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January, 2007

A  Lenci Doll Collector article--for Lenci doll collectors



Special Feature : Nancy Lazenby Interview


Patricia Hayes
For The Lenci Doll Collector

Patricia Hayes: I am very much looking forward to your new book Lenci: The History and the Dolls.

What was your motivation in taking on this subject ?

Nancy Lazenby : I've loved and collected Lenci and other felt dolls for almost 30 years. I bought my first Lenci doll (still have it) for $8.00 in a thrift shop in 1968. I was hooked from that time on, and tried to learn as much as I could about the dolls over the years. I have a collection of Lenci's that numbers just over 80 dolls and accessories. I have always had the desire to write a book on Lenci but until Reverie Publishing approached me I didn't think that this book would be a reality. 

PH: Can you share with me some details about the contents ?

NL: I've really made an effort to make this a comprehensive book on Lenci, covering all aspects of the company's history. Much of the book is devoted to the years between 1919 and 1936 when Elena and Enrico Scavini started and ran the company, and then the Garella years are covered, when Pilade and Flavio Garella bought the company, passing it on to two more generations of the Garella Family until the doors closed in 2001. I covered the Anili Company (Elena Scavini's daughter) which Elena sculpted the doll faces used for the Anili dolls. I included photographs of many of the known Lenci Types to help collectors tell the difference between a true Lenci and the types. Each chapter has a list of Identity Factors for that particular type or size of Lenci. Lastly, there is an entire chapter on identifying Lenci dolls, complete with photographs showing the various construction methods used by the company. The book is intended to be an easy to use guide for the novice collector, as well as being a comprehensive book for the most sophisticated Lenci collector. I submitted over 500 photographs, some of which had to be eliminated simply because of room, but the final book has close to 400 photographs, almost all of them in color. This is the first American Book published on Lenci in almost 30 years. It is my hope that I have been able to expand on the wonderful research done by Dorothy Coleman... ...(continued below)

Nancy  Lazenby

"Lenci became a passion with me. I have learned never to say 'never' when it comes to Lenci as it always surprises me to find something unusual with each new doll I am able to examine."- Nancy Lazenby

New book on Lenci Dolls from Nancy  Lazenby

2. Lenci: The History and the Dolls "The book is intended to be an easy to use guide for the novice collector, as well as being a comprehensive book for the most sophisticated Lenci collector." - Nancy Lazenby


Continued ..." and to add to what Sabine Reinelt was able to impart in her book, written in both German and English. I had access to Dorothy Coleman's research papers. Poma Caso's wonderful family photographs and records...(Poma is the daughter of Anili, and the Granddaughter of Elena Scavini). Bibija Garella was extremely helpful in providing information and family photographs on the Garella years of the company both under her father, and during the time she was heading up Lenci. I had access to the records of Tide-Rider, the company that represented Lenci in the United States in the 1980's during the rebirth of the Lenci Company when Beppe brought back the reproduction dolls made from the old molds. This in addition to the wonderful people who opened up their homes so I could photographs some of the best Lenci Collections in the United States. I was so fortunate to gain the trust and cooperation of many people who helped to make this book a reality. I am so grateful to each one that helped me.

PH: What were the some of the challenges you overcame in taking on this project? 

NL: There were challenges, but people were so wonderful when I asked for help. I have made friends with people from all over the world through Lenci. Patrizia Nicotra Martini in Italy was invaluable helping me with questions I had. I found one of the most difficult things was the dolls were known by different names in Italy than they were in America. Especially after 1933. Lenci had a habit of changing the way they identified their dolls over the years. In the book I try to stick with what the dolls were called initially, i.e. Series 300, Series 110, Miniatures, etc. After 1933 when catalogues were no longer available to us, the company began calling a Series of dolls by names such as Rita, Lucia, Henriette, etc. With each name identifying a size and face of dolls that came in several different costumes. Many dolls are known in the US by one name but in Italy by another name. This was the most difficult part to resolve.

