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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Susie identified

It has taken several months, and four doll identification books plus a fair amount of looking on ebay and the wider web but I have at last concluded that Susie is not a Roddy doll as I had first thought, but is in fact an unbranded Petalskin Palitoy doll.

I bought the 'Collectors guide to dolls and Toys of the 1960s and 1970s Vol II' only to realise after it arrived that it covered American not English dolls.  However despite this, it did enable me to identify other dolls in my collection, so it wasn't a waste of money.

I also bought Frances Bairds 'British Teenage Dolls 1954 - 1984' but although this book was helpful for information and photos, because it concentrates on Teenage dolls which are different from child dolls, the only thing it helped me establish was that Susie was not a teen doll.  However a lot of the teen faces were very reminiscent of Susie one way or another.

Susan Brewer's 'British Dolls of the 1960s' is a mine of information and photos, and did give me the clue that some doll factories swapped moulds and that well known stores in England would get the manufactors to make dolls for them which were not branded so are often difficult to identify today without their original box.  This could have put me off trying to find out more, as Susie is unbranded, though is clearly marked 'Made in England 18D' on the back of her head.  But by this time the sleuthing bug had well and truly bitten and I was less and less convinced that she was a Roddy, as none of the Roddy doll body shapes matched hers, though disconcertingly neither did any of the other well known brand British dolls of the era either.

I also purchased Colette Mansell's 'The Collector's guide to British dolls since 1920'.  This is also full of interesting information and photos, but still nothing matched Susie.

More web searches followed - I couldn't find any website specifically dedicated to Palitoy dolls, the firm has gone out of business but I was becoming more certain that Susie was a Palitoy because despite the body shape being different from every doll I could see in the books and online, some clues were starting to emerge that matched the doll I've had almost all my life.  On ebay sellers would list Tiny Tears dolls (Palitoy) and would often put their size markings in the listing - height and face design.  I worked out that 18 stood for 18 inches and D stood for the face design.  I haven't seen this convention on other dolls of the era, only on Palitoy.  Could this mean that Susie was a Palitoy made for one of those department stores (such as Woolworths or Tesco)?  Some of those unbranded dolls had been sold with no clothes.  This would fit with my earliest recollections of her hand made knitted outfits but no shop dress.  But what I needed to see was a doll with similar body shape that had identification marks or a box.  So I started watching 'Palitoy' on ebay, and one day a doll appeared that had the self same body shape but a different face and was 2 inches shorter than Susie.  She was listed as possibly a Palitoy, and with the markings that were the Palitoy convention.  I successfully bid for this doll, she did not cost much.  I had hoped to find something in her hair to tell me that she was definitely Palitoy, but beyond the 'Made in England 16' mark on the back of her head, she, like Susie, had no other identification.  However interestingly her torso and arms are from the precise same mould, but her legs are a shorter version of Susie's legs.
The unnamed, unbranded Palitoy doll,
and close up of her 'Made in England 16' marking
More haunting of ebay continued, with other similar dolls appearing, but only one with a similar face to Susie, which I bid on but unfortunately didn't win.  Then last week, cornfieldsdancing listed a mint in box vintage Palitoy Petalskin doll on ebay, and it was the missing link that I needed.  That doll had the same face and body shape as the unmarked doll I had purchased, though was 18 inches like Susie, and was described as follows:
Palitoy 1967 Petalskin Doll
She is vinyl and can be dated as she is in the 1967 catalogue
Her name is Penny

I had planned to bid for the doll, but there was an option to buy it now or bid, and someone else decided to pay the £40 buy it now price, so I didn't get it.

None of the books I purchased mentioned the Petalskin Palitoy dolls, or showed photos of them.  However the box of this doll was clearly marked Palitoy.  The doll came fully dressed, with a night dress in a bag as well.  It is just possible that Susie did have this dress once (the socks are the same length as appear in those early photos of me holding her) but it isn't something I recall, so it must have got lost.  The seller mentions a 1967 Palitoy catalogue.  I have not yet located any Palitoy catalogues online, but they must be out there somewhere.

