Madeline Dolls - A History and A Buying Guide

Posted by Fireman Grumpy Fireman Grumpy
"In an Old House in Paris that was covered in Vines...." and so, in 1939, Madeline was born, the product of Ludwig Bemelmans' wonderful imagination.

A gutsy little red-head, Madeline lived in an Old House in Paris that was her school. (In the recent film it allluded to her being an orphan, however in the original stories it refers to her "Papa", so this was artistic licence on behalf of the film-makers!) Miss Clavel was the Nun in charge, who looked after Madeline and her school-friends.

The girls lived next door to the Spanish Ambassador. He had a son called Pepito who soon became friends with Madeline and her pals. Genevieve, Madeline's dog, soon joined them after she bravely rescued Madeline from the River Seine.

In the original story Madeline is taken ill with Appendicitis and recovers thanks to the quick thinking of Miss Clavel calling the Doctor and some presents, whilst in hospital from Papa.

The fact that each story is in rhyme and the pictures are so adorable has meant that all these years on Madeline is still a firm favourite with children amd adults alike.

In around 1996 Eden Toys were given the Licence by the Bemelmans family to produce a doll to complement the books. The Madeline doll was born. She was originally dressed in a Blue Dress and Blue Hat and is distinguishable today by the spelling of Madeline on the label, which was spelt "Madeleine". She had the all important Appendix scar and was an instant hit!

The Rest is History.

Madeline fans wanted more and Eden were happy to give it to them. Madeline was re-vamped and produced wearing her School Uniform, Signature Yellow Hat, white gloves, Blue Coat and cute Mary Jane style shoes. Madeline's friends were also produced and Danielle, Chloe, Nicole and Pepito became as popular as Madeline herself. Then along came Miss Clavel in full Nun's habit (long dress) and Wimple (Veil).


Miss Clavel and an Early "FAO Schwartz" Madeline

When Eden Toys produced Madeline's friends each doll wore the Signature Yellow Hat, but each school uniform was slightly different. (Madeline's was Red tartan with a yellow ribbon at the neck, Danielle's was a red tartan dress with a white collar and white long sleeves, Nicole wore a red tartan blouse with a cute fleece navy blue pinafore over the top and Chloe's was yellow at the top with a faux waistcoat and a tartan skirt) Each doll wore cute black Mary Jane style shoes with white underwear and white ankle socks.

An early Chloe doll

Many parents saw the Madeline dolls as the antithesis to Barbie and the like. She wore children's clothes, behaved like a child in the books, she looked like a little girl and, thanks to the books, there were plenty of exciting adventures to be had rather than driving sports cars or having a boyfriend!

Madeline dolls always came dressed in the Blue School Coat and white gloves, however her friends did not. Eden Toys produced the Blue Coat Outfit to ensure that all Madeline's friends could go out dressed just like Madeline if they wished!

The Blue Coat Outfit

Eden Toys added to this lovely collection of dolls and created some superb outfits and play adventure sets. Just like Madeline in the stories your Madeline doll could be a Magician, train Elephants in the Circus, go camping, throw tea parties, attend recitals and dress beautifully for all ocassions!

The Circus Play Adventure Set & The Blue Satin Dress Outfit

The Earlier (and therefore more valuable and collectable) dolls are easy to spot. Both of their hands are straight. Eden only made these for a short while. As soon as the playsets became available the dolls were subsequently produced with a curved right hand, so that they could "grip" or hold things.

This is clearly visible in the picture of Chloe above.

Eden also produced an "Old House in Paris" dollcase to carry two dolls and several outfits around in, then they produced the Dolls House. A HUGE dolls house that was the perfect size for all the dolls. Furniture and Accessories sets then also appeared adding hours of fun and play value to the collection and allowed collectors and children alike to display their dolls.

The Living Room Set
(a Dresser, Rug and Grandfather Clock)

Then everything changed.........

