eyes look to the right, giving them their fun-loving look.

example of early plastic Ginny doll

The majority of the Vogue Toddles line of dolls are dressed as little girls, but there were also ethnic and round-the-world type dolls and several boy dolls. You will find Toddles dolls marked with 3 doll makers marks: R&B, Doll Co and Vogue Doll. In the beginning, Vogue purchased doll bodies from these 2 manufacturers to have them custom dressed in signature style. Eventually, however, they began manufacturing their own dolls, first of composition and then of hard plastic. Mrs. Graves designed the costumes and they were sewn by a group of several hundred cottage industry seamstresses.

Vogue Dolls of the 1940's

To the right, you will see a beautiful example of an 8" doll from this era. She is marked Vogue Doll on the back, and many of her items of clothing bear the Vogue mark, too. She even retains her original socks and shoes! She is made of hard plastic, and has the painted face associated with dolls of the late 1940's - 1950's.

The wig is made of Dynel, though some dolls of this time also featured Caracul wigs. Legs and arms are jointed and strung with rubber bands, which, unfortunately, tend to snap over time but can easily be replaced. Just look at the lovely choice of fabrics and the evidence of excellent needlework! These painted-eye Ginny dolls are some of the most sought after and valuable today because they are fairly rare and represent Graves' early body of doll making work.

example Ginny doll with painted eyelashes

Vogue Dolls of the 1950's - 1960's

In 1950, the name of Mrs. Graves' daughter, Ginny, first appeared in the Vogue line of dolls. The following year, it became the signature name of the complete line. Vogue dolls from 1950-1953 are made of plastic, and sleeping open/close eyes were introduced at this time. At this point, the lashes on Ginny Doll faces are still painted, as is shown in the accompanying photograph. The clothing is, as usual, very finely detailed. The crisp white apron over the green gingham dress on this vintage Ginny doll are so perky and appealing. It's easy to imagine the delight of any little girl receiving such a polished and well-turned-out dolly. By 1953, the Vogue Doll company was grossing over 2 million dollars a year and the name of Ginny had become a household word.

In 1954, Ginny's legs could 'walk', and a year later we see a big change in the face of Ginny when she is given 'real' plastic eyelashes.

example of early plastic Ginny doll

Just as with Nancy Ann Dolls, this gives a very different look to the doll's eyes. To the right, you can see this for yourself in this good example of a mid-1950's Ginny. In 1957, Ginnys were being manufactured with bendable knees. Heads could also swivel from side to side. Competition was becoming tougher, with the popularity of the 1950's Nancy Ann and Madame Alexander doll companies, and Ginny's manufacturers continued to find ways in which to make her an ever-more appealing doll. Jennie Addler Graves' retired in 1960, handing her company over to the care of her daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Edward Nelson. Six years later, Virginia also retired, and Edward Nelson ran the company until 1972 when it was sold to Tonka.

The Tonka Corporation kept Ginny's face more-or-less as it was under the Vogue corporation. For 4 years they continued to manufacture these well-known dolls, but Ginny's care was about to change hands yet again, and Ginny's look was about to go through some major changes.

example of late 1970's Sasson Ginny Doll

Ginny Dolls from 1977-1995

After Tonka's 5 years of manufacturing Ginny dolls, the rights were again sold to the Lesney Products Corporation in 1977. It was at this time that what I consider to be an unfortunate pushing of grown-up ideas into the world of children's play was really taking hold in the toy world. Ginny had always looked like a five year old child, even if she was playing dressup in a bride's costume, but the advent of skinny fashion dolls with more grown-up forms seems to have been what inspired the Lesney Products Corporation to completely change the look of Ginny Dolls. Both open/close eye and painted eye dolls appeared on these new thin Ginnys and the modern craze for designer jeans led to a line of Sasson Ginny Dolls appearing. To the left, I show an example of one of these Sasson Ginnys, along with her workout costume, complete with those 1981 legwarmers!

Though Lesney Ginnys can provide a funny window to the past on late 70's - early 80's clothing styles, doll collectors consider the dolls and accessories of this period to be poorly made in comparison to the Ginnys of the past. The idea of making Ginny grow up was not a successful one, and yet again, the rights to manufacture under the Ginny name were sold to Meritus Industries in 1984.

example of early Meritus Ginny Doll, 1984

Somebody must have whispered in the ear of Meritus Industries that people wanted their Ginny Dolls to look like kindergartners again, because we immediately see a change back in the direction of original Ginnys in 1984. The focus of clothing also again becomes on pretty, little-girl fashions rather than 'modern' ones. I feel a little bit better when I look at this photo of Ginny on the right. Though I can't say that she has quite the charm of her 1950's sisters, she is at least a companionable looking doll for any little girl. Nice attention is being paid to the trimming of her costume. I remember Ginnys just like these always being something to look at in the local five-and-ten store in the early 80's and my family owned several. Ginnys of this era were made of a rather soft vinyl with jointed limbs, moveable head and sleepy eyes. My one complaint about the design of 1980's Ginny Dolls faces is that they made their jaws seem a bit too jowl-y. Rather than just looking chubby, this gave Ginny's jaw a somewhat heavy appearance.

