Q: I have about 200 Madame Alexander dolls (with boxes) to sell. How do I find doll auctions in my area?

A: The reader probably picked auction because she knows that auction puts goods out in person plus online for a worldwide public. Buyers who participate online have the option of viewing lots and asking the house for condition reports and/or further info before they participate in the live auction online. Others look and examine at the auction.

Selling an entire collection of 200 pristine (according to the reader) name dolls at auction works because the depth of goods attracts serious collectors. For buyers, numbers enhance odds for a good find. Hopefully, everyone wins.

Here's where a lot of sellers go wrong: Smart collectors know that the best auction house for those dolls may not be in your area. Selecting where your dolls will sell is as critical as how they sell.

Dozens of medium-size auction houses throughout the U.S. achieve significant results for consigners.

Our reader specifically asks for a doll auction, but an auction house that sells only dolls may not be the best place for that vintage but not antique collection. Collections sell well in regular auctions.

The task here is finding the right place to sell. Goods can always be shipped.

To find the best option, I suggest the reader view sold Madame Alexander dolls on the no-charge database, www.liveauctioneers.com . Look for the most recent results. Note what houses achieved high results for dolls that you have. The site provides addresses. Make a list of prospects.

A general list of auction houses is also found on the site's "Auctioneers" link.

Once you've zeroed on several houses that look apt, approach them via email. Be prepared to upload images.

After you consign the smart way, buyers can then do what they do best. They buy.

Q: These teddy bears are over 75 years old. I believe they are Steiff. Value?

A: I'm wondering why our reader thinks her bears are Steiff, because neither miniature bear seen in a photo sent looks to be Steiff. One has a composition molded face that the company never made; the other is dubious.

German dressmaker Marguerite Steiff made her first standing-on-all-fours bear in 1884. Before that, her stuffed animals were elephant pincushions.

Legend has it that the bears got their name when President Theodore Roosevelt could not name the breed, so they became "Teddy's bears." And that's just one spin on their naming.

Bears became popular in the U.S. after the wife of a Russian inventor who immigrated to New York made a soft jointed bear. The inventor went on to found the Ideal Toy Co., another early maker of teddy bears.

Early Steiff bears had a button with an elephant logo fixed to the bear's ears. It was replaced in 1905 by a button marked Steiff. Almost all Steiff bears still have the ear buttons, which remain a Steiff hallmark.

Children pulled on the buttons and some were lost with time and wear, and parents sometimes removed them as dangers. So collectors look for other characteristics of an early Steiff bear.

Pre-1940s Steiff bears have long, curved arms and legs. Look, too, for spoon-like front paws. Pre WW I bears have black shoe-button eyes placed low and close to the muzzle. They also have a hump at the top of the back. Later bears have glass eyes.

Our reader needs to examine the bears stem to stern for markings. Small bears from the late 1930s are collected, but value depends on maker and condition. Without looking over the actual bears, determining value is impossible.

The bears must be seen by a toy specialist. If the area has a doll hospital, that would be a good start.

A visit to the local library for a teddy bears price guide may help.


Q: The earliest German teddy bears were stuffed with what material: sawdust, shredded paper, kapok, wood chips, excelsior?

A: Starting in the 1920s, some German bears were stuffed with kapok, a fiber from seed pods. Before that, the very earliest had excelsior, or wood shaving, packing.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.)