New Paper Mache Nodders from Old Molds

Paper mache nodders have been reproduced by the German firm of Marolin. The examples shown here are made in molds first introduced in the late-1890s. New pieces, like the Victorian originals, are painted by hand. These examples were $33 for the pair. New pieces are not marked.

The metal piece on which the head moves is called the balance pin. Balance pins of older nodders are generally, but not always, a thin flat strip of brass set on edge. Newer balance pins are generally round, rodlike shapes. Thin flat strips have less surface area to contact the pivot point. This reduces friction and produces longer nodding action. Old brass balance pins should logically have a natural patina. Many new balance pins are often shiny.

Painted balance pins are generally, but not always, a sign of a new nodder. Painting the balance pin increases friction and reduces the nodding action. The new nodders shown here have heavily painted pins.

Virtually all vintage heads are carefully balanced to return to an upright, center position when at rest. Many new heads come to rest diagonally, either all the way forward or all the way backward.

Human figures are the most common form of vintage nodder. Other popular figures include animals as well as inanimate objects. The balance pin is the most typical pivot point. Another common old pivot point was made from a hook suspended in a wire loop.

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Fig. 1 New paper mache nodders made in original 19th century molds. Two-inch tall man and woman dressed in style of Far East. Pastel paints on white bodies.

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Figs. 2-3 Usually, but not always, earlier nodders are balanced on the edges of thin flat strips of metal, almost always brass. Most, but not all, newer nodders are usually balanced on round, or rod-shaped, pieces of brass.

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Figs. 4-5 Details of new papier mâché head from Fig. 1 above. New balance pin is covered in a thick coat of paint. The round rodlike balance pin is another clue to a new nodder.

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