Q. Enclosed are photos of my Kewpie doll. I would appreciate any information on it. Hope you can help me.
A. The name is supposedly derived from a corruption of the name "Cupid" -- the Roman god of love, desire, affection and erotic love. Cupid was the son of Venus and Mars, but "Kewpie" is the offspring of illustrator Rose O'Neil (1874-1944), who introduced her creation in the Lady's Home Journal in December 1909.
Kewpies were pudgy, angelic and androgynous with little blue wings, eyes looking to one side and a distinctive topknot on their heads. These figures were seen by some as helpers for women and espousers of their causes (such as suffrage), and starting in 1912 or 1913, these cute little figures began being manufactured in Germany as dolls.
Several companies, including Borgfeldt and J.D. Kestner, made them in bisque porcelain, but they were also made in celluloid. Many of these Kewpie dolls were very simple and had no moving parts.
Then, jointed shoulders were added, then jointed hips -- but some of the Kewpie dolls were still "immobile." As time passed, the variety of Kewpies that were made was staggering. Today's collectors find examples with three-dimensional ladybugs or flies on their arms or feet; or Kewpies dressed like cowboys, aviators (some associate this figure with Amelia Earhart), carpenters, farmers, ministers, travelers (with umbrella and bag), mayors, jesters, and yes, soldiers.
Kewpie figures can be shown with a cat of various sorts. Other Kewpies might be shown holding a mandolin or guitar, sitting with a jack-o'-lantern or hugging another Kewpie.
Just to list all the various forms and poses would take much more space than we have.
The example in today's question is a Kewpie soldier -- to be more exact, a Kewpie Prussian soldier -- but there are a variety of Kewpie soldiers and some are much more valuable than others. There is the Confederate soldier; a soldier taking aim with a rifle; a Kewpie soldier as part of a vase; a soldier with red hat, sword and rifle; and a soldier with a helmet like the piece in today's question, but standing beside a big brass horn.
The most valuable of the Kewpie soldiers has the soldier rising out of an egg. Such an example, if in pristine condition, should be insured for more than $5,000!
The Prussian soldier standing with the brass horn should be valued for insurance purposes at around $1,200 to $1,500, but this similar piece with no horn is valued somewhat less.
The soldier with the helmet comes in two sizes -- and, unfortunately, you didn't tell us which one you have. If it is the 2¾-inch size, it has an insurance value of around $400, but if it is 4½ inches tall, that value jumps to around $600.
But a word of caution: To have these values, the pieces must be absolutely perfect -- the slightest chip will cause the prices to plummet.
• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.