Tonner Doll Company No More

As of December 31st, 2018, the Tonner Doll Company shuttered it’s doors. Here’s what we know, in Robert Tonner’s own words, from an e-mail to those on the mailing list for the doll company.

“I was lucky enough to start Tonner Doll at a point when it seemed that everyone was collecting, making, buying or selling dolls. At the same time, the Far East was willing and eager to produce whatever we wanted at a price that couldn’t be beat. High demand and inexpensive, quality production led to the golden age of collectible dolls and great success for Tonner Doll.

It’s often said that the only thing you can count on is change; I whole heartedly agree with that statement. I could go on and on about the changes in the collectible doll industry, but in short, the business model that I used to build Tonner Doll is no longer viable or sustainable. Therefore, Tonner Doll Company (including the Tonner Doll web site, doll hospital, phones and emails) was closed as of December 31, 2018.”

He goes on to say that Phyn and Aero, his current brainchild, isn’t going anywhere and that he will still be very active in the doll world.

“Through Phyn and Aero, I’ll be working directly with our favorite retailers to create unique and exclusive dolls (look for the first Ellowyne out this Spring). I will continue to design for and attend events throughout the year (Dollology, Shaker Doll Club, Doll Circle and UFDC to name a few). At Phyn and Aero I will also continue to develop new product; we’ll be doing small batch, design driven products. Rayne, a new character with unique (and I mean unique) accessories will debut around Toy Fair. In addition, I am working on design projects with other companies (I just did a huge amount of work for FAO; that was both a challenge and a delight). I think it’s going to be a very busy, very exciting 2019!”

Now, I would be lying to say that I was shocked by this news. For the past year, there’s been a lot of question marks surrounding the Tonner Doll Company and production was noticeably lighter than in their heyday. I’m not a Tonner collector and never really have been, though I own a few of them. The prices were always too high for me to warrant buying most of them and ‘high fashion’ dolls aren’t my thing.

Reading his statement, I feel like the changes in manufacturing aren’t what’s really to blame for the closing of his company of 28 years. (I’d rather the people making my dolls be paid fair wages than have my dolls be made in places that don’t pay fairly, so if that’s why prices went up for production, seems like something that shouldn’t be used as an excuse, in my opinion.) Of course, that’s just my opinion and an assumption, having no knowledge of the inner-workings of the company.

Looking at the company from a collectors perspective, I think the real downfall of Tonner Doll Company is that they didn’t change with the times and trends in the doll world quick enough and when they did, the dolls were too expensive for the majority of us collectors. While I’m excited Tonner mentioned (briefly) in his memo that Ellowyne will be re-emerging in the spring from Phyn and Aero, I’m fairly convinced she’ll be out of my price range. But, maybe this means one day we can get some friends for my favorite Tonner doll Maudlynne Macabre?

Will you miss Tonner Doll Company? Is this announcement a surprise to you? Share your thoughts in the comment area.

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January 3, 2019. Tags: . Uncategorized.

15 Comments

  1. wendydirks replied:

    it’s sad to see any doll company go out of business. I only have one Tonner doll in my collection, Tiny Kitty Collier, as I only buy dolls that fit into my 1:6 scale universe. I think they stopped making Tiny Kitty a while ago so I can’t say I’m going to miss the dolls very much.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Honestly, I won’t miss it so much, either, b/c most weren’t my taste. But thankfully, for those who do like the vibe of his stuff, he still has Phyn and Aero to keep him busy.

  2. Taswegian1957 replied:

    I am surprised to hear this but I am not always in the loop on the high end doll companies. It is very sad. Tonner made pretty dolls although too expensive for me to buy so I never really got into them. Just sad that there is one less company making quality dolls. I do agree that I want to buy dolls made by people who are getting a fair wage. I think too many companies, not just doll manufacturers, only care about how cheaply they can get something made.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      It is sad that the list of unique doll makers is so small nowadays. :/

  3. kenaiqueen replied:

    I have a lot of Tonners, but I had just about reached my limit with them. They are expensive and his dolls are still/more expensive with his new company, so that’s not much of a change. Miss them? Maybe, a bit. What I will miss are the clothes…he’s a wonderful designer and I love some of my El outfits so much that I wish they were my size LOL! I will also miss their doll hospital. Some of my girl’s bodies are getting loose and might need some TLC in the near future and I’m sad to lose that resource.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      His dolls did have some fantastic outfits! Dr. Noreen, the face of Tonner’s doll hospital, runs her own doll clinic. You can find details here: http://www.the-doll-hospital.com/ She’s worked on my vintage dolls and is amazing.

  4. Beatrix replied:

    I thought the Tonner doll company basically had closed with the launch of Phyn and Aero. At least he still will be around. I own about a dozen plus Tonner dolls. I bought the majority on the secondary market. One doll I purchased was the Deja Vu doll but returned it because i felt that it didn’t match the beauty of the prototype. I think he sculpts well and have always felt his greatest talent was in clothes designing, but over time I began to feel that there was an almost alien feel to the eyes and expression of some of his designs. I liked his contests and the Tonner doll photo war pics. I really love my Perfect Patience doll–her face sculpt, google eyes, and sculpt are great, but already there I found that he took unfortunate shortcuts. Her hair is worse than embroidery floss and her articulation is more limited than you would expect for a jointed doll. But I feel she is unique and shows such potential. I don’t know why his company had to close–I suspect the competition is cutthroat and maybe his genius lost interest in designing for dolls on that scale. I am happy he was there to take over the Effanbee line for as long as he did. His Ann Estelle doll line is amazing as are so many of his other dolls. And as we’ve seen and discussed here he is not alone in closing shop. The doll collector base is passing on, kids are not as interested in dolls as they once were, and the Asian bjd companies don’t need intermediaries to market their products for them anymore. Hard to survive with all that. We doll collectors are a small and unusual group. I think this trend will continue.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      I think Tonner is a very inventive, talented designer, but as far as making sound business decisions, that’s where he faltered. There were so many properties he licensed that went nowhere (b/c either the movies failed at the box office or the fanbase wasn’t large enough). And then what did have a following, they’d do too much until it became pretty redundant. Plus, the fact that he couldn’t sell outside North America in many cases…

  5. knittyGurl replied:

    Wow, I had no idea! Tonner dolls were always out of my price range too and I also found most of them not my style. Some of them would have been cool to have but not so much that I’d save up for it. I have a few Pullip dolls and so I was interested in Patience until I found out how strangely and randomly her eyes rolled around. She has an adorable face though.

    I’m also concerned about doll companies closing down but even more with multiple doll bloggers quitting! The Toy Box Philosopher and Never Grow Up blogs both quit blogging within the last year or so… 😦 Kewpie83 and your Mom, PLEASE don’t stop blogging and posting Youtube videos! You guys are my favorite.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      I had no idea those other bloggers had retired! How sad. I never wanted to be influenced by other bloggers/youtubers, so I rarely read/watch their stuff. Since I don’t go super detailed in my reviews, it was nice knowing that I could point people to other blogs if they wanted all the tiny details on something. Rest assured, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon here on the blog or on YouTube, nor does my mom. 🙂 I definitely prefer writing more article’y type things to reviews, at the moment (b/c there’s not many exciting toys out), but I’m still here and will be here for the foreseeable future! I appreciate your kind words about the blog and channel!!!!

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