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Rare Custom-Made Designs

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Collecting Annalee dolls is a cherished tradition. It’s been that way since the beginning of the Annalee company. Through the years, Annalee designed a variety of dolls that were sold exclusively in department and specialty stores as well as dolls that were created especially for customer requests. These designs were often produced in low quantities and were not widely available to the general public. As a result, these designs are, much like the exclusives created today, some of the most-rare and most-sought after designs among collectors. Here’s a rundown of a few custom-made designs and their behind-the scenes story. 

The husband and wife partnership of Max and Clara Fortunoff established the Fortunoff business in the New York and New Jersey region, much the same as Chip and Annalee Thorndike did in founding Annalee Dolls in New England. Fortunoff stores grew to become a destination shopping location. In honor of Fortunoff’s 75th anniversary in 1997, Annalee Dolls created a commemorative design, the Anniversary Kid, to celebrate the milestone. This exclusive 7-inch doll, waving a banner saying “Celebrating 75 Years,” was limited to 750 copies and was sold only in Fortunoff stores. It also came with a certificate of authenticity indicating the design number.

For several years, Annalee Dolls created special exclusives sold only to retailers through the Parkwest/NALED (National Association of Limited Edition Dealers) catalog. Two designs were included in the 1998 Christmas catalog. The Spinning Christmas Joy design featured a delightful 10-inch elf spinning on a top in a whirl of joy and good tidings. The Christmas Tree-ditions design featured a stately 12-inch mouse and a 3-inch mouse carrying a Christmas tree. The larger mouse was notable for his expertly designed snowshoes. 

The very first squirrel design ever made by Annalee Dolls was created for General Stores of Brick, New Jersey. Released in the summer of 1997, Suzy Squirrel was a 7-inch tall limited edition. Suzy is shown happily gathering seeds and nuts and placing them in a burlap bag of seeds. Suzy also sported creative wireframe eyeglasses and had an extra-long bushy tail. 

In 1980, Robert Bennett of Meredith, New Hampshire, asked Annalee to create a doll to commemorate the reunion of the crew of the Plankowner LST 735, a United States Navy ship active during World War II. This special order request produced the 7-inch Sailor Mouse. The Sailor Mouse’s hat and banner proudly display the name LST 735. Only 65 of this design were made for crew members only. The design was never sold in stores making it an extremely rare doll. Even more rare is a 12-inch Sailor Mouse that was made as a prize at the crew reunion. Only one of these dolls was made.

Did you know that Annalee participated in the Kentucky Derby? In 1975, Talents Unlimited of Kentucky, which ran the gift shop at Churchill Down ordered a supply of special 10-inch, 18-inch, and 36-inch felt horses and jockeys, plus felt boy and girl Derby horses, to sell at the track. Known as the Track-Crazy Horses or the Kentucky Crazy Horses, the animals were brown with a darker brown saddle blanket. The jockeys had a white body, a blue jacket, a red and white striped bib inside the jacket to look like a shirt, and a blue hat. These designs sold out quickly as quantities were very limited: only 120 of the 18-inch horse; 60 of the 36-inch horse; 120 of the 18-inch horse with 18-inch jockey; and 60 of the 36-inch horse with 25-inch jockey. Many collectors consider these dolls as priceless. 

In 1954, a unique 10-inch Girl Ski Doll was specifically commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue. The most notable feature of this doll is the tag. It is not an Annalee Mobilite Company tag. Instead it is an embroidered tag bearing the Saks Fifth Avenue name. Like other early Annalee ski dolls, it stands ready for the slopes on handmade wooden skis, each signed by Annalee. The girl is dressed in a red wool hat with a multicolored pom playfully dangling from the tip of her hat. Her jacket is slate blue and her pants are dark blue twill. The trademark hand-laced leather boots anchor her feet to her ski bindings. This beauty also has the almond-shaped eyes that Annalee so loved to paint on her early dolls. If you have one, this doll is a collector’s treasure. The last time this doll went up for sale at an Annalee auction, it sold for $1500.

These few examples show that Annalee dolls continue to be sought-after by collectors. Even more recent designs have been fought-over by collectors. At the recent Summer Prototype Auction, 25 dolls sold from between $200 to $575. The 6in Love, Peace, & Pride Mouse from 2021 and 33-inch Old Snow-man Winter from 2019 designs led the bidding at $555 and $575, respectively. Another recent design, the 7-inch Big Game Football Mouse exclusive from 2019, with only 53 made, has become one of the most sought-after designs by collectors.  

While we know all Annalee dolls are special, clearly there are those select few that stand out and rise above the others. Which designs will reach that status is unknown. But isn’t that what makes collecting, and the hunt for certain designs, so much fun. Happy collecting.    

 

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