Treasures: 1950s Tiny Tears Doll is Collectible

This sweet little doll is more valuable if she has her original bottle or bubble-blowing pipe.

This sweet little doll is more valuable if she has her original bottle or bubble-blowing pipe.

Dear Helaine and Joe:

I enjoyed playing with my very own Tiny Tears doll in the 1950s. She still has on her original dress and shoes. Is she monetarily valuable today?

Thank you,

V.M., Lancaster

Dear V.M.,

What little girl could resist Tiny Tears? She was advertised extensively on television by Patty Duke in a commercial that aired on many children’s television shows, including “Ding Dong School” with Miss Frances.

“Ding Dong School” started in 1952 and was hosted by a trained educator, Frances Rappaport Horwich. It appeared on NBC and was very influential with young children until it was canceled in 1956 in favor of “The Price is Right.”

When the American Character Doll Company introduced their Tiny Tears doll in 1950, she was something of a revolution for young girls who wanted to know about the experience of being a “real mommy.” Tiny Tears could “drink” water from her bottle, wet her diaper, cry real tears and blow bubbles from a bubble pipe (just add a little soapy water).

The moist toy — and these water features can adversely impact the condition of surviving examples — was manufactured in New York City with a rubber body in the beginning, but later vinyl was used. The earliest examples were probably 11 1/2 inches tall with hard plastic heads that could crack like porcelain, but neither porcelain nor composition was ever used.

Later versions came in 13 1/2-, 16- and 20-inch sizes. Some of the dolls had molded painted hair, but others had baby lambskin hair called “caracul.” Later Tiny Tears dolls had rooted hair made from saran that came in various shades (such as brunette, auburn, honey blond and “tosca” or strawberry blond). The doll belonging to V.M. appears to be brunette, which is one of the harder-to-find shades.

One of the most interesting features of later Tiny Tears dolls is the rock-a-bye eyes, which, when the doll was laid in a prone position, would remain open and then slowly close just like a real sleeping baby’s eyes might close as he or she nodded off. This feature, however, was not added until 1959.

Tiny Tears, whose crying mechanism was two small holes located near the eyes that produced “tears” after baby was fed with water from her bottle and her tummy squeezed, originally came dressed in one of two different types of clothing. She wore either wore a pink and white dress or a white one-piece romper or jumpsuit with pink decoration.

The American Character Doll Company went out of business in 1968 and the Tiny Tears dolls stopped being made, but a similar doll was introduced by Palitoy in Great Britain in 1965 and is 16 inches tall. The American Character Doll Company’s Tiny Tears dolls are collectible and are available in a wide variety of conditions. If buying, consider only examples in tip-top condition.

The example in today’s question should be valued in the $35 to $50 range.


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