A question about child-size Betsy McCall paper doll
  • I loved the black Ginny doll but not the price
  • 1960s Phillies bobblehead doll
  • " />
    Auction Finds

    Searching for a 1960s black Patti Playpal doll

    The woman walked directly to the dolls I had displayed on a table near the back of my booth. She was looking for a black Patti Playpal doll like one she had as a child in the 1960s, she told me.

    None of the dolls in my booth were black; those go very quickly and sell very well at auctions, so I don’t get my hands on many of them.

    I was a little surprised at her statement, though, because I had read that there were no black Patti Playpals from that far back, that the first one had not been made until the 1980s. Hearing the conversation, my auction buddy Janet, who was sharing a booth with me, spoke up.

    Black Patti Playpal doll.

    An up-close view of a 1981 black Patti Playpal doll I bought at auction. The auctioneer had found the row of life-sized Pattis a bit eery.

    She, too, remembered having the doll when she was a girl, and the two women got to reminiscing. The early doll had sleep eyes, the woman said, and that’s how you can tell the difference between the 1960s and 1980s dolls.

    As I listened to them, I was intrigued about whether such a doll existed and how the memories had instantly connected two people who five seconds before were strangers. Dolls are like that; our memories of them lie just beneath the surface waiting for only a nudge to be awakened. Right then and there, their experiences of playing with a black Patti Playpal created a capsule in time that took them back to those carefree days when their dolls were their companions.

    They were among the lucky ones to have had a black doll at a time when only a few companies were making them in the likeness of little black girls. I don’t recall having any black dolls.

    Black Patti Playpal doll.

    A full view of a 1981 black Patti Playpal doll I purchased recently at auction.

    They were playing with black dolls at the nascent of African Americans’ accepting themselves with pride, and a few companies were seeing the profit in it. It had not always been that way: Two decades earlier, sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark had conducted an experiment with black and white dolls to show the effect of racism on black children. They found that the children preferred white dolls over black dolls, and saw the black dolls – and themselves – as lesser or subordinate.

    The original Patti Playpal was a white doll produced by Ideal Toy Co. from 1959-1961. She was designed by Neil Estern, who worked for the company modeling dolls, and her first batch of clothes was designed by his wife. A sculptor, Estern would later create the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, along with other statues.

    Several versions of Patti were made: some were walkers, some not, some had twist arms. They were marked Ideal Toy, G-35. They were 35 inches tall, the size of a 3-year-old.

    Black Patti Playpaldoll

    A 1960s Patti Playpal-type doll called Black Princess Peggy from the Horsman company. From the website Playpal Doll Pages.

    Ideal did not make a black Patti Playpal doll until 1981, according to several doll websites, including Black Doll Collecting whose author has written a book on black dolls. Several other companies – including Horsman and Uneeda – made Patti Playpal-types during the 1960s and 1970s, according to the website. I found another website with photos of what it identified as Patti Playpal types. The Ashton Drake company made a black Patti Playpal with sleep eyes in 2006.

    Apparently the doll that Janet and the woman remembered were not Ideal’s Patti but dolls modeled after her. I found a few of them on the web but none looked like the white 1959 Patti, indicating that they were not made from the same mold.

    A couple weeks ago, I picked up a 1981 black Patti Playpal at an auction. She was in a special doll sale that offered more African American dolls than I had seen in one setting – some sold in pairs, some solo, some combined as lots, some still in their original boxes. Several were made by Shindana Toys, a black doll company from the 1960s.

    Black Patti Playpaldoll

    This Ashton Drake Patti Playpal doll was produced in 2006. From the website Black Doll Collecting.

    There was even an Amosandra doll whose arms and legs had melted and caved in. This doll was based on the daughter of Amos from the Amos and Andy radio show on CBS in the 1940s. It was designed by Ruth Newton, a children’s book illustrator. The doll was missing its painted eyes.

    Most of the dolls at the auction were from the 1960s and had belonged to one collector, according to an auction-house staffer. The black Patti had been arranged standing against a back wall with about four other life-sized dolls in the Patti family. The auctioneer noted some eeriness in having to walk past dolls that looked much too real.

    The black Patti didn’t spark intense bidding, but at least two people wanted her. I watched as the bidding went back and forth until it stopped at around $50. I wasn’t about to let this sweet little girl go for so piteous a sum, especially since she was in such good condition. So I stepped in and pushed the bidding up to a price that was less than $100. A white Brunette Patti Playpal went for a little less.


    Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,


    1. I’ve had my African American Patty Playpal doll since I was three years old. I saw her in the window and would not go home until my Grandparents brought her for me. I had no idea how much she cost or how much they couldn’t afford to buy her. all I knew was that I had to have her. I’ve now had her for 54 years and she needs work done. I’m going to re-do her myself, since I have no idea where her arms are. Every time I move one of the arms gets lost. I was trying to find a pattern to make her a new dress and shoes. As I was looking I stumbled upon your website. It was interesting reading everyone’s comments. Thanks for allowing me to add my comments.

