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Kobe Dolls

Debbie Porter


Kobe Dolls are the name given to mechanical wooden dolls unique to Kobe, Japan.  They were once as well-known as the port itself.  The Kobe Dolls were produced from the mid-Meiji era (ca. 1890) until about 1920, and sold at souvenir shops on Motomachi Shopping Street and near Nunobiki Waterfall where tourists gathered.  Their funny movement and jocular facial expressions attracted the attention of Kobekko and tourists. 

‘Port of Kobe’, where the Kobe Dolls were produced from around 1890 until 1920.

Kobe Dolls are mechanical wooden dolls with a mechanism that often made their eyes and tongues protrude like a cartoon creature.  

Handmade of ebony or another dark wood and have ivory features. Most are small, under 6 inches tall, and some have several moving parts. 

They might play an instrument, eat, drink, or perform gymnastics. Kobe dolls with ivory inserts made before about 1920 are most collectable. 

This collection, although in need of some repair, with an estimate of £200 – £400, will be offered for auction in our Antiques, Rare Pottery & Fine Art Auction to be held on Saturday, March 10th, 2018.

Selling at Auction

If you have Kobe Doll pieces you’re looking to sell, their pieces
consistently perform well at auction and our staff is well-placed to provide
valuations and advice on selling your items. Call 01782 638100 or to book a valuation appointment to attend
one of our Tuesday valuation days. We also provide valuations via WhatsApp,
simply send some clear photographs of your items via the app to 07864 667940.
Additionally, we can send you links to our catalogues via WhatsApp–message the
above number via the app and ask to receive our catalogues. Make sure you are
subscribed to our email newsletters, too!