Shirley Temple Still Going Strong | My Life as a Doll Doctor





I have probably restored more Shirley Temple Dolls in my career than any other type of celebrity doll ever. Although today, there are many iconic figures out there turned into dolls…it is really Shirley Temple that started it all. The first Shirley’s were produced from 1934 to 1939 by the Ideal Toy Company (designed by Bernard Lipfert) and were made in sizes ranging from about 11″ to 27″ These were the composition ones…and highly sought after by collectors. The photo below shows the usual condition of these when they arrive in my Dolly Emergency room!

Oh Dear! She is really showing her age!

As you can see the poor Shirley has seen better days. The composition is not only cracked and crazed…but also has been attacked by a bit of mold–and has also started lifting away from the surfaces in some areas. Those areas can not simply be cleaned and touched up. Sadly….those areas of lifted compo must be sanded right down to the compo. The entire doll does not need to be sanded or have the original surface paint removed–just those lifted areas. When dealing with collectibles–it is best to keep as much of the original painting and detail as possible as this adds to the value of the item. Always remember to do the least amount possible to keep the doll looking good!

When I first looked at this little beauty-I saw what she once was…not how she looked at that moment. My job was to get her beauty back so her owner could enjoy her once again. This doll needed the works! Some sanding where needed, then my magic mixture to not only clean all those age spots–but to make those fine lines disappear too! After sanding and cleaning all parts, I mixed my acrylic paints to match her original flesh tone. That part can take some time as you really need an exact match. I have been known to actually step outside in bright natural light with paints in hand just to get that part right!  Once she was strung—I had to clear up those darn cataracts! Most collectors of these early dolls have seen these fractured eyes before. What usually happens is…during storage or display, moisture gets inside these eyes. Then….if doll is stored in an area that freezes in winter–the plastic (glassene) eyes fracture. Although it is possible to change these eyes…this owner wanted to keep everything as original as possible so cataract surgery it was! I was able to add a drop of light oil on the inside of the iris by working inside the head. This oil fills in the little fractures and turns them dark instead of looking milky! The next step in creating the illusion of clear eyes is to thin some black acrylic paint and lightly paint the Pupil only on the outside. Then–a quick coat of gloss sealer over the entire eye and Voila!! Cataracts appear gone. This is a good option if you want to keep all parts original. This lovely girl just needed her mohair wig cleaned and restyled and she was ready to go!

What a Difference!
Lovely Shirley Temple ready to go home

Although most of my Shirley Temple patients are from the 1930’s…we have had a few vinyls and even porcelain ones arrive here at the hospital. In 1957 Ideal re-introduced this still popular celebrity in vinyl. There where vinyl versions produced again in the 70’s and even 1980’s. The vinyl versions went from about 12″ right on up to the coveted 36″ Shirley Temple. After that…it was the licensees who produced her again in porcelain. It is the 1930’s composition dolls that appear to be the most sought after now. Shirley Temple’s appeal and interest across generations does not seem to wane….and since the real “Shirley Temple” is now 84 and going strong–how cool is that!!


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4 responses to “Shirley Temple Still Going Strong | My Life as a Doll Doctor

  1. Wow!! Amazing job!! Thanks for sharing a little of your “magic” with us. So glad you are here to save these precious dolls from the dumpster!! I hope Shirley knows!!!

  2. I have a 16″ composite from the 30’s. It was my Mother’s. All the pieces are still intact. I really want to know is what to do about the hair? I know you’re not supposed to get the head wet as it damages the stuffing. I have read everything from 409 to children’s spray on conditioner. What do you use?
    I also have one other issue. One of her eyes is blue, the other is clouded. I read that using a blow dryer will bring the blue back, as well as cleaning. True?
    My younger sisters played with her (even though I tried to hide her). They broke off approximately 1/2″ from her foot. Should I just cover it with a sock and shoe, but be honest when it comes to selling?
    I know this is a lot of questions, but my Mom passed away last year and I have nobody to ask these questions of. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you in advance.

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