PH: How long did the project take and how did you find the time in your busy schedule?

NL: I didn't keep a daily schedule. My life was too busy to try and say I would write for 4 hours each day. I cut out pieces of the year and devoted them to the book.  I am also the National Event Coordinator for the United Federation of Doll Clubs, overseeing the meal events at their national convention yearly and working with the Director of Convention Services in planning the national convention. I took two months off to do the actual writing of the book, but it took me two years to get all the research material together, and to photograph doll collections all over the United States. When I began writing I had amassed all of my research materials and just needed to get it into a book format.

PH: How did you become interested in Lenci dolls?

NL: I have collected dolls my entire life. I put them away when I was about 13 but unpacked them and began calling myself a doll collector when I was 27. In 1968 the best resources to find dolls were Flea Markets and Thrift Shops. I bought the initial Lenci from a thrift store for $8.00 as I have told you, but the 2nd one has a much more interesting story to it. I found a little floppy leg miniature girl in a Thrift Store in Redwood City, CA, and bought her for $13 in 1968. The thrift store manager told me that the doll had been donated by a woman who was a twin. She told the store manager that she and her twin sister had both been given twin Lenci dolls when they were young. One dressed in a pink ruffled organdy dress, the other in green. She told the shop owner that the dolls "looked at one another", with one doll looking left and the other looking right. She was donating her doll because she had no girls to give it to. I always remembered that story.........22 years later I was walking through a Southern California doll show and found the same little floppy leg doll, dressed in a green ruffled organdy dress. The hats on the dolls were identical. Of course the story came back to me, but I didn't know if my doll looked to the left or the right. When I called home to find out, my husband thought I was crazy, but dutifully went to look at the doll. Sure enough.......the girl in pink was glancing to the right and the one in green was looking to the left. I bought the little girl in green, and although I have no way of knowing if the dolls were once the childhood dolls of the twin girls.......I like to think that they were reunited. Beppe Garella once told me that in the early years when they shipped dolls such as the Series 300 pairs, they tried to select dolls that would look at one another. Over the years, I have found that when a pair of dolls is found, they often do look at one another. 

PH: What advice would you offer a beginning collector ?

NL: Two things: First, Buy dolls that talk to your heart. If you love the doll at first sight chances are you will always love it, and it will continue to make you happy. The cost of the doll will long be forgotten with the joy it brings when you look at her/him. Second: From an investment stand point, buy the best example of a doll that you can afford. Lenci's are unique in that a prime example that is clean, and all original, will always hold it's value. It's very hard for the novice to clean a Lenci properly, and finding original clothing can prove to be a real challenge. There are people who do a beautiful job of cleaning and restoring Lenci dolls, but the cost is high for their expertise, learned over many years of trial and error. In the beginning this may mean buying a perfect miniature when your heart is set on a Series 300 doll. But work up to that Series 300 doll, and buy the best examples you can afford. When you find a better example, sell the first one and buy a better one. 

I might add one last item. Many new doll collectors think they must have a focused doll collection.....that they must collect just one type of doll. This is something that isn't necessarily for everyone. I have tended to focus on cloth and felt dolls, but that was after many years of collecting and finding that I was always drawn to the Lenci dolls. If, as a new collector, you want to buy all types of dolls, and you are building a varied collection, don't ever think this is the wrong approach. It is much more normal than my collection that has a narrow focus. It is not necessary to find one type of doll that you love and to focus your whole collection towards that end. buying many types of dolls, you will learn a lot from the collection you build, and if at some point you decide to start a collection of one particular type or one manufacturer, you will have had the experience and knowledge gained in owning many different dolls. This will help you to know that giving a certain focus to your collection is the right thing for you personally to do. 

PH: Can you share some details of your own collection of dolls?

