Kimport Dolls

For the second week of the April Alternative Challenge, I thought I’d do a little something different.  Instead of showing you part of my collection yet again, this time I’m going to tell you something about dolls I don’t have.

Kimport was a company based in Independence, Missouri.  (Independence, btw, was the birthplace of Harry Truman, but it’s now generally viewed as more-or-less a suburb of Kansas City.  I haven’t got an opinion on that, personally.  Though I think I’ve been there once…)  Run by the McKim family, Kimport imported foreign dolls, and ran a newsletter through which they sold the dolls they imported, as well as selling domestic dolls.  The newsletter started in the 1930s, and went for decades.  (Though I don’t know specifically how long; trying to Google “Kimport” was not useful. 😦  And if you add “dolls” then you just get ten thousand links trying to sell you dolls.  Was there ever a time when search engines were useful for obtaining information, instead of just trying to get you in touch with people who want to sell you things?)

Aaaaaanyway, the Kimport dolls were hand made in traditional (or contemporary) garb of the country in which they were made.  I’ve recently been very interested in these dolls, because the museum where I work has a small binder filled with Kimport newsletters.  A few weeks back, I scanned in all those newsletters.  They were from a brief two year period, starting in 1941.

This is the personalized cover page that was in the binder in front of the newsletters.  (I’ve de-personalized it by blanking out the name of the person to whom this “certificate” was made out.  That seemed uncool, broadcasting someone else’s name like that.  (I think it was the name of the person who donated the binder to the museum, but if so it was her maiden name, rather than her married name.))  As you may or may not be able to tell depending on your screen resolution, the page was signed by Betty McKim, one of the family running Kimport.  Behind this cute little page were a few loose advertisements for dolls, and some blank pages, on one of which the owner had written out the names of the dolls she had gotten from Kimport.  (I really should have scanned that in, too…)

The newsletters weren’t just advertisements for the dolls that Kimport was selling to the members of its doll club.  There were also informational articles about various doll types and manufacturers (articles on unusual materials, on wax and bisque, and articles on Margarete Steiff and Lenci, for example), and even war news.  Seriously.  War news in a doll newsletter.  Not massive amounts of it, but there was one — pre-Pearl Harbor, at that — that started out giving an update on “the situation in Greece.”  (Though of course then it moved on to talking about Greek dolls Kimport had brought in earlier.)  There was even one piece that was half article, half advertisement, talking about how no new doll stands were being made, because the metal was needed for the war effort…but that Kimport still had a few old ones lying around that were still for sale to those who needed them.  Mostly, I want to show you how Kimport advertised the dolls, and how the dolls really look (though there are a few cases where I don’t know what they really look like), but first I want to share a few text-only pieces that I found interesting.

The usual accounts of World War II don’t tend to focus on the damage it did to the doll manufacturing industry.

That Texan would be shocked to see today’s doll industry!  As Marty McFly said, “All the best stuff is made in Japan!”  (Okay, actually, a lot of it’s made in China by Japanese companies these days, but…)

This next one is rather the opposite:

Plastic did indeed take off as the material of choice for toy manufacture in the years immediately after WWII.  (I wonder when resin became a thing in doll-making?  I should look that up someday…)

Okay, so now I can move on to the dolls.  The newsletters in the early ’40s rarely featured photographs, and even when they did, the photos were in black and white.  (No idea if that changed later on.  I’ve only seen the ones in the museum’s collection.)  Instead of photos, they let their customers know what dolls looked like by giving them drawings and descriptions.  For example…

This drawing and description (which pales in comparison to a lot of the other product-of-their-times descriptions of now-astonishing racial and cultural insensitivity) were depicting this doll:

I recognized him from his drawing right away, but I was surprised, since his file didn’t mention him being a Kimport doll!  (I fixed that, of course. 😛 )  (If you’re curious about what the other doll looks like, I found an Etsy seller who has both of them.  You can find them here.)

This is another one we’ve got in our collection at the museum.  Like the witch doctor, the doll in the collection isn’t identical to the one in the drawing, which is hardly surprising since they were all hand made.

