Culture Magazine

Tonner Doll Company No More

By Ashley Brooke, Kewpie83 @KewpieDoll83

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.


January 3, 2019. Tags: Article/How to. Uncategorized.

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