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Kestner Dolls

Kestner dolls were originally produced by Johannes Daniel Kestner Jr. He began producing dolls with papier- mâché heads and peg-jointed wooden bodies in 1805. His doll making company, located in Walthershausen, Thuringia, Germany, was successful by 1845. Following the success of the wood and paper dolls, Kestner began making dolls with composition heads and cloth bodies. Kestner, however, was a proponent of bisque head dolls, so he added bisque and porcelain doll heads to his line of dolls in the 1850s.

Johannes Kestner died in 1858 and his grandson, Adolf Kestner, took over the company. He purchased a porcelain factory and the company began manufacturing its own porcelain and bisque heads. These doll heads were attached to bodies made of composition, stuffed cloth, or kid leather. These dolls had glass eyes, painted features and open mouths with teeth. Kestner also branched out into other styles of doll heads, including long-faced dolls similar to Jumeau, chubby faces similar to Bru, and character dolls.

Kestner was one of the only German doll makers to produce complete dolls right down to the wigs and fashions. The Kestner mark may have a letter or number only or may include Made in Germany, J.D.K., or K & Co. The mark for dolls distributed in the United States reads Excelsior. Kestner continued to produce dolls until 1938.


Quick Facts

  • When Johannes Kestner opened his factory in Walthershausen, he employed about three quarters of the inhabitants of the region. This earned him the nickname King Kestner
  • Kestner produced an expensive leather body for some of its dolls that had riveted joints, allowing the doll's limbs to move naturally
  • Kestner was the first doll manufacturer to produce bisque versions of the Kewpie doll beginning in 1912

Recommended Items at Auction

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EARLY KESTNER 143-TYPE.
Dec 02, 9:00 AM EST
EARLY KESTNER 143-TYPE.
by Morphy Auctions
Est: $350- $550
$1750 Bids
(2) GERMAN BISQUE HEAD DOLLS
Dec 01, 10:00 AM EST
(2) GERMAN BISQUE HEAD DOLLS
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $300- $400
$1500 Bids
(3) GERMAN BISQUE DOLLS
Dec 01, 10:00 AM EST
(3) GERMAN BISQUE DOLLS
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
(2) GERMAN ALL BISQUE DOLLS
Dec 01, 10:00 AM EST
(2) GERMAN ALL BISQUE DOLLS
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
PAIR inc Kestner Baby Jean (Hilda's sister)
Dec 01, 10:00 AM GMT
PAIR inc Kestner Baby Jean (Hilda's sister)
by Vectis Auctions Ltd
Est: £180- £220
£1000 Bids
JDK Kestner googly eye bisque doll
Dec 04, 9:00 AM CST
JDK Kestner googly eye bisque doll
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$150 Bids
JDK Kestner googly eye bisque doll
Dec 04, 9:00 AM CST
JDK Kestner googly eye bisque doll
by Matthew Bullock Auctioneers
Est: $30- $300
$150 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Kestner Dolls


Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Morphy Auctions

Morphy Auctions

Vectis Auctions Ltd

Vectis Auctions Ltd