This is one of those objects we love to find an excuse to display, because she’s just so darn cool. 😀

Not so cool are the ones that keep inserting racial commentary in the description…

   

Yeah, that doesn’t even look like the same doll, does it?  I’m pretty sure she’s supposed to be, though.  Possibly from a much later “batch,” as it were, made by entirely different people.  And of course the male doll there is the one who wasn’t in the drawing.

Again, she doesn’t look all that much like the drawing, but that’s largely because they changed the type of cloth they were using.

Image from KaLimaNanea on Etsy. Click for link.

So, moving away from racism now (at long last!)

Image from FinnishTreasures on Etsy. Click for link.

The girl doll seems to be a different one (or maybe the drawing is just wrong about her wearing white) but the boy is definitely the same guy.

So it looks like Kimport actually fell down on this one a little.  Their “Scottish” doll was made in England!  (I guess they didn’t realize that, while they are politically joined, England and Scotland are not the same country.)  The doll’s cute, though. 🙂

So, that’s the last of them that I have photos of the dolls to accompany the drawings.  (Though I could have added a few more, but they’re not as interesting, and/or I forgot to get copies of the catalog photos when I was last at work. 😛  Unfortunately, that includes that I didn’t grab the Liberty of London photos. 😦  There was a really great Beefeater on Ruby Lane, but the site wouldn’t let me download its pictures…)  But now I want to share some drawings that I looked at and said “whoa, what must the dolls actually look like?!”

I cannot imagine a doll made from a lobster claw.  Who would even think of that?  I can’t help wondering if they actually aged well…

Ditto with regards to making a doll out of a Spanish moss.  The drawing looks cool, though. 😛

Sponge and shell!  Shell dolls I’ve seen — we have a few in the collection at the museum — but sponge?  And not like a sponge for washing, but a real sponge out of the ocean.  I doubt the reality would live up to the illustration.  Especially not 75 years later!

So, there you have it.  A few highlights from three partial years of Kimport “Doll Talk” newsletters.

I’ve yet to add any Kimport dolls to my collection, but I’d like to someday.  (Unfortunately, the best of them are now exceedingly expensive.)  Anyone out there have any Kimport dolls?  Which ones?

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31 thoughts on “Kimport Dolls

  1. Tami Von Zalez April 13, 2017 / 10:28 am

    This post is way cool! Never knew about these dolls and the backstory is simply fascinating.

    Like

  2. Blackkitty April 14, 2017 / 2:45 am

    What an interesting idea, too bad nobody does that any more! Ethnic dolls made by the country they represent are the best!

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros April 21, 2017 / 5:50 pm

      Wow, cool! I’ll be sure to check those out as soon as I can!

      Like

  3. Cathy R May 1, 2017 / 6:24 pm

    I just finished a detailed inventory of my 20-yeqr ethnic/souvenir doll collection and found out about Kimport in my research. I am now obsessed with them. I found Kimport when I was looking for info on the World Wide Doll Club from the 50s and 60s. I have several dolls like the Kimport ones but finally got one with a label at a doll show this past weekend. It was a totally lucky accident. As we were packing up I saw a doll in my booth-mate’s tub and grabbed it because it was international. Turned out to be a Martta doll from Finland and on further investigation I found the label on the back of her slip. What a find for $4.

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros May 4, 2017 / 5:51 pm

      Wow! That’s an incredible find, all right! I need to start making time to go to doll shows instead of trying to shop long-distance over the Internet. (But I’m usually scheduled to work on the weekends, when the shows tend to be held…)

      Like

  4. Donna Wiseman May 12, 2017 / 10:25 am

    I purchased an kimport doll at an auction stated it was from 1903 its on a wooden stand cant find any comparables. any info would be appreciated.

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros May 15, 2017 / 7:45 pm

      Well, Kimport wasn’t around in 1903, so perhaps the auction was mistaken on that point. (Though the Kimport newsletters did sometimes offer much older dolls for sale on a very limited basis, so that could be what happened with your doll.) Many of their dolls were on wooden stands. What kind of doll is it? I only have access to a few years’ worth of their catalogs, but there’s always the chance I might recognize it. Is there anything written on the stand? What material is the doll made from? Any idea what nationality it represents?

      Like

      • Donna Wiseman May 30, 2017 / 6:56 am

        Someone was nice enough to inform me that it was Bob Cratchet and Tiny Tim how much is it worth?

        Like

      • Iphis of Scyros May 31, 2017 / 11:55 am

        I haven’t the foggiest. I was offering to help identify the doll; I don’t know how to appraise them. Auction prices are often viewed as a marker of value, so if you bought it at an auction, you may well have paid roughly the doll’s current market value. Maybe you even *set* the current market value.

        Like

  5. Virginia May 28, 2017 / 12:10 pm

    I have some Kimport dolls. They are from my mother’s collection. I wish I knew more about them, but I know she was given dolls as a child as presents. She was born in 1945 so I think a good portion of her dolls are Kimport. Do you have any advice on what I should do with her collection?

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros May 29, 2017 / 9:12 am

      If it was me, I’d probably display it in a nice case. 😉 You’re probably asking because you’re not planning on keeping the collection, though. In which case, I personally would recommend donating it to a toy museum, especially if the dolls are in good condition. But I work for a museum, so I’m biased towards preservation. 😛 If you’re interested in selling, there are lots of ways to do so: Etsy, online auctions, antique malls, local antique dealers (which you could find via RubyLane and then contact to see if they want to buy your collection, but they’d never give you market value, since they would plan on selling it for market value themselves). The problem with selling is that to get the collection’s best value, you would need to individually research every single doll, comparing the condition of the doll to the condition of previous dolls sold online, et cetera. Unless you know/can find a collector in your area who’d buy the collection as a group, that is. That would probably be the ideal, but I have no idea how you’d do that. Maybe look around on Facebook or other social media sites for collectors of vintage dolls. (I’m not on any social media other than WordPress, so I don’t know how that works.) The tricky thing about Kimport dolls is that some of them now fetch thousands of dollars in good condition, while others are in the $25-$50 range, even in good condition, so you want to be careful not to get ripped off, but also not to accidentally rip anyone else off, either. Which, of course, comes back to the toy museum notion, because most museums can’t/won’t pay for new items, so it would be a gift, and there’d be no need to worry about the value, aside from how much you claimed it as a tax deduction, and some museums might be willing to appraise the collection and let you know how much to claim on your taxes. (The one where I work doesn’t do that, but some of them might.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Iphis of Scyros September 9, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      I had a look. They don’t appear to me to be Kimport dolls; the facial style suggests an earlier date than the Kimport doll club was operating. Generally speaking, Kimport liked to label its dolls whenever possible, often by means of a label sewn into the clothing; those dolls have plenty of places where a label could be added without being obtrusive, so if they had been Kimport, they would surely have been labeled. They’re still neat dolls, though. 🙂

      Like

  6. Jocelyn September 29, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    Thank you for this article. It has been extremely helpful. I purchased a bunch of vintage looking dolls at a thrift store because I found them fascinating. I was able to do research on a few that were less vintage from the 60s, but then I was stumped when I came across a bunch of international dolls and one doll that had a label that said Kimcraft American type dolls out of Independence Missouri #74.

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros October 2, 2017 / 5:44 pm

      You’re welcome. 🙂 Sounds like you found a really old Kimport; the ones in the 1941 catalog all had numbers over 100.

      Like

  7. Sharla October 26, 2017 / 10:06 pm

    I appreciate your article! I have been looking for ANY information on Kimport dolls. My mother collected dolls, almost all foreign dolls. The total collection is between 450 – 500! Many of them are Kimport dolls. She has many from friends who traveled to those countries, and missionaries. I am trying to do something with them! I’m trying to figure out if any of them have value. I have discovered that to do that, you have to study each doll! I’m having a bit of a problem even figuring out how/where to research. I have no idea where to start! I’m still going through them, trying to document what she does have! The dolls brought Mom so much joy – I would like to find another happy home for them! If there is not a tremendous value, I would be interested in donating them to a museum. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you might have!

