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About the Author Greetings! This is me when I was 3. And, as you can see from the photo, I was very happy when playing with my dolls. Decades later, dolls still hold a fond place in my heart. I have created DollKind in order to publish my doll history research articles and to share my enjoyment of dolls with you.

 

Holly Hobbie Dolls - 40 Years of Lovely Dolls!

The charming story of Holly Hobbie dolls begins in a way that not too many people realize. Did you know that Holly Hobbie is a real person? Born in 1944, her sunbonnet girl artwork first appeared in 1967, courtesy of American Greetings, as a line of greeting cards. These illustrations, hearkening back to the Sunbonnet Sue pattern used in quilting since the 1800's, quickly gained popularity. In 1974, Knickerbocker licensed the artwork of Hobbie to create a series of rag dolls that would become favorites for a generation of American children. Within a year of their release, Holly Hobbie rag dolls were outselling Raggedy Ann dolls by five times in number. Every child I knew in the 70's had at least one Holly Hobbie or one of her friends and just a glimpse of these dolls' pleasant faces is sure to bring back some sunny memories.

In 2006, Marie Osmond and American Greetings brought Holly Hobbie back onto the American toy shelf with a brand new series of porcelain dolls, rag dolls and cartoon features. Once again, little girls can know the simplistic joys of playing with Holly Hobbie and her spunky friends. I was just thrilled to see this happen, in this day and age when so many toys are battery-operated electrical concoctions that leave nothing to the child's imagination. The re-introduction of Holly Hobbie dolls connects todays little ones with their mothers, grandmothers and all the little girls of long ago whose best-loved toys were soft, huggable rag dolls.

The new line of Holly Hobbie dolls is available from many fine retailers such as the ones shown here, but doll collectors with an appreciation of vintage items should find the following information really helpful as they search to collect original Holly Hobbie Dolls.

Characteristics of Vintage Holly Hobbie Dolls

Holly Hobbie, in her patchwork dress and blue sunbonnet, was the first of the dolls to be released in the 1970's, bearing the Knickerbocker tag and presented in a cardboard box. The main line of dolls were manufactured of cloth with a stuffing of foam and shredded materials that made them very soft to the touch. The quick and overwhelming response to the first doll encouraged Knickerbocker to develop further friends of Holly. Please use this doll collecting characteristics chart to help you locate and identify the dolls in this cherished series.
image of vintage holly hobbie doll
Image of Vintage Holly Hobbie Doll

Characteristics of Vintage Holly Hobbie Dolls

  • Holly Hobbie - Blue bonnet with yellow flowers. Blue, red, yellow and green patchwork pinafore over white dress with blue flowers. Blonde hair in braids. Brown eyes. * Rare, Holly Hobbie with brown hair.
  • Carrie - White flowered bonnet with red brim. Red flowered dress with white flowered pinafore. Light blonde hair, blue eyes.
  • Amy - Green flowered dress and bonnet with white pinafore. Light brown hair, green eyes.
  • Grandma - Blue flowered bonnet with blue patchwork dress and white pinafore. Grey hair and eyes. Glasses on face.
  • Heather - Cream floral dress and bonnet, white apron, printed pantaloons. Brown hair and blue eyes.
  • Robby Hobbie - Red print shirt and blue striped overalls. Brown hat. Brown hair and blue eyes.
image of vintage amy holly hobby doll
Image of Vintage Amy Doll
image of vintage Carrie holly hobby doll
Image of Vintage Carrie Doll

Dream Along Holly Hobbie Dolls
In addition to the above 6 dolls, Holly and her friends also appeared in a series of 12" figures called Dream Along Dolls. These dolls featured floral and gingham bonnets and long nightgowns. They carried little pets in their pockets and their names were embroidered across the pockets.

Christmas Holly Hobbie Dolls
Look also for a 18" Collectors Edition Holiday Holly Hobbie in red and green box wearing red and green dress and bonnet.

Baby Holly Hobbie Dolls
A 16" vinyl and cloth Baby Holly Hobbie doll was released in 1977. She has vinyl hands, legs and face and cloth body. Her hair is rooted doll hair (not yarn) and she is presented in a variety of costumes.

