Dolls are among the oldest and most beloved kinds of toys and the Madame Alexander Doll Company is known to produce some of the loveliest and highest-quality products on the market. Madame Alexander dolls come in an array of shapes, sizes and types. The company crafts baby dolls that are suitable for small children to high-priced specialty dolls which are meant to be admired as the works of art that they are and are, therefore, quite popular amongst adult collectors. Everything about Madame Alexander Dolls conveys attention to detail, especially the stunning beautiful outfits that are tailored to each specific doll model. Recently Jamie Cygielman, the General Manager of Madame Alexander, spoke to the Examiner about the company:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when was your company started?
Jamie Cygielman (J.C.): In 1923 Madame Beatrice Alexander started the Alexander Doll Company at the age of 28. At the time, the notion of a woman starting her own business was nearly unheard of! In her younger years, she had worked in her step-father’s doll repair shop, where heartbroken little girls would bring in their damaged porcelain dolls. At that time Madame Alexander vowed to make dolls that were unbreakable. Her first dolls were hugely successful, Red Cross nurse dolls made completely from cloth. She and her sisters would sit around the dining table in her mother’s house until all hours of the night creating these dolls – here is where Madame became very focused on superb quality – a tradition that lives on in all of the dolls today.
M.M.: Why was the name Madame Alexander chosen?
J.C.: It is the name of the founder of our company. Her married name was Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman as of 1912.
M.M.: To date, how many dolls have you produced?
J.C.: Thousands! I wouldn’t even know how to begin counting. I had the privilege of meeting some of our collectors at the Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention in Dallas a couple months ago. When I asked how many dolls each of them had, the numbers were staggering – I don’t think anyone told me a number less than 1,000! The average seemed to be around 2,500 and there were a couple of collectors who had over 4,000 dolls!
M.M.: Has one doll been an all-time best seller? If so, which one?
J.C.: We have had segments that have been best-selling for us. In 1935 Madame Alexander created five adorable dolls based on The Dionne Quintuplets, under license. These were incredibly popular at the time due to the popularity of the quintuplets themselves. These dolls were so popular that in 1998, for our 75th Anniversary, we recreated them. Other segments that have done really well for us are based off of stories and movies – “Alice in Wonderland,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Gone with the Wind” – rumor has it that Madame Alexander read “Gone with the Wind” in one weekend. When she went back to work on Monday, she created her first Scarlett O’Hara doll based on what was written in the book and immediately sent it to MGM. Within days she was given the license to create these dolls – AND…they say that the look of Vivien Leigh’s O’Hara look is based on that initial doll concept. I like to believe that it’s true!
M.M.: Madame Alexander is known for producing some very high quality dolls. Which one has been the most expensive to date? Which is the rarest?
J.C.: I have heard that the most expensive piece that we ever sold was a chess set. It was set up as “Alice in Wonderland” vs. “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” I saw photos of it in Dallas at the Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention – it was exquisite! I have been told that it was initially sold for $42,000. We also currently create dolls that are made to order. While they don’t cost $42,000, they can be upwards of $5,000. We created three Elsa dolls, from the Disney movie “Frozen,” in our Cissy sculpt. They were absolutely stunning. As far as the rarest dolls – the older dolls are becoming more and more difficult to find. The cloth dolls are almost impossible to find these days. There is a series of 6 dolls that are often referred to as the “Mystery Dolls” or the “Mystery Series” because they never appeared in any of our catalogs. They were created in 1951 and nobody knows exactly how many of each were created. Opinions range from 10 pieces each up to only 100 pieces of each. They were all hand-painted and costumed in exquisite fabrics. A full set of these dolls were resold, in an auction, for $88,000 in 2012.
M.M.: Of all the dolls, do you have a personal favorite?
J.C.: It’s so hard to pick one favorite – I love all of the dolls! Each one is a work of art in its own right. I tend to gravitate to dolls we do in the Cissy sculpt. They are 21” and are always so beautifully done. Then there is our Middleton baby doll line – these dolls are so amazing and they feel like you are holding a real baby. We also have an “Alice in Wonderland” doll in the office that dates back to 1951 and I can’t walk by her without stopping to stare for a few moments every day.
M.M.: Where do you hope the company will be ten years from now?
J.C.: We hope that the company is continuing to delight its avid collectors with the beautiful dolls we have all grown to love. We also hope that we are able to create dolls that are sought after by younger generations as well. One of the most inspiring things I encountered at the Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention was three young collectors. They were attending with their mothers and grandmothers, carrying on a tradition. Dolls are a rite of passage for girls and we hope to be able to inspire many generations to carry on this timeless tradition.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects, products and/or events that you would like to mention?
J.C.: We have quite a few surprises coming here at Madame Alexander! 2016 is going to be very exciting for our collectors. 2016 will also be exciting for the kids – our baby dolls and play dolls have some great new news right around the corner. We are looking to redefine collectability at the younger age – and we might just have a brand new doll to do that with! Stay tuned…
* * * * *
To learn more visit the official Madame Alexander Doll Company website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.