    Like

    • Iphis of Scyros October 27, 2017 / 11:13 pm

      There really is a dearth of information about the dolls, isn’t there? I wish someone would set up an informative website about them, like DollReference.com, only specializing in Kimport, at least that type of international doll in general.

      Wow, that’s a huge collection! Trying to sort your way through that many dolls without documentation is a real nightmare, isn’t it? (I have to do that at work sometimes…)

      For the most part, value is going to depend on two factors: who made the doll, and what condition it’s in. Some of the Kimport dolls were made by dollmakers whose work is now highly prized (and priced), like Liberty of London, Lenci, and the Door of Hope Mission dolls from China. As you say, you pretty much have to study each doll in turn. You might want to look into some books on international doll collecting, as a starting point. They’ll never tell you everything you need to know (and the prices are obsolete within a year or two of publication), but they should at least give you a good idea. I picked up some old guides by Polly and Pam Judd on costumed dolls, one volume covering the Americas, Australia and the Pacific Islands, and the other covering European dolls, and I’ve found them to be pretty useful in trying to identify dolls at work. (There was also a volume on Asian dolls, I just didn’t happen to find it with the other two.) If your library can get them in, they might help you out. (I think they’re from the ’90s, so the prices will be laughably out of date, of course.) You can also try searching on Etsy and Ruby Lane for “Kimport” and check out which types of dolls have the higher prices to get an idea if your mother’s collection has any of the valuable ones. (I’d add eBay to the list, but the proportion of knowledgeable sellers is much higher on Ruby Lane and (to a lesser extent) Etsy.) A lot of the pricey ones really sit there unsold for a long time, though; the number of potential buyers for those dolls at market value is rather small. (Most of us can’t afford them, no matter how much we’d love to have them!) There are also doll collector magazines that have a lot of good information on all manner of dolls, but I don’t know if any of them are archived online, so those are unlikely to be a useful resource unless you have the good fortune to find someone who has a collection of back issues.

      With a collection that large, the majority are unlikely to have a high monetary value, but might well have historical value, so I’m glad to hear you might want to donate them to a museum. 🙂 You should probably start out by checking out the museums in your area to see if any of them have significant toy collections, or a strong interest in multiculturalism. If there aren’t any local museums interested in the collection, it becomes more difficult. There are a lot of museums that take dolls and toys, but the price of shipping so many dolls with adequate protection is probably quite terrifying. Some museums might be willing/able to pay at least the price of shipping, but I don’t know for sure about that. Your local museums might be able to point you in the direction of other institutions that are nearby enough that you and a representative of the institution could meet in person to avoid shipping fees and potential for damage inherent in the process.

      That’s all the advice I can think of off-hand, but if you have any more specific questions you’d like help with (or if you can share some photos of the dolls, in case I recognize any of them) let me know. 🙂

      Like

      • Sharla October 28, 2017 / 8:56 pm

        Thanks for your reply!! You had some good ideas that I will try looking into. I am learning a lot! My mom also has a lot of the “Doll Talk” publications. I am using them to help identify the ones I can. I thought they would be the easiest to start with!

        I am still trying to figure out what to do with them. IF I had any that were really valuable, I would probably sell them, but I’m not holding my breath on the pricy part. but, she does have some old ones! She started collecting in 1942. So she had some old ones. She has a lot of cloth ones. They are, for the most part, in excellent condition. Everywhere she and Dad lived, she had him build glass shelves!

        I will eventually try to get pictures of the dolls. I would love to share some of them with you, if that would be ok. Maybe you can find one or two that you would be interested in!!!

        Like

      • Virginia October 29, 2017 / 10:45 am

        Hello Sharla,

        I was overwhelmed a few years ago when my mom passed away and I had her doll collection to go through. She had a lot of Kimport dolls.
        This post helped me so much. When she replied listing the possibility of donating my moms dolls, it was a revelation. My mom could have had valuable dolls, I could have spent weeks or months researching the dolls. I stopped walked away from the dolls for a few months and then I knew, My moms beloved collection could continue to be Cherished.
        I found a lovely doll museum in Santa Barbara, Ca. The woman that owns and runs the museum is devoted to her collection. The displays are wonderful. I loved walking the museum. I never realized how much fun it was viewing all that history in dolls. If you want to to donate any of your mom’s dolls like I did I recommend http://www.quinlanmuseum.com.
        Or find a doll museum you like and visit it while you are considering your options.
        Thank you to this post for presenting me with great Information and options.

