The “Toni” doll was introduced by the American Character Doll Corporation in 1958. She obtained her name from a licensing agreement with the Gillette Company who manufactured the "Toni" home permanent wave kits. Each doll came with a "Play Wave" styling kit that could be used to curl her hair. Toni's hair was thick and easy to style. Her hair varied in length from a short bob to a longer shoulder length flip. Colors were light blonde, dark blonde, red, and dark brunette.
Toni was available in several sizes including 10 ˝ inches, 14 inches, 20 inches, and 25 inches. The doll pictured above is the 10 ˝ inch version. She is marked “American Character Doll Corporation” in a circle on her back.
“Toni” was produced during the late 1950’s “Glamour/Fashion” doll era which preceded the introduction of “Barbie”. Unlike “Barbie”, these dolls were less sophisticated looking and although they had a woman’s body, they had a very distinctive childlike face. The original 10 ˝ "Toni" doll came in a white lace lingerie outfit. (Doll pictured above and below is not wearing her original outfit.)
Additional clothing was available to be purchased separately and was similar to clothing that adult women wore at that time. Click the photos below to see a full copies of an old catalog pages showing clothing available for “Toni”. These outfits were very detailed and of high quality.
Patterns were also available to make your own clothing for these types of dolls. The doll pictured below is wearing a sun dress and hat made from one of these original vintage patterns (middle dress on the left shown in pattern envelope photo below).
The brunette Toni doll pictured below is wearing a dress made from another vintage pattern (pink dress with collar in upper left corner of pattern envelope photo shown below).
In 1957, a year prior to the introduction of "Toni", American Character marketed a very similar doll called "Sweet Sue Sophisticate". A young girl style doll had been sold for several years by the company under the name "Sweet Sue". The "Sophisticate" was added to her name when she was re-designed as a glamour type doll. This doll was only available for one year and was sold only in 14 inch and 20 inch sizes. She was also sold in a version with a "flexible foot" that would allow her to wear flat shoes, ballet shoes, and high heal shoes.
"Sweet Sue Sophisticate" was virtually identical to the larger sized "Toni's" except for a few key differences. Sweet Sue Sophisticate had eyelashes painted underneath her eyes while Toni had them only in the corner. Sweet Sue Sophisticate also had a slightly different body construction that would her to both tilt and swivel her head. Toni can only swivel her head and waist, but she cannot tilt her head or bend at her waist.
A final difference is that Sweet Sue Sophisticate and Toni were sold with totally different wardrobes. When Toni was introduced in 1958, some of the remaining Sweet Sue Sophisticate dolls were dressed in Toni clothing and sold as a Toni doll. This can only be validated, however, if the doll is found in her original box and clothing. Otherwise, only the body and face paint characteristics can be used to distinguish the two dolls.
Below is 14 inch Sweet Sue Sophisticate who is wearing a reproduction of Toni's "American Beauty" outfit. Notice the eyelashes painted under her eyes.
The photo below shows a gorgeous 14 inch Toni from a closed eBay auction. Note the eyelashes on the side.
"Toni" dolls were similar to the "Revlon" glamour dolls made by the Ideal Toy Company during the same period. They both had body and face styles typical of the glamour dolls sold during that time. They also both had advertising tie in's to adult beauty products.
Click here to see my "Miss Revlon" page
Click here to see my "Little Miss Revlon" page
Speaking of Ideal, they also produced a doll using the “Toni” name with a tie in to "Toni Home Perm" in the early 1950’s. This doll was in the form of a young girl, however, and was made of hard plastic with a nylon wig. The Ideal “Toni” doll is also very popular with collectors.
Click here to see my "Ideal Toni" page
I think the American Character “Toni” and "Sweet Sue" dolls were the most beautiful of all the late 1950’s fashion dolls. Her face was just very pretty and serene. All the dolls from this era are very popular with collectors and often demand high prices. They are beautiful reminder of a time gone by.
For more information on fashion dolls of the 1950's, here is a link to a great website:
Fashionable Ladies - The Online Encyclopedia of Glamour Dolls - 1955 to 1964
Also refer to these great books for more information on American Character Toni dolls as well as other 1950's dolls.
Dolls and Accessories of the 1950's by Dian Zillner
American Character Dolls: Identification
and Value Guide by Judith Izen
Back to Dolls of the 50's
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