One of the most common questions the elves get at Annalee HQ is “How do I date my Annalee doll?” The easy answer is it’s all in the sewn-in tag accompanying each doll. But, of course, it’s more complicated than that.
From 1987 to the present, Annalee has embroidered the year of production on each doll’s tag. Dating dolls prior to 1987 (and there are a lot of them) is more difficult. But it can be done. And we’ve gathered some information you need to help. It’s all about understanding the different tags used throughout the years.
The tags on an Annalee doll have changed and evolved through the years. By observing the physical tag used on a doll, whose relative date of creation is known, a timeline can be created. In early dolls, there are three types of tags. The sewn/glued tag identifying the creator or company; a sewn/glued content label; and a paper hang tag.
These tags have been located in a variety of places on the dolls. On a very early skier doll, for example, you will find the Annalee tag glued to the underside of a ski. Often tags were located on the back side of the doll, sometimes sewn to the body, other times to the clothes. Early tags were often attached flat. They were also sewn in on one side, the other end “pinked” (cut into jagged points for a finished look).
The Early Years
In the 1930s, ’40s, and early ‘50s four different versions of tags were produced.
- Version 1: Made of woven fabric with straight edges. It was white with printed block letters saying ANNALEE.
- Version 2: Same as version one, but with slightly larger size. The block letters saying ANNALEE were sewn in, not printed. (Photo #1)
- Version 3: A slightly larger white tag with black letters, including a handwritten NH.
- Version 4: Satin with straight edges with the word “Cash” on one side (the company name of the tag’s manufacturer). The tag was light green with a script Annalee woven in.
Starting in 1954, a new 1 ¾-inch by ½-inch woven fabric tag began to be used. (Photo #2) It was white with red Annalee script letters. Some tags had straight edges, others were pinked. A slight variation of this tag was used in 1955 incorporating the words “patent pending.” Another type of tag from 1954-55 was satin with pinked edges. (Photo #3) It was white with red script Annalee lettering on the first line and block lettering saying “Meredith, NH” on the second line. In the later ’50s and early ’60s a © symbol was added to this tag as patents and trademarks on the dolls were being registered.
The 1960s and 1970s
Copyright © and registration ® marks began appearing regularly in the 1960s. A year, 1963 or 1964, was also added. The year indicates the date of patent or copyright registration but not the year of actual production. In these cases, the patent or copyright year was for the actual artwork/facial expression on the doll. If there were two dates listed, then the artwork was likely revised in the later year.
Two different versions of tags were used in the 1960s.
- Version 1: A woven white tag with red embroidered lettering saying U.S.A. Annalee ® © 1963 Mobilitee Dolls Inc ® Meredith, NH.
- Version 2: Same as version one, but the year changes to 1964.
In the 1970s, the tags became more and more varied. For a short time in the early ’70s the company used a satin-like label that was glued on. Some tags are found on the underside of the doll.
For example, on a 1971 12-inch Nightshirt Girl Mouse with Candle the tag is glued underneath (on her “bum”). The white satin with red lettering tag is large, 2 by 9/16 and is pinked on the end. It reads U.S.A. Annalee ® © 1969 Mobilitee Doll Inc ® Meredith, N.H. This is a good example of a doll where the date refers to a design copyright but not to its date of manufacture and release to the public.
Most tags in the 1970s were more commonly folded and sewn in. In 1976 the company began using a folded Tyvek label with the doll’s contents printed on the back side. A page in the Annalee Price Index and Collector’s Information Guide Volume I showcased eight different content labels all used in 1976.
In 1974, a green folded paper hang tag, with a string attached, was added to the dolls in addition to their sewn-in tags.
The Big 1980s and 1990s
In 1980 the company purchased its own label machine. The tags produced were a poly non-woven fabric measuring 2 6/8 by 9/16 inches before being folded and sewn into a doll seam. At some point during the 1980s the Annalee logo head was added to the tags. (Photo #4)
In 1987 the actual year of production was added to the sewn-in tags. The year appears with two digits with an apostrophe (’87). Even with this new information, reading the tags was still complicated. (Annalee didn’t want her designs copied or stolen so she insisted on protecting her creations with copyrights and trademarks.)
For example, the tag on a 1987 10-inch Ski Elf reads: 1984 Annalee Mobilitee ™ Dolls Inc. ® ’87 © 1957. Made only in Meredith, New Hampshire, U.S.A. The tag is white with red red lettering and also features the Annalee logo head. The contents of the doll is printed on the back of the tag. A green hang tag was also attached over the neck.
In 1990 the company brought back the red and white embroidered tag. It is used over a non-poly woven content tag, both sewn in. (Photo #5)
In 1992 a special Annalee Doll Society woven tag was designed for members-only editions of the felt Sun Pin. It has yellow embroidered text on blue satin-like material. The Doll Society logo and the year is printed on the front. In 1993 and ’94 the colors of the Doll Society tag changed to green lettering on white for other member designs From 1995 to 1999, the Doll Society tag returned to a more traditional 2 ¾ by ⅝ inch design that was folded and sewn in. It was still green on white. In later 1998 and throughout 1999 the tag size shrunk to 2 ¼ by ½ inch.
In 1995 and 1996 the Doll Society tag was added to the Logo Kid and Folk Hero designs. Late in 1995 barcode hang tags were added to all dolls. The tags were made of beige paper with black ink. In 1997 only, speciality hang tags were created for limited edition exclusives. This special tag was in addition to a regular tan and blue hang tag.
During a two year period in 1997 and 1998, a unique backstamp for each year was added to dolls that were part of the Annalee Davis Thorndike Museum Collection. The series recreated select dolls from Annalee’s earlier years. The backstamp for 1997 features an Annalee “A” and the year 1997 on a silhouette of Annalee’s childhood home. The backstamp for 1998 an “A,” a key, the year 1998 on a diamond-shaped silhouette. (Photos #6 and 7)
Annalee in the 21st Century
As doll production moved into the 2000s, tagging became more consistent. One major change was that larger embroidered tags were replaced with smaller printed ones. A major point when dating more recent dolls is that the last two digits of the product’s SKU number (which is found on the hang tag ) indicates the year that the doll was made. That’s the quickest and easiest way to check the date. If that tag was cut off, you will have to go digging for the sewn-in label (which will have the production year).
It’s important to note that dolls specifically made for resale in other stores, such as Dillards, Macy’s, Cracker Barrel, and many others, had special hang tags during this period.
So…as you can see, dating your Annalee doll is not necessarily easy, but with a little research (and the information above) you should be able to quickly pinpoint when your doll was made.
To help you identify your dolls and also keep an inventory of your collection, Annalee has developed some free online collector resources for you to use. This includes a collection tracker where you can login and create your own personal account to save and add notes about the designs you own. You also can now find favorites from the past in our archive of retired designs. (PLEASE NOTE: This collection is not all-encompassing. We are constantly building this archive with additional designs.) This online archive also features many of the catalogs that were produced by the company through the years. You may also want to check out the reference Guide at SueCoffee.com for more dating and collecting information. Annalee is working on providing more information on fabric identifiers in a future addendum. In the earliest years many fabric changes were made. Starting in the early 1970’s, a fabric was chosen each year for Easter and another for Christmas and many designs in the collection wore the fabric. Stay tuned for more information on identifying designs by fabric samples. Happy collecting.