NL: I began by collecting mostly composition and hard plastic. These are the dolls I grew up with and played with as a child. They were the dolls I was familiar with. I had a collection of 500 to 800 dolls, and in the late 1980's I began to sell them so I could buy Lenci's and other cloth dolls. My initial investment of a few dollars here and there at Flea Markets proved to be a good one, as doll collecting grew tremendously in the 1980's. The dolls I sold enabled me to buy some beautiful Lenci's and other felt and cloth dolls. Today my collection of Lenci's is just over 80 dolls, but my entire doll collection numbers about 500 dolls, this includes a lot of beautiful Lenci Types, some special composition dolls, hard plastic, a group of Pinocchio dolls, a collection of R. John Wright dolls and with my involvement in UFDC many souvenir dolls from conventions and meal events.

PH: When / where will the reader be able to buy a copy of your new book?

NL: Those that are interested can write to me directly at and I will keep a list of people interested in the book when it is published, which I am expecting will be May or June of 2007. I will send out cards when the book is available. There is no obligation to buy the book, I will just be keeping a list of people who may be interested. The other source is Reverie Publishing They will have the cover of the book up on the website shortly and they too will be taking orders for the book.

PH: Anything else I should ask, or you would like to share of interest to doll collectors ?

What a fabulous year we have seen for Lenci. Although none of the long time Lenci collectors like to see price surges on Lenci dolls, it is a good sign for everyone. The Lenci dolls from the 1920's and 1930's are still a good investment, and are very strong in the market place. Doll collecting has gone through some soft years recently and I believe we are now seeing a healthy recovery. We all want our dolls to gain in value, or at best to maintain the prices we have paid for them. I foresee great popularity for the Lenci and Lenci Type dolls in the next few years. It is a good time to invest in these dolls, as the price increases are just beginning. We are all seeing it with the Series 300 dolls, but this will also go across the board to all Lenci dolls. Right now it seems to be the boys that are the most popular, and girls with intricately pieced felt outfits, or those who have accessories. The girls in organdy dresses are following closely behind. I would not be afraid to purchase any Lenci dolls right now. It is just the beginning of a new popularity for these charming children from Italy.  Undervalued right now are the very earliest dolls from the Lenci Company. They aren't as pretty or as cute as the children that are so popular, but they represent the earliest years of the company. Many of them were painted by Elena Scavini herself, in the kitchen of her home. Don't pass up a unique early doll that may be found with just a tiny metal button in the clothing that says Lenci, very much like the Steiff buttons. 

PH: Nancy, thanks so much for your time and patience in responding to my questions, I wish you every success with your new book. I am very much looking forward to seeing the result of all your hard work and dedication.


Biographical Note:
Nancy Lazenby has owned and loved dolls her entire life.  She became a doll collector officially in 1968, and began by collecting composition and hard plastic dolls.  As her knowledge grew she found herself drawn to the Italian Lenci dolls.    Having purchased the first two dolls in 1968,  over the years the collection has grown to approximately 80 dolls. Nancy began to study and research Lenci in the mid 1990's when she obtained her first vintage Lenci Catalogue.  She began writing articles for various doll publications at the same time and gained a reputation of being knowledgeable on Lenci and other cloth dolls of the same era.    Nancy resides in the small, vintage, California Gold Rush town of Grass Valley with her husband Wyatt.     The United Federation of Doll Clubs takes up a lot of her time, where she helps plan and oversee the meal events for UFDC's national convention yearly.   She is also a National Judge with expertise in cloth dolls.    Nancy states  "Lenci became a passion with me.  I have learned never to say "never' when it comes to Lenci as it always surprises me to find something unusual with each new doll I am able to examine." 

Nancy is always happy to answer questions on Lenci dolls or help with identification.  Collectors can write to Nancy at: Nancy Lazenby, 11021 Norager Way, Grass Valley, CA 95949, USA, 530 274 2899, or email



  • Photos, Nancy Lazenby.
  • Book cover © Reverie Publishing, INC. All rights reserved., Telephone (301) 722-2373 ? Toll-free (888) 721-4999 ? Fax (301) 722-2374.


Patricia Hayes
For The Lenci Doll Collector


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