Companion Dolls: Patti Playpal Vintage Collector Dolls
History of the Ideal Patti Playpal Doll
As the youngest in my family growing up during the 1960s, I remember really wanting a baby sister or brother. The next best thing was the Patti Playpal doll, a life-size companion doll that was introduced in the late 1950s. In 1959 when the doll came out, it was an immediate success with children like me who longed to have a "playmate."
The doll was about the size of a 3-year-old child, had movable legs and arms, and lifelike hair with eyes that opened and closed. Patti came dressed in a beautiful little dress with socks, underwear, and cute little black patent leather shoes.
The doll was sculpted by Neil Estern, a world-renowned sculptor, who is best known for his work on the FDR memorial in Washington, DC. Neil's wife, Anne, designed the first costumes for Patti.
According to collectible doll specialist Dawn Herlocher (author of 200 Years of Dolls, Identification and Price Guide, Second Edition, Krause Publications):
"Ideal began experimenting with hard plastic in 1936 and was the first to market a hard plastic doll. Soon the wonderful Toni Dolls and the Play Pal Family of dolls brought as much recognition to Ideal as its earlier attempts at perfection. Play Pal children were sculpted according to measurements issued by the U.S. Bureau of Standards of Specifications. They could wear actual clothing of children at the age of three months, one year, two years, three years, and even older children of 10 or 11 years."
Markings, Colors, and Types
Fortunately for me, I happened to run across a Patti Playpal doll recently at a local rummage sale. At first I thought it was a mannequin and was pleasantly surprised when I took her out of a box and found out she was actually a companion doll. My Patti needs to be re-strung (to hold her legs on so she can walk) and she is also missing a part for the bottom of her head (where it attached to the neck) but she came with 2 outfits and her original shoes. I made a stunning buy of my disassembled Patti for just $5! (pleasant surprise—when I emptied the box there were the missing pieces to restring my Patti—now she's been put back together and is whole again)
It had been a lot of years since I had seen Patti, so I started doing some research on her and what set her apart from other companion dolls that were made after Patti was introduced (many other doll-makers jumped on the bandwagon making dolls like her after the success of Patti).
Patty Playpal Facts
- Patti dolls have one of these markings on their heads: Ideal Doll Toy Corp. G-35 or B-19-1 (There were few other companies then that actually put their company mark on their companion dolls) My Patti doll has the number G-35-6.
- She is 35" tall.
- Doll heads are made out of vinyl and have rooted hair.
- Early dolls have "sleep" eyes (eyes that open and close). Later versions do not have this.
- A black version of Patti came out in 1982 (companion dolls were manufactured for several years).
- She can wear (and are often found in) real children's clothing. Mine came with 1 original dress, a hat and her black patent leather shoes. She also came with a size 3 child's dress from that period.
- There were several hairstyles and colors issued, as well as several family members at various ages that were later introduced, all made life-sized. Some of these are Penny Play Pal, Peter Play Pal, Suzy Play Pal (toddler), and Bonnie and Johnny Play Pal (babies). These dolls vary in size from about 24" to 38".
- The first Patti Playpals all have strung joints and were not walkers.
- Early dolls also had twist wrists.
- Later dolls had flanged arms and strung legs and were walkers.
- Some dolls were made with flanged arms and legs. Many also had their head mounted on a coil spring device.
Value and Collectibility
The Patti Playpal companion dolls have become highly sought after collectibles, with collectors even vying for the dolls black patent leather shoes, replacement heads, clothing and even body parts. As with most collectibles, value is decided by the condition of the doll, the rarity of the particular doll and if the doll has the original box with it (most don't)
According to collectible doll specialist Dawn Herlocher, size is critical to the value of the doll. Equally important are the period clothing, box and supplemental materials. Dawn values a 36-inch doll in mint condition at $650 and a 42-inch doll in mint condition at $1,500.
After doing some research on eBay on the values of the dolls, I found a wide range of prices.
Recent eBay Sales
- $225.50 (7 bids): Patti Playpal Doll G-35-7 Red Hair Blue Eyes with clothing and shoes. No box, mismatched shoes with original clothing.
- $130 (12 bids): 36" Patti Playpal doll with no clothes. She had some wear and tear with some soiling on her face. No other details were given including no part number given.
Besides the complete dolls, there are also listings for body parts like just the head, clothing, arms, legs and even the black shoes (the asking price for the shoes ranged from $9.95–$50).
Other Companion Collectible Dolls
As with most collectibles, there are also knock-offs of the Patti Playpal doll that were manufactured by other toy companies. These similar "companion" dolls are also collectible and sought after by doll collectors. For more detailed information on collecting Patti Playpal dolls and their values, I recommend books by doll specialists like Dawn Herlocher.
As for my recent acquisition? I'm looking for a new home for my Patti although my 3-year-old grandson would love to have her (she is quite captivating). I'd keep her but I don't think his dad would appreciate me giving him a doll! Maybe if I can find Patti's brother (he's rare), then I could give my grandson his own little buddy!