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To Restore or Not to Restore
~~ The Doll Repair Controversy ~~

I've been restoring dolls since 1994.  I'm in the process of writing a book on doll restoration with my main focus on American made composition dolls.  I also restore Schoenhut dolls and various other types of antique and vintage dolls.

The most frequently asked question by my customers is this:  Should I restore my doll?  I, myself am a purist, in all aspects.  I believe that as a culture we want everything shiny and new, and this I find utterly ridiculous.  But I live and love antiques, and Victoriana so I feel things should not be shiny & new.

So when should a doll be restored?

I recently restored two badly damaged Schoenhut dolls; their faces were a mess.  So I had to completely repaint their facial features.  So of course with this type of issue these dolls had to be restored.  But if a Schoenhut just has some facial chipping, leave it be.  Schoenhut's Miss Dolly was obviously very popular and very well loved by many little girls.  Every one that I purchase usually has a chipped nose.  But it just gives her personality, at least this is how I feel.

The American-made composition doll is the most controversial, as far as the restoration question goes.  A composition doll, in my opinion, is entitled to some crazing.  This trend with wanting to eliminate crazing is ridiculous.  The crazing will eventually return, even if you use the supposed "miracle concoctions" on the market.  One of my favorite composition dolls in my collection is an Effanbee Colonial Variant (Mary Lee head, Patsy Joan body) doll.  I purchased this doll years ago and she had crazing and it hasn't changed.  But I do store her properly.  As most of us know composition dolls are very susceptible to atmospheric changes.  She is just as lovely now as when I purchased her.  Now if your dolls crazing goes below the surface and is deep into the composite of the doll, then yes, sometimes this needs to be repaired.  And if there is substantial paint lifting, of course this needs to be dealt with.  Damage like this only detracts value.  Just be sure the doll is properly restored.  In my opinion, bad restoration is worse than the original damage.

Paint flaking is another issue.  Minor flaking can be sealed to stop the problem.  But once a doll has substantial flaking, sadly the best thing to do is try to remove as much of the old paint, repaint and seal.  I feel paint flaking is one of the worst things that can happen to a doll.  Early Effanbee dolls are notorious for this, especially the shoulderheads.

Crazed, crackled pupils are very upsetting to many.  I find that as long as they are not the ghostly, milky green color that sometimes occurs, they should be left alone.  Dolls in my collection all retain the original eyes, even if they are crazed.  But many of my customers want them replaced, so if this is done properly it looks really nice.  I use a certain type of eye for replacement pupils.  I will cover this in depth in my book.  These eyes from the early 30's were known as Glassene eyes and they crackled due to rusting of the metal cups that the eyes were set in.  But absolutely do not oil the eyes.  This has to be the worst practice ever started.  The tell-tale halo light green color on the composition around the eyes is evidence of oiling.

If your doll has missing fingers or toes, of course you might want that repaired.  Again, take it to the right Doll Doctor.  And if you doll has a really bad wig, of course a proper replacement is a must, but keep the original.

The overall answer to this is very simple and I say it often.  Less is ALWAYS better.  Especially when it pertains to composition dolls, really all antique and vintage dolls.  Of course any doll that is a complete disaster must be restored.  Dolls with their minor issues of time and just being loved is to be expected and accepted.

(Continue below)

Click on a Topic:

      Repair & Restoration

      Replacement Parts and Body Parts

      Antique & Vintage Toy Repair

      Estimates **

      Additional Services & Information

Repair & Restoration

Full Composition Doll Restoration Services            
Papier Mache & Wooden Dolls Restored  
Professional Airbrush use on all Work  
Rebuild/Replace Missing Parts  
Replace Crazed Pupils on Composition dolls - Beautiful Results!
(I never oil crazed pupils - this is not a practice I believe in)
Reset Eye Rockers & Make or Repair Them  
Replace Eyelashes  
Wax Eyelids on Rocker Eyes  
Plastic & Porcelain Teeth Reset  
German Blown Glass & Paperweight Eyes  
Make or Repair/Clean/Stuff Cloth Bodies  
Repair Leather Bodies  
German and French Ball-Jointed Bodies Repaired and Repainted  
Wigs Cleaned/Styled, Restored or Replaced  
Making Cloth Bodies  
Doll Clothing Cleaned, Pressed and Repaired  
Vintage Vinyl, Hard Plastic Dolls -- Clean/Restring/Wash & Style Hair  
Collectible and Play Dolls Such as American Girl®, Magic Attic and My Twinn - Cleaned and Repaired.  Wigs Styled or Replaced.  

