The story behind the item Debbie Savalle recently brought to the Michigan Design Center for appraisal was intriguing. "I have an antique doll that I got from my grandmother that she got from her sister,” she wrote in an email asking for more information. “Her sister was a worker in the nursery for Queen Elizabeth of England, and was allowed to pick a doll from the collection. I would like to get it appraised. My grandmother has had the doll since she was 3 years old and she passed away at the age of 92.”

 “It was gifted to my grandma,” Savalle repeated when giving additional information to appraiser Brian Thomczek and the group of antique fans gathered to find out more about their family and personal treasures at the event. “Her sister worked in the Queen’s nursery and when my grandma was sick she later gave it to her.”

The back of the doll has a mark on the head that reads “Made in Germany” and the number 388. It is also marked with the word “Amerila” on the neck. Unfortunately, that word offered few clues as to the truth of the story or even the manufacturer behind the doll itself. Thomczek identified the doll, which measures 13 inches, as made of painted porcelain, a material that was common at the time. He also praised the fact that it is largely intact and in original clothes. “For collectors, the original clothes are a very big deal even if the doll is not perfect condition.” He added that the condition of the doll was also good, including the fingers and toes. “Those can be the first to be damaged, for obvious reasons,” he added.

Savalle said that the doll came wrapped in a blanket and in a box but that she has no more information about the doll and has always been curious. “It’s definitely something that dates before World War II,” Thomczek told her. “I’d say somewhere in the earlier 20th century, so the date seems about right and fits with the story.”

Savalle wondered if there was any way to trace the connection to the queen and the family story.  “There’s really no way to tell,” Thomczek answered regretfully. “It’s possible, but there’s really no way to find out unless you do more research into the royal family and can find photos or background information supporting it. At this point, only they know for sure.”

He could tell her that the doll was in very good condition and that restoration and cleaning would make it even more attractive. Because of the condition and age he appraised it at $400 to $600 at auction. “If you want to get it cleaned up, be sure you go to someone who specializes in doll restoration,” he added.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.   

About this item

Item: Vintage doll

Owned by: Debbie Savalle

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $400 to $600 at auction

Read or Share this story: