Gebruder Heubach: Dolls, Figurines, Piano Babies, and Christmas Decor

Heubach Piano Babies
Heubach Piano Babies Dating to the late 1800s. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)
  • 01 of 07

    An Introduction to Gebruder Heubach

    Heubach Character Baby Doll
    Heubach Character Baby Doll. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    When collectors and sellers simply reference the name “Heubach,” they most often mean the work of Gebruder Heubach.

    Beginning in 1843, brothers Georg Christoph Heubach and Philipp Jakob Heubach purchased a porcelain factory in Lichte, Thuringia, Germany. They set up shop making household pottery, figurines, and novelties, according to the Illinois State Museum website. The company operated through the 1920s.

    In the early 1900s, Heubach began manufacturing doll heads and small bisque dolls designed...MORE for doll houses. These were formed by skilled artisans trained as sculptors at a special school established in Lichten. While their wares were marketed to average buyers rather than the affluent, the products of Gebruder Heubach were of high quality in terms of artistry, and this makes them desirable antiques sought by collectors today.

    Gebruder Heubach’s baby dolls should not be confused with those marked Heubach Koppelsdorf. This mark indicates a doll made by Ernst Heubach, according to Kovels.com, another German manufacturer of what collectors refer to as “dolly-faced” dolls although they did make other more rare doll examples as well. Dolly-faced dolls have a much more traditional doll look to the faces compared to most of the dolls produced by Gebruder Heubach and they are generally far more common.

    Like the baby doll shown here, most Gebruder Heubach dolls have realistic facial expressions. These are a type of “character” doll.

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  • 02 of 07

    Gebruder Heubach Character Dolls

    Gebruder Heubach Rare Tall Boy Doll
    Gebruder Heubach Rare Tall Boy Doll. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    Character dolls have fixed expressions that are often exaggerated such as yawning, yelling or smiling widely in realistic poses. The character dolls made by Gebruder Heubach were often modeled after babies and children known by those working in the German factory where they were produced, and crafted by artisans trained as sculptors.

    This company made many boy dolls in comparison to other prolific doll manufacturers during this time period that produced primarily girl dolls. The boy dolls often...MORE bring a premium when sold. This rare 20-inch tall example, which sold for $5,700 at Morphy Auctions in 2011, has a jointed composition body. Most Gebruder Heubach dolls are less than 20-inches tall, according to doll expert and author Denise Van Patten.

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  • 03 of 07

    Gebruder Heubach Character Doll Face

    Heubach Boy Doll Face
    Heubach Boy Doll Face. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    This Heubach character doll has what is known as a “pouty” face with a closed mouth. While not as pronounced as some other character dolls with open mouths in wide smiling or extreme crying poses, it does have the realistic features of a child including dimples. It also has a blonde mohair wig and glass sleeping eyes.

    The eyes of other character dolls made by Heubach can be even more interesting including side glancing (referred to as “roguish” if they do not move) and flirty eyes that move from...MORE side to side. Very large, round side glancing eyes are referenced by doll dealers and collectors as "googlies.”

    Due to their distinctive look, Heubach’s character dolls are easily recognized by avid collectors even before they search for one of the company’s marks on the back of the neck. Being highly regarded, they usually sell for hundreds, if not thousands, for rare examples. But this is an area where new collectors should be keenly aware of reproductions.

    A number of Heubach dolls were reproduced in Germany, and remarkably well. They were reportedly decorated by a former Heubach employee giving them a genuine look and marked appropriately with no indications that they are not old dolls. For more information on these fakes, including several photographs, visit the National Doll Dealers Association (NADDA) website.

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  • 04 of 07

    Heubach Piano Babies and Figurines

    Heubach Piano Babies
    Heubach Piano Babies Dating to the late 1800s. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    During the late 1800s Gebruder Heubach made many figurines and other decorative objects out of bisque porcelain with realistic poses and expressions. These were the precursor to their character dolls made during the early 1900s.

    While some sellers classify a piano baby as a doll, these were actually decorative objects rather than playthings for children. During the Victorian era, homespun music was an entertainment staple. So yes, these precious and often life-like figures really were designed to...MORE decorate pianos in parlors of the day.

    The piano babies made by Heubach range in size from small at about 5-inches to 12-inches or so for the rare, larger examples. They can be posed laying, crawling or sitting, and almost always have a sweet look about them in contrast to Heubach's character dolls that can have quite solemn or even angry facial expressions. Some of them are clothed more fully than others, like the one wearing a bonnet in the photo above.

    In the early 1900s the company began making glazed figurines as well, including a number of nicely crafted examples depicting various dog breeds.

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  • 05 of 07

    Heubach Christmas Décor

    Heubach Girl on Snowball
    Heubach Girl on Snowball Candy Container Sold for $510 at Morphy Auctions in 2011. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    Heubach Christmas decorations made in the early 1900s are extremely popular with collectors. These sought after holiday collectibles feature small doll heads manufactured by Gebruder Heubach and they don’t come cheap. Most of these sell for several hundred dollars each. They are usually made of cotton batting, and of course, Heubach's beautiful bisque faces. The expressions can range from whimsical side-glancing "googly" looks to rather solemn front-facing poses.

    These decorations...MORE include candy containers, many of which employ large mica snowballs to hold the candy, tree ornaments of varying sizes, and figures that could be placed on a mantel or under the Christmas tree. Heubach is also known to have made snow babies with beautiful faces, which weren’t necessarily sold as Christmas décor when new.

    Many German companies made similar Christmas decorations in the early 1900s. When they aren’t marked, and many small examples aren’t, collectors of Christmas items look to the quality of the bisque faces to try and determine the origin of manufacture as shown below.

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  • 06 of 07

    How to Identify Heubach Christmas Decorations

    How to Identify a Heubach Christmas Decoration
    The decoration on the right is a Heubach example. - Morphy Auctions (www.morphyauctions.com)

    While Heubach style Christmas décor is certainly valuable, the genuine articles made by Gebruder Heubach bring in the biggest bucks. Many, many items that weren’t actually made by Heubach are represented as such by unknowing (and sometimes unscrupulous) sellers. It’s wise to study the face of a Christmas item from the early 1900s to determine if it was made by Heubach before paying a high price for these antiques.

    Of the two shown here, the figure on the right is the Heubach example. The candy...MORE container on the left, while similar to many Heubach examples in style, material, and composition, has a more generic face with less detailing in the eye area. The mouths also tend to look much the same with pursed lips on German Christmas collectibles of unidentified origin. These are often marked only "Germany." The Heubach figure’s face looks much more like one of the company's larger character dolls (see above) in miniature.

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  • 07 of 07

    Marks Used on Gebruder Heubach Dolls and Figurines

    Heubach Sunburst Mark
    Sunburst Mark Used on Gebruder Heubach Dolls, Piano Babies, and Bisque Figurines. Photo Courtesy of eBay Seller: getreadygo2

    One of the marks used by Gebruder Heubach is a stylized sunburst with a semi-circle containing and H imposed over G underneath, as shown above. The mark is sometimes very faintly incised into the porcelain with the sunburst being the most recognizable attribute and the lettering barely legible. It can also be found ink stamped on the bottom of some piano babies and figurines as well. The mark shown here was found under the base of a piano baby figurine.

    Gebruder Heubach also used a square mark...MORE with HEU over BACH and Gebr. Heubach on their character dolls as well. These marks, along with the sunburst mark, are usually located on the back of the neck in the case of dolls.