Book Tags (Labels)

Before looking at the tag on your doll, you first have to find it!   Tags are usually suspended from the doll's left wrist, but what can you do if it isn't there?

Surprisingly, we have found "lost" tags tucked up inside the clothes, or tied around the doll's knee or thigh, under the skirts and petticoats, so don't despair if it is not immediately obvious - Check the doll's clothing over carefully, as it might be hidden inside!   (Some collectors used to remove the tags and hide them in the clothing, before displaying the doll)

The (book) tag is the first and most obvious clue to a Nisbet Doll's identity - certainly, for the Historical, Portrait, and most of the other ranges, the labels can sometimes tell you more than you may think.

Also, you may be forgiven for thinking that tags are either red or black, rectangular, and folded like a book.   Think again - there's a bit more to them than you might guess!

Tower Walk tags

Tower walk tags are, as far as we are aware, the earliest tags to be found on a Nisbet doll.   Square in shape, and printed on white card, (and sometimes with a coloured border), the reverse was often hand written by Peggy Nisbet herself, in her beautifully neat and very distinctive handwriting, usually with a fountain pen.   These tags were suspended from a corner, to present a diamond or lozenge shape 

Black (or Red) Book Tags

Here is an example of a typical black book tag - But the keen-eyed will see that the back is plain.   This indicates that the doll it is attached to is of an early vintage.   (We believe this style of tag was introduced with the changeover from Resin to Hard Plastic dolls, around 1958)

This tag has the more familiar copyright infringement warning on the back - a clear indication that by the late 1960's, the popularity of the dolls was arousing interest amongst rival manufacturers, and was aimed at preventing copying of the costume designs.  

This tag has lost the word "Collectors" from the front of the tag. Is this an indication of a desire to reach out to a wider, less "elite" market, in the late 1970's and beyond?

The red book tag tells us the doll was made at Peggy's Leitholm cottage, (in the Scottish Borders, near Coldstream).   Dolls made here were exclusively Scottish in subject, (such as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and Mary, Queen of Scots).   As with the black tags, the plain back indicates that the doll is of a similar early vintage

As with the black tags, the inclusion of the copyright infringement warning on the back of the tag shows that by the late 1960's, other dollmakers were taking a very active interest in Nisbet dolls

Happy Doll "Heart" Tags

These distinctive red heart shaped tags are found exclusively on the "Happy Doll" range, made in England, (note the English Rose emblem).   Each tag was printed on the reverse with the name, number, and a potted biography of its character.

The green heart tag, with its thistle emblem, was reserved for Happy Dolls made at Leitholm, and as with the red book tags, all the characters who wore it had a Scottish connection, (like T.75 Morag the Scots Crofter Lass, or T.116 Robert the Scottish Chieftain).

Gold Book Tags

These tags were made from white card covered with gold coloured foil on one side.   Overprinted in white ink on the gold foil, they were only ever used for Doll House Miniatures

Inside the Tag

It is on the inside of the tag that the really important information about the doll can be found - and it's not all necessarily there in black and white! 

Handwritten Tags

Handwritten tags generally indicate that the doll was a part of a small quantity production run (as the Tower Walk Lady Jane Grey, above left), or that the doll was a prototype or sample (the Lord Mayor prototype, above right).

The Lady Jane Grey label on the left was written by Peggy Nisbet - her clear and distinctive writing is unmistakable.

Typed Inner Labels

Typed labels stuck inside the tags were used for production runs of between 25 to 250.   We were told that it was a question of economics - the cost of a print run for much less than 250 tags was so high that it was more economical to type them out by hand.

The "Sherrif of Nottingham" tag (left) is from a very early doll, and the type face is consistent with that of an older typewriter dating from the 1930's or earlier.

The "Margaret of Anjou" tag is from a slightly later doll - (the more artistic font suggests an early 1960's IBM Selectric "golf ball" typwriter was used to produce this label - Despite its technological advances, the spelling error shows that it didn't have a spellchecker built-in, as modern PCs do!)

Printed Inner Labels

Printed inner labels generally indicate a production run in excess of 250 dolls.

However, the label on the left confirms a story we heard, which said that a sophisticated "John Bull" printing set was sometimes used for small to medium run label production, (quantities of between 50 to 300).   The giveaway is the filled in centres of the letters e and a, and the faint smudged marks between the date letters, all typical of lettering produced by rubber stamps.

("John Bull" printing sets were a popular children's toy in the '40s, '50s and '60s.   They consisted of alpha/numeric rubber typeface blocks, (covering the alphabet and some of the more common punctuation marks, plus the numbers 0 to 9, and grooved wooden handles, to hold them.   Pressed onto an ink pad, and then onto paper, one of the more professional sets would give results very close to a printed label).

The label on the right is a printed version, and is typical of most inner labels seen from the '70s onwards, when much larger production runs were commonplace.   The text is crisp and clean, and much darker than the "John Bull" typeface

Summary :

The tag can help not only to identify the doll, but also its age, and whether it was from a smaller or larger production run - and this, too, may give valuable pointers to the doll's age, as earlier dolls were generally, (though not always), made in smaller batches

One word of caution -

Just because the tag is on the doll, it doesn't mean that it actually started its life with it - There may always exist the possibility that the first owner removed the tags from their dolls to display them, and mixed the tags up later on, when replacing them.


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!