    2. I am so glad that you bought that Black Patti Playpal doll. I have one still in my mother’s closet. When I was a toddler I didn’t want to play with it because it scared me. She looked so real. If my mother passes before I do ( the only way I’ll get that doll) I’ll have her cleaned, appraised, and decide what to do with her. I have no daughters or grandkids, and will not be having any. I’m not sure what my husband will think of the doll.

    3. I have had a vintage Ideal Patti Playpal for about 59 years. However, the African American Play Pal type by Ashton Drake or other companies came out with their rendition later as well as Ideal. Since I had received my doll for Christmas from Santa, my parents were not about to spend another $29.95 again for a doll. In those days, $29.95 was a lot for even SANTA!

    4. Hi Sherry,

      I was searching the internet for an Ashton Drake Patti Play Pal when I came across your website along with the pic of the 1981 African American Patti Play Pal. I bought one off Ebay and she is in very good condition. I enjoyed reading your articles. Keep up the good work!

      • Thanks, Raven. I’m glad you found out more about the Patti Playpal and enjoyed my blog posts. Please continue to check me out.


    5. Hi Sherry
      I have several different versions of Patti Playpal. Ideal did not make the black version until 1981. There are Playpal Type dolls from the 50’s and 60’s but not by Ideal Co. I did take 2 1959 black haired Patti Playpals made by Ideal and dyed them rich chocolate skinned. They are beautiful and I have them displayed with the white versions. People are amazed when I tell them they were airbrushed and dyed.

      Enjoy your dolls and happy collecting…

    6. i have a black pattiplaypal 1981 and i truly am pleased to learn that there is one, as i was told there wasn’t as well. It was fantastic to learn there truly was one. I also have a patti playpal white doll as well. I was wondering if you would know the value of these 2 dolls as i have been unable to locate this information. My mom has been a doll collector in her home for a long time, but since her health has been declining and having to move from a house to a small apartment, she has had to sell some and has since given myself and my daughter several more to sell as she will once again be moving, tho she is not happy about selling them. They need to be cleaned as they have been just sitting around for years. Any information you could give me would be so appreciated. Sincerely. Jackie

      • Hi Jackie, unfortunately, I don’t know the price of the doll. As I always say, value/worth/price is based on what someone is willing to pay for an item at a given point in time. I always suggest checking eBay and Googling to see what items are selling for right now at auction or a retail site online. You could also consult an auction house that sells dolls (you can find auction houses in your area via auctionzip.com).

        I also recently wrote a blog post about a Houston woman who has been selling her mother’s doll collection for the past few years. She offered a lot of pointers on how she did it:


        Much luck,


    7. Hi Sherrie,

      I just noticed your inquiry about African American Patty Playpal doll. Well, guess what!! I have one in mint condition. I am the original owner since the 50’s. Not sure what year my mother bought her. She’s the size of a 3 yr child, hard plastic, her eyes actually close, and her arm moves. She used to be able to walk by movig her arm. I also have the original red and white dress. I had a repair done on her neck by a well-known doll repair person. He told me she was one of the rare Patty playpal dolls, that fetch a hefty price. I took her once to a doll show to just inquire. Many people showed interest as I walked around with her, but I still have her. So, those black ladies you met were correct in remembering this eveidently rare doll. I’m not sure what company actually made this doll, however, but she is from the 50’s, as far as I can remember.

      A Martin

      • Hi. Ideal made the white Patti Playpal doll that was available from the late 1950s to 1960s but the company did not make a black version of the doll until 1981. So while your white Patti Playpal may be original and marked, your black companion doll is a clone or a Patti Playpal type. Apparently, several doll companies made Patti lookalikes that were black but they were not the real deal.


    Leave a Response

    Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

    bbc galapagos las islas que cambiaron el mundogalapagos cruise reviewsbest cruise ships galapagos islandsbest family galapagos cruisebest time to go to galapagos and machu picchubest time to go to peru and galapagosbiotech bedrijf galapagosbiotechnologiebedrijf galapagosbudget galapagos boat toursbudget galapagos cruise pricescaracteristicas de las islas galapagos antiguascaracteristicas de las islas galapagos flora y faunacaracteristicas de las islas galapagos mas antiguascaracteristicas islas antiguas galapagoscaracteristicas islas mas antiguas galapagoscelebrity cruise galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruise lines galapagos islandscelebrity cruises galapagos machu picchucelebrity cruises galapagos reviewscelebrity cruises galapagos xpeditioncelebrity xpedition galapagos 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos cancelledcelebrity xpedition galapagos cruisecelebrity xpedition galapagos cruise 2014celebrity xpedition galapagos excursionscelebrity xpedition galapagos machu picchucelebrity xpedition galapagos price