        Like

      • Iphis of Scyros October 30, 2017 / 10:24 am

        Ooh, which “Doll Talk” newsletters do you have? I’ve been scanning in any I can find; I’d love to create a full database of them somehow.

        The cloth dolls often seem to be the valuable ones (Liberty of London and Lenci, for example), perhaps because it’s harder to keep them in good condition. Though it depends on the doll; the more folksy and primitive ones don’t seem to gain value as much.

        I’d definitely love to see pictures of the dolls. 🙂

        Like

      • Sharla October 30, 2017 / 9:56 pm

        Hi!
        I have the 1960-1961 Edition and the 1963-1964 Edition.
        I have the Jan/Feb 1961 through May/June 1972.
        I have Oct/Nov 1972 through Feb/March 1974
        I have July 1976
        I have July/August 1979 through Sept/Oct 1981
        I have Jan/Feb 1982 , May/June 1982
        I have May/July 1983 Nov/Dec 1983
        I have Nov/Dec 1984

        I am learning a lot – that is kinda fun. But very time-consuming!! I am continuing to find out which Kimport dolls I have. Then I will take pictures. I have some Eubanks Dolls – Lincoln, Lee, Grant, Aunt Fanny and her Beau. I have 2 Rosa Character Dolls.

        I will send pics when I get them done – if I ever do! lol

        Like

      • Iphis of Scyros November 6, 2017 / 9:42 pm

        Hi, sorry about the delayed response! I’ve been very busy lately with work (both at the museum where I’m employed and with class work), and don’t seem to have good luck with getting to WordPress on a computer, as opposed to my tablet, where it’s really hard to type, and I have no access to my files. I actually still only have access to the old Kimport scans, as it seems I forgot to ever copy the new ones onto a flashdrive (even though they’re ones I bought and then donated to the collection!).

        Anyway, I have scans of some early 1940s Doll Talks, and according to Ruby Lane, the ones I bought to supplement those are from 1959 to 1960, so it sounds like I don’t have any of the ones you’ve got (except maybe that first one). Do you think when you’re done with them you might be willing to either donate them to the museum where I work, or sell them to me, or scan them in and send me the scans? I’d really love to get all the Doll Talk issues collected in one place and posted online for everyone to have as a reference source. 🙂

        As to the question in your other response, about the photos, if you don’t have a blog (or tumblr, or whatnot) of your own to post them to, then I’m not sure what the best method would be. In the comments section of the WordPress dashboard, I can see the e-mail you typed in to leave these comments (which I realize sounds a bit creeper, but that’s just how WordPress works, apparently); if that’s a good e-mail to use, I might be able to create a gallery in my Google Photos account that would accept photo uploads from you. (I’ll have to look into the sharing options, but I *think* that’s possible.) If that’s possible, is that a good option? (Contrariwise, if that’s not possible but the e-mail is okay, I could send you an e-mail from my gmail account and we could discuss other options that way.)

        Like

      • Sharla November 9, 2017 / 10:56 am

        Good Morning!
        If you are slow, I must be slower!! Life sure does make a lot of demands!
        I have giving the idea of donating the “Doll Talk” magazines to you, or the museum where you work, and I think that is a wonderful idea. I have really enjoyed reading the ones I have! Would you prefer the museum or you?

        I am thinking that I will open my own blog on WordPress. Then I can upload the unbelievable amount of pictures and you can see them. Would that work?? And maybe some other collectors that would like to obtain some of these dolls. I have to do something – I cannot keep all these dolls out indefinitely.

        I will let you know if I can set something up. It certainly won’t hurt to try! Let me know if you have any other ideas.

