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.


21st September 2023


Important Announcement


My dear wife, Christine, passed away on the 8th December, 2021after 8 weeks in hospital. I was by her side, when she slipped away from me peacefully, with no pain or suffering.


Chris had been struggling with a slow decline in health, associated with a progressive, untreatable, and ultimately terminal lung disease, and finally succumbed to her old adversary, Pneumonia.


We had been friends for 55 years, together as a couple for 50 years, and married just a month short of 48 years, when she died.   


This website was Chris's idea, and I did all the technical stuff, to make it work.   After news of Chris's passing reached her close friends in the doll collecting world, I was deeply touched and gratified to hear their tributes to my dear wife, and I must thank them all for their kindness and support.   Ultimately, it was her doll friends that gave me the courage to continue with the website.


In the months before her eventual hospitalisation, Chris had outlined a number of additions and changes she wanted to make to the website, and it is my intention to honour those wishes, and to implement the changes we had considered, over the coming weeks and months.


I must apologise to all those who have written to us via the website, only to have your emails go unanswered.   Unfortunately, the email system had been hacked aroung the time Chris was going into hospital, and many emails must have been lost, as a result.


As you might imagine, I felt completely broken by Chris's loss, and it is only now, almost 22 months after her passing, that I have felt strong enough to even look at the website again.   


My aim is to continue with the website, and to implement Chris's aims for her many new ideas as soon as I can.   In the meantime, I have hopefully got the email system sorted out, and I will attempt to answer any enquiries as soon as I can, and to send replies with the same high degree of accuracy that a reply from Chris would have had.


From now on, I will be flying solo, whilst my co-pilot and guide will be soaring much higher, (though she is always in my heart, and in my thoughts).


My thanks to all our website visitors for your continued support


Dave (also known as Arthur), and Chris, (my lost love, Guinevere)


Christine Poulten

25th December 1949 - 8th December 2021