Little Plastic Holly Hobbie Dolls
A series of 6" plastic dolls came out. These were like action figures and some very charming toys were created to go with them. One, in particular, a 3 dimensional gazebo showed much attention to detail and country charm.

image of vintage heather hobbie doll
Image of Vintage Dream Along Heather Doll

Doll Sizes

Throughout my doll collecting research, I have encountered a variety of dolls being listed in a somewhat confusing array of sizes. I recall that my own Holly Hobbies were 9" dolls, but that I had friends who had the larger 16" ones. A search on eBay revealed Holly Hobby and friends dolls in all of the following listed sizes, but I question how accurate some of these may be:

  • 26"
  • 14"
  • 16"
  • 9"
  • 6"
  • 4"
In addition to the cloth, vinyl, and plastic dolls, this famous doll was featured on a huge array of toys and household items. If your hobby is collecting Holly and her friends, you might like to search for some of the following memorabilia in secondhand stores, at garage sales, antique shops and online auction sites.

Holly Hobbie Memorabilia

  • Collectors Plates
  • Glassware
  • Wall Plaques
  • Trinket Boxes
  • Figurines
  • Oil Lamps
  • Ceramic Banks
  • China Bells
  • Stationary
  • Applique
  • Decals
  • Watches
  • Fabrics
  • Pillowcases
  • Bed Sheets
  • Craft projects
  • Holiday Items
  • Greeting Cards
  • Children's Clothing Patterns
  • Playing Cards

Present Collectors' Value

We're approaching the 40 year mark of the initial advent of this brand of dolls. As with many 20th century collectibles, you will be amazed to discover that people back in the 1970's had the foresight to purchase and store these dolls, unopened. Despite the normal desirability of mint condition collectibles, I have yet to see an original Holly Hobbie doll go for more than $25.00 USD at auction. The degree of rarity and the demand just isn't quite enough to make these high dollar items. But, this can also be taken as good news for anyone who wants to collect these dolls simply for the love of them.

Image from Little House on the Prairie Cultural Significance of Holly Hobby Dolls

Two things were happening in America around the time that these dolls were first introduced by Knickerbocker that I believe give us a tremendous key to the success they enjoyed on the market. The first factor was the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970's. Adults were questioning the artificiality of post-war life and were beginning to re-explore a more natural connection to the earth. People left the cities for the good life in the country. Women disdained synthetic and unrealistic fashions, opting for folk clothing including the popular prairie dress. Parents wanted their children to experience a simpler childhood with ample time for being out in nature. Psychology encouraged us to be real about our emotions and to encourage our children's imagination through play and art. People went from valuing modern gadgetry to searching for a down-to-earth lifestyle.

In addition to this, Little House on the Prairie made its TV debut in the early 1970's. Based on the classic series of children's books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the long-running television series chronicled the struggles and joys of the pioneer life and an American prairie family. The prairie dresses, pinafores and sunbonnets Ma and her daughters wore in the series further advanced the popularity of these old-world garments for modern wear. In my own family, my mother, who sewed beautifully, made patchwork skirts for herself, and calico bonnets and pinafores for my older sister and I. We loved these pretty clothes and identified closely with the Ingalls family's triumphs and love of life.

Here's a funny bit of trivia. In several episodes of Little House on the Prairie, fans may have noticed a startling and amusing anachronism - Baby Carrie is playing with Holly Hobbie dolls! I know I laughed when I first glimpsed this, and it is further proof of the connectedness of this famous rag doll and beloved television classic.

Holly Hobbie dolls fit nicely into this picture of back-to-the-landers and prairie stories. Here were dolls that encapsulated so many of the things that grown-ups were talking about, and so many of the ideals we children saw being celebrated on television. Though mass-produced, the cloth dolls provided a soft, comfy alternative to harder plastic toys and their homemade look certainly had an International appeal. When you hold a vintage Holly Hobby Doll, you are connecting with how little girls thought in the 1970's.

My personal love of these dolls

I'll be the first to confess that for me, the fabrics were the big draw. I absolutely adored printed calico - and I still do. I've become a quilter as an adult, and the first thing I'm still drawn to when I look at Holly Hobbies today is the fabric choice. Those pretty colors with their tiny figured florals really speak to me. When my little girlfriends and I would play with our 'hobby dolls', I always had to quell a certain enviousness of the playfellows who owned some of Holly's friends that I didn't own myself. In quilting, there are women who seem unable to stop themselves from buying yards and yards of fabrics that they know they'll never use. I believe it's that same feeling that drives them. They just love to own and touch all those pretty prints!

I have worked, in the past, as a child educator, and am a strong proponent of keeping toys simple so that children can use their talented minds to develop all kinds of games. A few colored blocks, some marbles, or a simple cloth doll is all it takes to open up a wonderful world of vivid play. Thanks, Holly Hobbie, for all those happy times!

Group photo of holly hobbie doll line