In around 2002 Learning Curve bought out Eden Toy's rights for Madeline anf they added two more dolls to the collection. First they added a plush Genevieve with a smart red collar, bowl and bone, who "barked" when squeezed. Then they added Nona, another friend for Madeline! Nona had beautiful very long blonde hair and there was a red hairbrush in the box to style it with. Nona became an instant hit with the now avid collectors of Madeline all around the world.

The very rare Traditional Face NONA 8" doll

The Learning Curve made a BIG mistake.........

In the eyes of most Madeline collectors and her fans Learning Curve did the unthinkable, they changed the design of the dolls faces and clothing. They discontinued all the "traditional" faced dolls and produced a more "modern" collection with wider eyes and new "trendy" outfits. They even changed the school uniform, opting for jeans, mini-skirts etc. They couldn't see that the traditional look was exactly the reason so many parents had chosen Madeline in the first place!

The "New" Modern Nona Doll

Madeline fans were not pleased.

Neither were the Bemelmans family who promptly withdrew the licence.

Madeline dolls became hard to find and thus a market for them appeared on Ebay and similar sites.

No more Madeline dolls were made for some time. This inevitably pushed up the re-sale prices of the original Eden and early Learning Curve dolls and outfits. It also made finding a traditional faced Nona almost impossible, as she was made for such a short time. A boxed Nona is still extremely rare and in Mint condition can command a VERY high price indeed.

So, where can you buy NEW Madeline items now?

Ebay of Course!!

Madame Alexander have recently started to produce an 8" doll again. She does not have the traditional look of the original dolls and can be very expensive. They are not freely available in the UK, Australia or Japan where the bulk of Madeline collectors live outside of the USA.

There are also new Madeline outfits being produced and sold in Japan, but these are not available worldwide and, despite attempts an export licence for these items has yet to be granted.

So what should you look out for if you want a Madeline doll to complement your child's books or to start your own Collection?

Firstly - beware of sellers that claim to hold the entire collection. This is unlikely to be true.
Beware of sellers who don't give a full description of the doll/outfit and the condition of the box.
Check the feedback of Madeline doll sellers for the comments left by fellow collectors.
Check the prices against other sellers.

Many of the rarer Madeline items command VERY high prices, however, just because a seller says something is rare, or the "last one" etc, doesn't mean this is necessarily true. An item is only worth what someone will pay for it!

What's available?

Ragdolls - There were many versions and sizes made. The most popular were the "Holiday" series and the 15" dolls and clothes etc. These dolls are a great favourite with the younger Madeline fan and still come with the Appendix scar! Some of the rarer, older Madeline Ragdoll outfits such as the Scouting Outfit or the Ballerina Costime still command high prices, especially if they are still packaged.

Collecting? - Stick to Boxed items in as mint condition as possible. Try to look for the earlier Green Eden boxed dolls with the straight hands. These are still available from time to time on Ebay. Obviously their rarity commands high bids!

Playing? - It's obviously cheaper to buy "played with" or "pre-loved" (second hand) dolls and outfits. Both are available on Ebay and can be found fairly easily. They are not as expensive. With ONE exception. Nona, who still sells for upwards of £25 if it's the traditional faced doll. Nicole and Chloe are also becoming more difficult to source.

If your child wants to play with Madeline rather than look at her on the shelf (Think "Toy Story 2" here folks!!) then a played with doll and some basic outfits should not cost the earth. Why pay collectors prices for mint items in boxes when these boxes are going to be ripped open and destroyed immediately?

Can we help?

We sell Madeline dolls, Outfits, Furniture, Playsets, Accessories Sets and other Madeline items. We started off as Collectors. All the dolls and items pictured in this guide are part of our own personal collection or have passed through our hands since we started to make a business of providing Madeline items to Collectors and Children (and their parents obviously!).

If you wish to find Madeline items on ebay you can search here: Madeline Items on Ebay

If you want to know more about Madeline Visit our ME page

We will try to keep this Guide updated as often as possible. If you have anything you think would add to it please feel free to Contact Us here