May 16, 2015 Betsy McCall Dolls
Program and displays by Carol N. / Summary and photos by Pat D.
One does not see a huge gathering of Betsy dolls and merchandise like this every day. Carol brought us through her experiences and adventures in collecting, enjoying and sewing for a favorite of hers. She informed the club of the different types of bodies, sizes and materials which Betsy was created. And it was impressive to see all the related items produced around this sweet doll. Thank you Carol and members who shared their treasures in an amazing display. And thanks Carol as well for the Betsy history sheet you distributed to the attendees.
The History of Betsy McCall Dolls: The Betsy McCall doll started out as a paper doll in a popular fashion and home arts magazine called the McCall’s. They included a paper doll in their publication in 1904 as a marketing strategy that mothers would be more inclined to purchase the magazine if they have a nice giveaway toy for their daughters. Over 50 years the magazine included several paper doll designs. In 1951, the magazine introduced a paper doll character named Betsy McCall. Betsy had brown eyes, a pug nose, and a brown bob cut hair. They then introduced the other members of the McCall including Betsy’s parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins.
The character was such a hit that McCall’s contracted with Ideal Toy Company to create a doll for them in 1952. The Betsy doll measured 14 inches, rooted saran brunette hair, brown sleep eyes, real upper lashes, pointed lower lashes, pug-type nose, and smiling lips. Its head was marked with McCall Corporation while its back was marked with Ideal Doll P90. By 1957, the production of the Betsy doll was done by American Character Doll Company. The doll now measured 8 inches tall and had a posable body with bendable knees.
Soon enough, American Character Doll created other doll sizes for Betsy which were 14”, 20”, 22”, 29”. Other McCall characters were then introduced like Linda and Sandy who were Betsy’s cousins. The Betsy McCall paper dolls were still continued to be produced and were included still in magazines and now for mail order sales. In 1955, a mail order Betsy paper doll set which included her outfits cost 10 cents. There was also costume set of 18 dresses cost 25 cents. Yet in 1978, the paper doll set’s price had already increased to $ 1.00.
The doll manufactured by American Character was made of hard plastic vinyl, fully jointed at the shoulders, neck, waist, hips, wrists, and thighs. Betsy also had blonde rooted hair, sleep eyes, and marked on its head with McCall/ year of copyright/ COPP. The cousins of Betsy were also made into dolls like the Patti, Linda, and Sandy dolls. Uneeda Doll Company was also contracted to produce an 11.5-inch Betsy doll and then in 1970, Horsman was also tasked to continue the production of the Betsy McCall dolls. Horsman made the Betsy McCall Beauty Box doll which measured 13 inches and had a non-toxic make up kit with hair accessories.
In 1974, an 8-inch and 12-inch Betsy was created and around 1986, the production was then transferred to Tomy Doll Company and then to Laramie Doll Corporation. In 2000, the Tonner Doll Company reintroduced Betsy in 8”, 14” and 29”sizes and she was produced by Tonner until 2009.
Prices and Secondary Market for Betsy McCall Dolls: The most popular vintage Betsy McCall Dolls are the 8″ American Character dolls. Those dolls in played with condition can easily be found for $150 to $200 on the Internet. Mint 8″ 1950s Betsy McCall dolls in desirable outfits can easily bring $300 to $500 in Internet auctions. The 14″ Betsy McCall dolls by Ideal are not as popular and can generally be found for under $200. Other American Character Betsy dolls are also desirable. The secondary market for Tonner Betsy McCall dolls is still young.