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hat is it that makes a Skookum doll valuable? Aesthetic value tends to be a personal thing with each of us having an individual sense of what we find appealing about a doll. There is no stopping a collector when fixed on a Skookum they “have to have” for their collection. In that case, value becomes personal, more about what an individual can afford and what it is worth to them to own it. Many of us have bought with the heart, not the head, to add a special doll to our collections. But when it comes to market value, there are several contributing factors to determine a doll’s worth. Some of these include: supply and demand; rarity; condition; location of the item and selling venue. The market for Skookum dolls has seen its up and downs over the years. As interest in them continues to grow, so do prices paid for them, particularly for hard to find examples. Luckily for us, Skookum dolls were produced for almost 50 years and many have survived, giving us a good supply to choose from in a variety of styles, sizes and price range.

Rarity and condition, as much as supply and demand, are the driving forces behind a doll’s price. The word “rare” should see limited use when it comes to Skookum dolls. Some are certainly harder to come by than others, but rare? Rare is a word best reserved for an item when only a few or less are known to exist. Skookum dolls were made by the thousands! With the advent of online auctions, suddenly there are pages of Skookum dolls to choose from on any given day! Consequently, the types of Skookum dolls that can be considered hard to find have become more defined.

Harder to find examples include apple-head dolls, larger pre-1940 dolls in the 16–24" range, 11" Skookum baby dolls, and older dolls with their original accessories such as original hats cigarettes, snakes, and drums. This does not include dolls that have been recently altered to include newly made accessories. (More about that later in the article.)

There are also some Skookum novelty items in the hard to find category such as apple-head mailers and sitters, Skookum pincushion dolls in felt leaf-shaped carriers, and papooses in birchbark cradleboards. No doubt there are more styles and forms out there just waiting to be discovered.

A few examples of hard-to-find Skookum dolls.

Prior to the Internet, location played a significant role in a Skookum dolls value. There seemed to be fewer dolls on the West Coast than on the East, and more in the East than in parts of the Midwest. Prices were dictated by the supply in a given area. If the demand exceeded the number of dolls available, prices skyrocketed as collectors scrambled to collect the few dolls available in their area. With the World Wide Web, the search for dolls became global. The effect has been a leveling off of prices, especially for the most common dolls.

Condition is everything! Whether talking about a hard to find doll or a more commonly found one, dolls in their original, best possible condition will retain the most value over time. Learning what a Skookum doll should look like and familiarizing yourself with materials used in their production will help you to make good choices. Reputable dealers who are knowledgeable about Skookum dolls should be able to provide you with information when you are purchasing a doll. Educating yourself is the best way to insure that you are buying good, honest dolls. Experience and hands on examination of dolls are the best teachers ever. Study dolls you own as well as ones you see in the marketplace. Note similarities in construction and design details.

Below is a list that can be used a reference guide to rate condition of a Skookum doll.

Mint in Box (MIB): The Skookum is in the same condition as the day it was made. All original and in pristine condition with no wear. Complete, original details, including the original box.

Mint: The Skookum is in the same condition as the day it was made. All original and in pristine condition with no wear. Complete, original details.

A MIB (mint-in-box) Skookum doll in pristine condition.

Excellent: The Skookum is in near mint condition with very minimal wear, no losses or damage.

Very Good: The Skookum exhibits some minor, light wear, no losses or damage.

Good: The Skookum exhibits slightly more wear and has no notable losses or damage.

Fair: The Skookum exhibits wear, some losses, and/or minor repairable damage.

Poor: The Skookum exhibits wear and major damage, repairable or not.

No discussion of value and condition would be complete without mentioning repair and restoration. Some wonderful Skookum dolls have suffered damage over the course of time. They are, after all, playthings! Undoubtedly there is room in a collection for dolls that have been repaired, or are in need of repair. Prices for these dolls should reflect the damage or wear. It can be quite satisfying to restore a doll to its former appearance, especially a larger or hard to find doll. Buying less than perfect dolls can be a way to add dolls to your collection that otherwise may not fit into your budget.

Any repairs made to a Skookum should be noted by the seller and be well done, preserving the integrity of the doll. Repairs should also be in keeping with the original style of the doll, using vintage materials when possible. These repairs might include restoration to a composition mask, restringing beads, light surface cleaning of the clothing, and general neatening.

These early Skookum dolls are in poor condition.

There has been a recent trend, most notably on Internet auctions, of dolls being sold that can be referred to most easily as fantasy items. These are dolls that have been altered by creating and adding elements that were never part of the original doll. Recreating a Skookum doll leaves very little of its collectible or monetary value intact. New headdresses, holes drilled for cigarettes, or heads switched from one doll to another may dress up a dolls appearance to some eyes, but these are fantasy creations. Do not be fooled into thinking these additions are restoration. Compromising a doll’s originality diminishes its value.

In the general doll-collecting world, it is not uncommon to redress dolls. From French Fashion, to Barbie, most dolls’ clothing was intended to be changed and accessorized. Skookum dolls are unique in that their clothing is sewn on and meant to be a permanent part of their design. When fantasy items or reproductions are introduced into a collectible field, values go down as the buying public becomes skeptical about the quality and value of items they collect. Consider the impact these new creations will have on future collectors as these dolls enter the market place, unmarked and unidentified.

We are temporary custodians of these treasures and as such have a responsibility to maintain and preserve them for the next generation. The bottom line is to buy what you love, and enjoy the journey!

—Linda Larouche


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