The Beatles

Did Nisbet ever make dolls of the "Fab Four"?

Many collectors of Nisbet dolls may be unaware of the existence of this near mythical group; Some may have heard of a set of four "Beatles" dolls being made by Peggy Nisbet, and dismissed them as a fanciful story; Others may be unsure of the reality of these stories.   Some of you may have heard of the set being sold at auction, but very few collectors can claim to have seen them.       

So what is the truth behind these stories?   Is there any truth?   Or is it all a magical mystery tour, based on speculation and rumour?

Following an email from one of our correspondents, (and with his kind permission), we can reveal a bit more about this intriguing story.

On 24th and 25th February 1996, more than 1500 dolls from the Nisbet archives, and the private collection of the late Peggy Nisbet, (who died in 1995), were sold at auction in Osprey, Florida, USA.

The two images above show the Front cover of the auction catalogue, and the relevant part of Page 46, which carried the description of Lot SE002 - The Beatles.  This page tells us that the dolls were designed between 1977 and 1978, and that they were the "only prototypes of the Beatles ever produced by the House of Nisbet".   The faces were sculpted in wax, from the picture on the album cover, painted, and fixed to Resin bodies.   The costumes were also made to represent those shown on the "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album cover.   The dolls never went into production, because one of the Beatles did not give their consent.   The set was given a guide price of $2995 in the auction catalogue.

A report in the October 1996 "Doll world magazine commented on the auction :

"Bidding rose to a fevered pitch as a one-of-a-kind Beatles set came up on the auction block.   This rare set of prototypes was eventually hammered down for $1320.   Each doll was costumed in a psychedelic uniform from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.   Brass prototypes of miniature musical instruments and an actual record album of the same name accompanied the dolls.   This set is the only complete prototype in existence; the dolls were never manufactured."

So what happened to the dolls?   for most collectors, that remained a mystery.   But our researches did turn up a few minor additions to the story.

A collector we know owns a duplicate set of the Beatles heads - (their picture is shown below).

Shown here is a doll that came up for sale on a well-known internet auction site, some years ago.   It was described as being a "Ringo Starr Prototype".   We then wondered whether this doll had been part of the original auction lot - perhaps the lot had been broken up, and re-sold as individual dolls.  

But we knew that the original auction lot dolls each had a brass musical instrument - this doll didn't.   Also, the original Ringo had a hat, too.  

So was this part of a second set?

One of our correspondents, Michael A, contacted us about the Beatles dolls sold in the 1996 auction.   They were purchased by his Late mother, Patricia, and he was curious to learn more about them.   We were very excited to hear of these dolls, and were very happy to be able to provide Michael with the background information we had access to, (which is shown above).

But one vital piece of information had always eluded us - a decent photograph of these unique and iconic dolls.   Michael was very happy to oblige, and we are very proud and excited to be able to show it here :

Michael's excellent photograph of his Late mother Patricia's prized Beatles prototype set

We strongly suspect that there may have been at least one more set of these dolls in existence at one time, and there might be a clue about this possibility, to be found in the "Doll World" article : it states, "This set is the only complete prototype (set) in existence".   This careful wording does not exclude the possibility that other less complete dolls from this set may be in circulation, and the Ringo Starr prototype shown above supports this possibility.  

From our knowledge of the production and use of prototypes in the Nisbet factory, it is highly likely that preparations were made to produce at least three sets;

The first may have been limited to the modelling of the heads only, (the set we have shown above).

The second set may have been dressed, but not fully finished; (faces, hair, and shoes may not have been fully painted, and some costume trimmings, (ribbons and piping, etc), and the brass instruments, not fitted).

We think that the third set was fully painted and finished, complete with the brass instruments - and we think that this was the set that Michael's mother Patricia purchased at the 1996 auction.

So where are the partially completed John, Paul, and George from the second set of prototypes that we suspect were produced?   Are they part of your collection?   Please do let us know, if they are!


31st October 2015

New updates added - We have added a new page on the Isle of Wight dolls, which were produced for the Liliput doll Museum, on the Isle of Wight.   These dolls have mystified us for some time, but an opportunity to do some research through the archives, an email from Graham Munday, (owner of the Lilliput Doll Museum), and an email chat with author and Shallowpool Dolls expert sue Brewer, have allowed a partial reconstruction of their fascinating story.   There are still some gaps in our knowledge, so if you can fill in any of the missing details for us, please do get in touch!

19th September 2015

New updates added - Our thanks to correspondent David H, who has sent us two interesting pictures - The first is of a very rare Nisbet First Doll.   This is the doll that started Peggy Nisbet's dollmaking career, and you can read all about her on this page : dolls/special-collectors-sets-limited-and-signature-editions/SCE-P1953 Replica Edition of the First Nisbet Doll.  David's picture of his original first Nisbet is shown below the article on the replica doll, and below that, is shown a unique 18" porcelain doll that also shows the Queen in Coronation robes, and was used in displays and exhibitions.   This doll is also shown in the book, "The Peggy Nisbet Story".  Other updates added today are the BOAC and BEA dolls, Madam Tussaud Dolls, Wax Dolls, and a Porcelain statuette issued as a tribute to Peter Bull, which is shown under Dolls/Porcelain Dolls/Irish Dresden - Tribute to the Late Peter Bull

12th September 2015

New updates added - Apologies to all our visitors for the long delay in adding some updates and new information - we hope that the items listed below will be of interest!   Many kind thanks to numerous correspondents, for their kind offers of pictues and other information, to fill in the gaps in various galleries :  To Barbara T, for her stunning pictures of H/214 - Queen Elizabeth I, wearing a rubber crown.   Pictures appear in Historical Gallery 1, and in "Know your Nisbets/Headgear/Crowns".   Frank T sent two excellent pictures of Vera Evelyn Samuel, and you can see the pictures and read all about her here - "Porcelain Dolls/Doulton Nisbet".   Penny D has sent in some pictures of her magnificent early P/618 - Robbie Burns - See him in Portrait Dolls Gallery 1.   We have used another of Keith P's pictures in a new gallery just added - "Know your Nisbet/Body shape and pose".   Finally, we have added a new page on Walt Disney dolls, which may come as something of a surprise to many collectors, as the dolls are not typically Nisbet in appearance!


3rd January 2015


Exciting New updates added for 2015 - Correspondent Michael A contacted us last year to ask about his mother's "Beatles" Nisbet dolls - Collectors of long standing may have heard of this almost legendary set of dolls - Thanks to Michael, you can now learn all about them here : /dolls/the-dolls-that-never-were/the-beatles/   

A recent contact from author Ian Price, who writes for the "Fashion Dolls Quarterly" magazine, (, enquired about Nisbet's Christmas themed dolls - We were delighted to assist his researches in compiling this article on Peggy Nisbet's "Legends of Christmas" dolls.   Ian has very kindly allowed us to make a copy of this article available for download - Please go to the Downloads/Miscellaneous/ page, and click on the link to "Styling Santa", by Ian Price, to see the article.



Thank you for stopping by to browse, or for making contact with us - We hope the website will prove to be of use and interest to you!