Dear Helaine and Joe: Enclosed is a picture of what I have always called "Daddy's doll," but recently I have been told it is really a child's rattle. At any rate, my dad was born in 1894 and it was his. The clothes are in tatters, but the music still plays when the figure is spun around. Can you give me an idea of its value and whether I should replace the clothes? S.S.R., Marco Island, Fla.
Dear S.S.R.: It is really hard to find out anything about this toy unless you just happen to discover that it is called a "Marotte." This term refers to a doll's head that is made to swivel or revolve on top of a wooden or ivory stick.
The doll's head is usually dressed with a coat or cloak that sometimes has streamers on it, and when this gadget is twirled on its handle, it either whistles or plays music. Some also have squeaker mechanisms, and some do not do anything but twirl around.
The best of these have bisque heads that were manufactured in either France or Germany, but there are some lesser, later models that are made of celluloid. No one is exactly sure when these playthings first appeared, but some examples predate 1860.
It is hard to tell who made this particular Marotte, but S.S.R. should check under the hair on the back of the head for a mark. If an "A.M." and/or the number 3200 appears, the piece was made by Armand Marseille of Koppelsdorf, Germany; but if the initials "S.H." and/or the number 4700 is found, the piece is by Schoenau and Hoffmeister of Burggrub, Bavaria.
In all likelihood, this Marotte is completely unmarked, but if it happens to have a maker's insignia, the presence of that logo would add 20 percent to 30 percent to the value of this item. Of the two manufacturers mentioned above, the more desirable in this instance is Armand Marseille, and the stamp of this firm adds the most dollars to the bottom line.
The condition of any antique is important, and with toys it is especially critical. Collectors tend to prize toys and dolls in mint or near-mint condition because far too many were played with so roughly that they have been all but destroyed.
On this piece, the big plus is that the very delicate head appears to be in good condition, but it does need to be closely examined with a black light for hairline cracks. The fact that the music box still works is also a big plus, and the only deduction from the overall value is for the ragged condition of the clothing. However, these are the original garments and under no circumstances should they be replaced and any repairs should be done very carefully and by a professional or not at all.Assuming it is unsigned, the insurance replacement value for this piece in pristine condition is about $1,000, but in this state, $650 to $750 is about right.
Helaine Fendelman is feature editor at Country Living magazine and Joe Rosson writes about antiques at The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee. Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.