        Have a great day!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iphis of Scyros November 9, 2017 / 9:44 pm

        Starting your own blog to share the photos of these dolls with the world sounds like a great idea! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to see them. 🙂 And I’m sure there are other collectors who’d like to have one, too.

        I’d definitely prefer to see the “Doll Talk”s donated to the museum. (I only suggested myself because *I* can offer money, and the museum can’t. Or rather I can’t offer the museum’s money. 😛 If I bought them, I’d just donate them right into the collection, like I did with the ones I bought from Ruby Lane.)

        Like

      • Sharla November 10, 2017 / 7:51 pm

        Hi!
        This blog thing is a challenge for me! I have 1 page done!!! It has 1 picture on it. I’m not sure how you find it. It is on the same site as yours, and is called “Things From Mom”. I hope you can find it!

        I’m still using the “Doll Talks” but will get them to you as soon as I can. I think it is great that you are trying to get a Kimport resource going. That’s quite a project! You will need to let me know where to send the Doll Talks.

        I’ll keep working on the Blog!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Iphis of Scyros November 13, 2017 / 8:18 pm

        I was able to find it. 🙂 Those are some awesome dolls! (I recognized some of them from the collection at work! That’s always a thrill. 😀 Though now that I think of it, I’m not sure they were all labeled as being Kimport in the computer system. I better check on that…)

        I’d recommend trying to get a post (as opposed to a page) up as soon as possible; right now, if anyone goes to your blog, it shows the pre-generated “this is your first post” post, which won’t encourage anyone to look around for content. I made sure to follow your blog, so as soon as you get some posts up, they’ll appear in my Reader. 🙂 Showcasing individual dolls with nice close-ups would make good subjects for relatively quick posts, in my opinion. Plus I’d love to see some individual photos of those dolls! 😀 You were right about them being in great shape.

        WordPress periodically has Blogging101 classes they run to teach you the basics; I took part in one when I first started, and it really helped. You might want to check them out. (There are also probably tons of independent tutorials and stuff.)

        The board of directors can get a little antsy about people just tossing the museum’s name about online, so I’m trying not to say the name on my blog (I’m terrified of winding up an ex-employee!), but I was thinking of looking into a way to create a special doll-bloggers-only area on here. The people from my Blogging101 course started something like that, a special area just for the people who had been in that. I need to look into how to set one of those up, but once I do, then I could give you the name and address of the museum without announcing it to the entire internet. 😉 I’m pretty busy this month, but I’ll look into setting it up in December.

        Like

      • Sharla November 5, 2017 / 7:04 pm

        Hello!

        I hope you got the last message regarding The Doll Talk issues.

        I have finished taking pictures of all the dolls. I am going to search for original boxes tomorrow.

        I have been unable to figure out how to attach pictures to this site. Do you, by chance, have another means of getting pics to you?

        Thanks,

        Like

  8. Sharla October 29, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Hi Virginia!
    Thank YOU. It is a bit overwhelming! We have dolls everywhere in the house! I have started trying to figure out how to start sorting them several different ways! Mom had dolls that are from countries that don’t even exist any more!

    Mom & I had talked about what to do with the dolls before she died. Finding a place for over 450 dolls takes a lot of room! We had talked about a museum. Mom’s dolls brought her so much joy and pleasure over all those years. She loved to talk about them to anyone! I WOULD like to find someone who would treasure them like mom did, whether that is a museum or a private collector. It would be great to be able to keep the collection together, but that might not be possible.

    We live in a very small town on the Western Slope of Colorado. We are about 4.5 – 5 hours from Denver. I am going to do some research, but I don’t know yet of any doll museum anywhere close! And, as was mentioned, the shipping charges could be substantial to ship that many. So, for now, I will continue to plod along and continue to try for suggestions and information! Bless you for finding a good home for your mom’s dolls!

    Like

    • Cathy October 29, 2017 / 10:17 pm

      There is a museum of miniatures in Denver. They may know of a doll museum in the area.

      Like

      • Sharla October 30, 2017 / 9:58 pm

        Thanks! I will check it out.

        Like

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