When we were watching Dancing on Ice 2 a couple of weeks ago, with the girls surrounded by their dolls in skates, my little one suggested that Susie should have skates too.  I knew that Sasha doll shoes fit her feet (the Gotz shoes are too big), so found a supplier who does the loveliest shoes for Sasha dolls and discovered that yes indeed skates were available.  So I spoiled myself and Susie and bought the skates, some tights, a pair of socks and dear little pink shoes with bows.  The package did not take long to arrive and although I had to loosen the laces on the boots completely to get them onto her feet (especially over the tights), Susie now has her own ice skates.  I haven't had time to make her an outfit yet, so she is borrowing the Gotz ballet outfit (though the leotard is a little to long for her).
Susie in her skates and the Gotz ballet outfit
However yesterday I saw that the vinyl around Susie's repainted lips were discoloured a sort of orange colour, something I had not noticed before.  I wasn't sure if the paint from the lips had done this, so scraped it off, as I didn't want further damage.  So Susie now has orange coloured lips rather than the rosebud pink lips she has sported for the past year or so since her restoration.  I will wait to see what happens to the discolouration over the coming weeks, I hope it fades.
Close up of Susie with her pink lips,
but clearly showing the orange stain surrounding them

close up of Susie's lips with paint removed, showing the orange staining

The unnamed doll and Susie: their face shapes are different, but torsos and arms are the same shape and size.
Legs are the same pattern, just different sizes
Susie and the unnamed, unbranded Palitoy doll
(Susie is wearing her skates, hence the marked difference in their height)


Rebecca said...

Congratulations - super sleuthing! Ebay can be a great reference library if you know how to use it well.
I do hope that Susie's lips recover - and that your sore throat is better too!

Tallulah Belle said...

How interesting.

I would love to read those books as I'd likely find a bunch of dolls I had as a lid.

There used to be a store in Birmingham called Barnabys that was a toy shop but from what I remember it had mainly dolls. I always wanted a Sasha doll from there but it was more than my Mom could afford.

I did get a Gotz doll that is still up in my moms attic at home. That would date to the early 70's sometime.

I should ask her to did it out to see if there are any codes on her. i do remember it said Gotz on the back of her neck. She was very piggy looking but it was the one I picked.

For some reason though I thought it was spelled Goetz.

DollMum said...

Hi Rebecca - thanks, I'm off work today with headache and cough (throat a lot better). Ebay I've learned can lead false trails - I've seen several Gotz dolls labelled with the wrong doll artist, and people make guesses as well, so I've learned to be very sceptical with evidence about doll provenance, however it has proved useful for identifying Susie.

Hi Tallulah Belle - Gotz/Goetz - both are right for the Gotz dolls (their official website acknowledges both).

I bought the books from Amazon and from ebay. I also bought a book on the Kathe Kruse dolls, as Susie's knitted clothes were modelled in the original pattern by Kathe Kruse dolls. I would love to own one of these and a Sasha, but both are way out of my price league.

My nanna would have bought Susie from a shop in north London, as she lived in Enfield. I think the more recent Gotz dolls (such as the Sarah and Happy Kidz) are much nicer than the earlier Gotz dolls with more realistic faces.

Florine said...

What a wonderful blog with a happy ending! I am so happy for you that you were able to identify your Susie from childhood. I expect that a wonderful wardrobe won't be far behind....

Anonymous said...

I have a doll that I am trying to identify, which sounds just like Susie, on the back of her head is 18D Made in England. Does your Susie have a dimple on her right cheek? Does she also have a cm. long seam down her body from the front of her neck? Legs and arms are hollow vinyl and body is hard plastic. Is the maker Palitoy? and what is the relation to Gotz? I would love to know.

DollMum said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, Susie has a dimple on her right cheek, the seam down her torso on both the back and front, hard plastic torso, vinyl limbs and head, and she has 18D on the back of her neck. If you check my earlier posts on Susie and you will see close up photos of all her features.

She is an unbranded Petalskin Palitoy (the Palitoy name is not stamped on her body, but all her features match the Petalskin doll type). She is not related to Gotz dolls at all, Gotz are a completely separate German (though the dolls are now made in China) company, whereas Palitoy was a British company and Susie was made in the Midlands. We've got a family of Gotz dolls for my girls but naturally Susie still gets pulled into the games, so even though she is 40 years old, she is still lovingly played with whenever they ask permission for her to join in!

Jeannetta said...

I appreciate that this is a rather old blog entry, but you may have missed this website in your previous searching:

If you notice half way down there is a Susan doll petal skin doll made by Palitoy for Marks & Spencer in the late '50's and early '60's. She appears similar to your Susie.
Hope this helps Jeannetta