Shirley Temple Dolls Value & Identification (With Rare Finds)

American dolls modeled on classic actors and actresses have always been a strong attraction among antique collectors. So are the Shirley Temple Dolls. Representing Hollywood’s most popular child actress, Shirley Temple, these dolls are more than just a commemorative today!

So, if you are a Shirley Temple fan and want to collect a vintage Shirley Temple doll, this complete guide will help you assess its value based on markings, features, and age, and show you the most valuable Shirley dolls you must look for!

Brief History of Shirley Temple Dolls

Shirley Temple, known as “the dimpled darling of the silver screen,” is one of the most popular American actresses. Born on April 23, 1928, she was the biggest and most successful child actress from 1934 to 1938. She’s known for many films, including “Little Miss Marker,” “The Little Princess,” and “Heidi.”  

The actress passed away in 2014. However, her memorable roles live on as inspiration. Another memento that keeps Shirley alive to this day is the iconic Shirley Temple dolls. 

After the success of her 1934 film “Stand Up and Cheer,” the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company (now popular as Ideal Toy Company) got the license to make the first Shirley Temple doll. 

This composition doll was a big success, making Ideal one of the most successful toy companies in America. In fact, this doll series accounted for almost a third of all dolls sold in the country in the mid-1930s. The company made Shirley dolls until the early 1970s when it went out of business.

Assessing the Value of a Shirley Temple Doll

Today, vintage Shirley Temple dolls can be worth anywhere around $200 – $800. But old and rare dolls can sell for $1,000 to $2,000. So, let’s see how we can determine the actual price of a Shirley Temple doll!

Examine the Condition

Naturally, Shirley dolls that are in good condition and free from any type of damage are worth the most. So, always look for crazes and cracks in the body, faded color spots, dents or holes, missing body parts, and chipped or broken body parts, like fingers, ears, nose, etc.

Remember, only the dolls in excellent condition, looking almost like new, will be worth something. The worse the condition, the lower the value. But if the doll is rare and old, mild crazing might not be a problem.

Check the Clothes & Accessories

Missing clothing articles may depreciate your Shirley doll’s worth to some extent. So, make sure your doll has all the clothes, including underwear, slips, inner t-shirts, ribbons, jewelry, socks, and shoes. Rare or unusual outfits can also yank up the doll’s worth.

Also, examine the condition of the original clothing. If they’re torn or have any holes or cuts, it will affect the monetary value. Lastly, find out if the doll has tags or brooches, as these can authenticate the doll and amplify its worth.

Look for Original Boxes

Original mint-condition boxes can also hike the value of an old Ideal Shirley Temple doll. So, whether buying or selling, make sure the doll accompanies its original box with the company name and the authenticity certificate.

Measure the Size

Ideal Novelty and Toy Company commonly made Shirley Temple dolls in various sizes, including 11″, 13″, 16″, 17″, 18″, 20″, 22″, 25″, and 27.″ Among these, the large dolls of 17 inches or above are normally worth over $500 while smaller dolls are worth less. 

The 13″ Shirley Temple doll originally came with a small doll! This gave the 13″ doll the nickname “doll-with-a-doll.” The earliest 13-inch Shirley Temple “doll-with-a-doll” from the mid-1930s are rare and can be worth a big fortune. 

The company had also released some extra large Shirley dolls, called “playpal” dolls, that measure around 3-feet tall. These dolls can be highly valued by collectors. A 1950s Playpal Shirley Temple doll sold for $787!

Check the Age & Rarity of the Model

Apart from markings, you can also estimate the age of a vintage Shirley Temple based on the doll outfits by referring to the release year of the movie on which it’s based. Generally, older Ideal Shirley Temple dolls from the 1930s and 1950s will fetch higher returns than newer 1970s or 1990s ones.

Similarly, dolls with rare facial features variations or hair colors, such as chocolate brown or strawberry hair instead of golden blonde, are highly prized by collectors.

Check the Brand

The leading manufacturer of Shirley Temple dolls was the Ideal Toy Company, which made millions of dolls until retiring in the 1970s. Two decades later, Danbury Mint company began making porcelain collector dolls.

The latter Danbury Mint Shirley Dolls are less valuable than the Ideal dolls. They generally sell for under $50, but some rare or extra-large dolls can still be worth a few hundred dollars. This 36-inch doll sold for $224 on eBay.

9 Most Expensive Shirley Temple Dolls to Find Now!

Considering the above factors, some Ideal Shirley Temple dolls are extremely rare, fetching sky-high prices in auctions, markets, and antique roadshows. Below are the eight most valuable Shirley Temples ever sold!

1. 34-inch 1935 Shirley Temple Shop Display Doll (Sold for $17,927)

This rare Shirley doll, dating back to 1935, is a window display doll exclusively made to advertise the doll series at Sam Wanamaker’s department store. It features a 34-inch doll with a short off-white pleated frock standing on a wooden base that has a Shirley Temple transfer. It sold for a stunning price of $17,927 in a Bonhams auction.

2. Ideal Shirley Temple 22″ “Curly Top” Doll (Sold for $11,200)

A rare 22-inch tall Shirley doll with its memorable curly top outfit with a red, white, and blue color theme was sold for about $11,200. The “Curly Top” doll is one the oldest and, hence, one of the most popular and valuable Shirley Temple dolls.

3. Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Baby Doll (Sold for $7,500)

This Ideal doll represents Shirley Temple as a baby. It features a plump face with dimples, visible teeth, and a short snub nose. The doll is adorned with an off-white organdy dress with light blue ribbons, a matching bonnet, undergarments, shoes, and socks.

White estimated to be worth around $1,000, the rare Shirley doll surprisingly won a high bid of a whopping $7,500 in an auction.

4. 27-inch Shirley Temple Doll In “The Little Colonel” Dress (Sold for $5,500)

This rare 27-inch-tall Shirley Doll displays an elaborate light tan dress that she wore in the film The Little Colonel as Lloyd Sherman. The original outfit is a beautiful tiered taffeta lace gown with pantalettes, matching shoes, and a feathered hat. It comprises a matching garland necklace along with a Shirley tag. This Ideal doll sold for $5,500 at Theriault’s auction.

5. Shirley Temple Doll In “Little Miss Broadway” Costume (Sold for $5,500)

This rare Shirley Temple doll decked up in the custom-made “Little Miss Broadway“ film costume sold for $5,500 at Theriault’s Auction. Based on the outfit in the 1938 film “Little Miss Broadway,” the gorgeous metallic bodice dress and tiara are decorated with rhinestones, along with socks and silver shoes with rhinestone accents. 

The doll’s outfit was exclusively made by the wardrobe team using the leftover materials, like fabrics and stones, that were used for Shirley’s real performance dress.

6. 18-inch Shirley Temple Doll In Suit Pants (Sold for $1,700)

This unique 18” large Shirley doll features a blue suit and cream pants with pink accents. It sold for $1,700 in an auction at LiveAuctioneers. The original mohair wig and sleep cello eyes make this doll a valuable collectible.

7. 16-inch Composition Shirley Temple “Cowboy Doll” (Sold for $1,400)

This 1936 doll is 16 inches tall and features an attractive cowboy-style Texas ranger outfit that comprises a tagged plaid shirt, tan pants with matching vest, a red bandana around the neck, and brown socks and boots. Other accessories are chaps, hats, and lariat rope. It won a high bid of $1,400 at the LiveAuctioneers auction.

8. 18” Ideal Shirley Temple Make-Up Doll (Sold for $1,300)

Sold for a whopping $1,300 in an auction, this rare 18-inch five-piece Ideal composition jointed doll comes with a blue and gold Chinese pajama outfit that she wore in the 1936 film “Stowaway.” The original shoes are replaced by black leather shoes.

9. Ideal Composition “Baby Take A Bow” Shirley Temple Doll (Sold for $1,000)

The “Baby Take a Bow” Shirley doll wears a pink organdy outfit with a Shirley tag and white shoes. Beneath the dress is a cotton slip and original underwear. This mint-condition original doll with the original box auctioned for $1,000

How to Identify an Ideal Shirley Temple Doll?

Identifying a vintage Shirley Temple doll is not quite difficult. Modeled on the actress’s real features, these dolls stand out by their special features. But there are also some markings that can help you spot them easily.

1. Physical Features of the Doll

Ideal Toy Company made the Shirley Temple doll with all the adorable facial details that Temple possessed as a child. These features will help you authenticate it.

  • Cute dimples on both cheeks
  • Thick and bouncing medium brunette, blonde, or golden sausage curls or ringlets
  • A small and short pert nose on a round face 
  • Hazel eyes with full lashes
  • An open mouth smile 
  • Vintage-style outputs based on the popular costumes she wore in her films
  • Original clothing with slips, a t-shirt inside outfits, underwear, etc.

2. Markings, Labels, & Tags

To identify an Ideal Shirley Temple doll, you must look for genuine markings. Generally, all the dolls made by Ideal Novelty and Toy Company displayed a “Shirley Temple” mark on the back of the head, along with the company’s name. This marking can also be found on the doll’s body. 

Apart from the marks, the dolls’ outfits have a stitched label with Temple’s signature sewn to it. The earliest, mid-1930s Shirley Dolls will display the label with “Ideal Novelty and Toy Company” name, while the latter ones may have “Made by Ideal Toy Corp.” or “Shirley Temple/Genuine Composition” tag.

Some dolls may also feature a brooch or tag with Shirley Temple’s picture at the center and “The World’s Darling/Genuine Shirley Temple Doll” written on it. Some Shirley pins/tags may have her picture with “My Friend/Shirley Temple” text. 

3. Materials & Doll Varieties

The Ideal Toy companies started the Shirley Temple doll series in 1934 as composition dolls, which were made of composition heads and limbs (mixed sawdust, glue, raisin, wood flour, etc.) stitched to cloth bodies. These dolls mostly had glued mohair hair or curly wigs.

Then, in the mid-1950s, the company shifted to making vinyl dolls, which are also collectible. The latter 1990s Shirley dolls released by Danbury Mint were made of porcelain.

Shirley Temple dolls are a valuable collectible for those who love growing a lavish vintage doll collection. But even when you’re selling your old Shirley doll, this valuable guide will come in handy to help you find the best price.

You may also like to read about Madame Alexander dolls and Marie Osmond dolls, which are just as collectible as the iconic Shirley dolls!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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