Replacement Parts and Body Parts

I carry many antique & vintage body parts (arms, hands, legs, torsos, ball joints). I also carry Seeley Reproduction Ball jointed & Compo bodies. If I do not have it in stock, I will find it for you -
Always getting new items in daily.
I also carry leather & cloth bodies for shoulder heads.
I also carry a large selection of Antique Wigs and Modern Human and Mohair wigs.  Synthetic wigs are also available.  

Antique & Vintage Toy Repair

Bears-Cleaned, pads replaced or repaired, eyes replaced (glass, plastic or button), Mend seams/holes, re-stuff  
Steiff Toys & Bears-Clean/Restore any damage  
Any Felt Toys such as Chad Valley, Norah Wellings, Lenci - Clean, repair clothing, mend seams or tears, repaint eyes or replace if glass eyes  
Schoenhut Dolls & Toys - Repair & Repaint  
German Candy Containers - Restore/Repaint  
Putz animals, houses, etc. - Repair & repaint  
Any Wood/Composition toys-Repair & Repaint.  
Rocking Horses - Repair & Repaint, Replace leather/cloth ears, Manes & tails with horsehair when available, otherwise mohair, Leather hide bodies repaired-bodies recovered when appropriate material is available.  
Replacement glass and plastic eyes available for all toys  


for Standard Pricing

Additional Options
** Written Estimates on Restorations:

     Written Estimates are available for a $25.00 fee.
     The fee will be deducted from the restoration charge -- once I receive your doll for repairs.
     Written estimates for insurance claims or postal reimbursements:  Fees will vary.
     Call or E-mail for Quotes on Repairs.
     Send me a description of your doll’s problems and I will respond with an estimated price.
     Your final price quote will be given when the doll is present for me to completely evaluate.
     Simple repairs, such as a restring can be quoted over the phone or by e-mail.
     I will continue to give free verbal quotes through e-mail.
     These are rough estimates only, based on photographs you provide.

Additional Services & Information

Most orders completed in under 8 weeks. I will do rush orders at no additional charge.  Composition Dolls with major damage will require a longer visit.  
Mail Order Repairs - I restore dolls for people from all over the country, so if you would like to ship your doll to me, call or e-mail me for shipping information.  
I restore all types of dolls but I specialize in Composition dolls of the 1920’s and 30’s.  I do constant research on them to restore them as accurately as possible and also to know and identify the many dolls that were made from this era.  
Please feel free to call or e-mail me if your doll is in need of repair, and I can discuss the different methods that I use to restore my customers dolls.  I want my customers to be fully assured that their “Little Ladies & Little Gentlemen” will be very well taken care of while visiting my Repair Shop.  I give ALL my customers the best personal attention and that every doll and toy that comes to my shop will get the same quality care.  I say this because I have found that when my very young customers drop off their dolls, they are more hesitant to leave their dolls/bears than my customers with antique dolls.  So be assured that all the treasures that visit my shop are treated as “Priceless”.  
Special Service for the Elderly or Disabled - I will pick up and drop off your dolls.  There is a charge for this service that will be based on the mileage.  (This service is for local New Jersey residents only).  
I will do written appraisals of your composition dolls for insurance purposes, or just for your personal information.  
Your dolls are Insured for Fire, Theft, and/or Breakage while in my care.  
Due to the overwhelming demand for my work, seriously damaged dolls will require at least a 4-6 month visit for completion of Restorations.  As always, simple repairs only require a brief visit.


©2005-2015 by Louise Sleeter