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
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,
- 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 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 Dream Along Heather Doll
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:
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
- Wall Plaques
- Trinket Boxes
- Oil Lamps
- Ceramic Banks
- China Bells
- 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.
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
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!