Meritus also manufactured several porcelain dolls, and when Ginny's manufacturing rights were sold in 1986 to R.Dakin and Company, a variety of both vinyl and porcelain Ginnys were made during the next 9 years of Ginny history.

New reproduction vintage Ginny by Vogue

1995 Ginny and Vogue are Reunited!

The new Vogue Doll Company bought back the rights to take care of Ginny in 1995, declaring that they were dedicating themselves to restoring Ginny to her former place in the hearts of American girls. From that time up to the present, the Vogue Doll company has produced many, many dolls. In my personal opinion, their early efforts didn't quite speak to me, but when they began making their reproduction vintage lines of dolls most recently, I sat up and took notice. At last, here was a Ginny again with a truly child-like, lovable face...with beautiful, imaginative clothing sure to put a smile on any little girl's face. Vogue Doll Company is currently offering a number of truly dear little Ginnys, including a line I love called the Mini Ginny. The dolls are collectible, some being limited editions. I recommend a visit to the New Vogue Doll Company's website so that you can have the fun of seeing brand new Ginny dolls again.

Overview Timeline of the History of Ginny Dolls

  • 1922 - 1949 - Jennie Adler Graves begins making doll clothing for dolls including the German-made Just Me dolls. She creates her own 8" Toddles dolls.
  • 1950 - The name Ginny first appears on Vogue dolls as a namesake of Grave's daughter, Virginia.
  • 1951 - Vogue dolls take on the name Ginny to represent their line.
  • 1954 - Sales of Ginny dolls reach over 2 million dollars annually.
  • 1960 - Graves retires and hands Vogue Doll Company over to her daughter.
  • 1972 - Ginny bought by Tonka.
  • 1977 - Ginny bought by Lesney Products Corporation, turned into a skinny fashion doll.
  • 1984 - Meritus Industries buys Ginny and moves back toward a little-girl doll look.
  • 1986 - Ginny bought by R.Dakin and Company.
  • 1995 - present - Ginny bought by new Vogue Doll Company.

Why Our Culture Loved Ginny Dolls

I think I can sum this question up in two little words - Ginny's clothes! While it is true that Ginny's appearance and personality were always sweet and fun, it was the extravagant attention given to her clothes that has charmed the hearts of both children and ladies across the U.S. for more than 50 years. If I bring up the subject of Ginny dolls in a group of women of my mother's 1950's generation, they all immediately begin talking about doll clothing. Ginny's fluffy dresses, her hats, her shoes, her handbags, her tiny socks! The fabrics! The style! The sheer volume of ensembles created for this one little doll is completely overwhelming. And lucky little girls of the 1950's had those wonderful trunks filled with Ginny doll clothing of every description. My mother's little sister was given such a trunk by a kind family friend and the girls spent countless hours dressing up their Ginny Dolls in opulent style.

I am personally fortunate in that my mother taught me how to sew. In my own generation, not too many of my contemporaries have this skill, or are even mildly interested in it. By contrast, nearly all the girls my mother knew took sewing classes in school. And when these girls looked at the amazingly fine attention to sewing detail that was put into every stitch of a Ginny doll's clothing, they could truly appreciate the careful planning that went into the garments. Sewing clothing for full-sized people is a challenge in itself. Doing it in miniature makes it all the more admirable!

Though the charming clothing being created for the new reproduction Ginny dolls is quite pretty, most doll collectors agree that the vintage 1950's Ginnys have the finest wardrobes of all. I recently had the fun of seeing a historical display of Ginnys and could not help but ooh and ahh over the seemingly endless variations of dress.

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Collectors Value of Ginny Dolls

The most valuable Ginny dolls tend to be the transitional dolls of the early 50's (a comparatively small number of dolls that appeared when Vogue was transitioning between the painted eye dolls and the sleepy eyed dolls. Facial feature color and skin tone also altered during this period, and because there are fewer of these dolls in existence, they often command the highest prices at auction.

The overall condition of the doll is an important factor. Mussed hair, stains or markings on the body or broken joints detract from the monetary value. In addition to this, the eyelashes and eyebrows of some Ginny dolls have faded over the years due to light exposure and this can decrease their value.

The state of Ginny's clothing is, obviously, quite important and tears detract from value. On the good side, certain Ginny costumes are considered to be extremely desirable and win high bids either due to rarity or simply to charm.

Ultimately, anything can happen at a doll auction, but I have seen non-rare Ginnys go for as little as $25 and rare Ginnys go for as much as $5000.00. Under the right circumstances, a truly rare desirable Vogue doll can fetch top dollar at auction.

Further Fun Notes about Ginny Dolls

  • Ginny had a big sister named Jill
  • Ginny had a little sister named Ginette
  • Ginny's dog was named Sparky
  • A line of Ginnys wore tiny sweaters, knit with the name Ginny
  • Ginny had wonderful toys made for her, including a swingset!

Permission to display the Ginny images shown here graciously granted by Adele's Fashion Dolls - an eBay seller who frequently has Ginny dolls for sale, and by Babe 408 Dolls Plus, an eBay store specializing in vintage dolls.

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