I don’t just collect dolls, I’m a bit of a doll nerd. I like to know as much as I can about them. When and where they were made, which company produced them, their story, their history. I have shelves packed with books, magazines and folders of catalogues, advertisements and photocopies from trade publications. So, usually when I want to know something about a doll, information is pretty easy to find. If it’s not on my bookshelves, there’s heaps of information on the internet or I’m bound to know someone in an online doll group who can help me. I’ve even researched and published a book on the Little Tuppence doll. However, there are a couple of dolls that are really hard to find accurate information on. Licca Chan, by Takara dolls is one of them.
My first generation Licca fashions for Licca and Goro. The pack shows Licca an her friends Izumi, Kurumi, Wataru and Goro. Mama Orie is pictured on the back of the pack.
Licca was one of the first Japanese fashion dolls on the market and broad information on her is available. Licca was first produced in 1967 and collectors refer to each era of the doll as a generation, or ‘gen’ for short. It is generally known that the first generation was produced from 1967 to 1972, the second from 1972 to 1981, the third from 1982 to 1986 and the fourth from 1987 to the present day. Some sources also mention a fifth, short lived generation in 1992. Mostly, the generations refer to the period of time a doll with a certain look was produced. In general, first gen dolls are identifiable as having only one dot painted in each eye, red hair in one of four hairstyles – long hair with side swept fringe and red ribbons, an up-do, pig tails or thick braid. Second gen doll’s eye’s now show three painted dots and they have red hair in a flip style with the front sections pulled back, flat against the head and a white rose button hair clip. Third gen dolls have three eye dots and long red hair with a fringe; fourth gen dolls have a new face mould and varying hair and face colour. However, once you start collecting, you realise there are a few variations within in each generation, but finding factual information on these variations has, at times, driven me to distraction. I suspect the problem may be that I don’t speak or read Japanese. Perhaps all the information I seek is out there on a Japanese website that I have no access to. I have also seen mention of a book called ‘Licca and Japanese Fashion Dolls’ by Nakamura Futaba, where the differences within generations are explained, and it seems to be available in a couple of Tokyo libraries, but again it’s probably in Japanese. However, in information written by Helene that appears on http://www.barbigirl.com, Ms Nakamura seems to have identified two variations in the first generation and four in the second, but what these are, I’m not exactly sure. So, I’m left to try and cobble together a clear picture from the fragments of information that I do have access to, from trawling the internet looking at photos of dolls and from dolls in my own and friend’s collections.
Two boxed Licca dolls from 1996 and 2002. The one on the right is an 35th Anniversary or Birthday doll so I’m keeping it NRFB.
My first Licca dolls were fourth generation, modern dolls, so information on them was easy to find. All but two were NRFB (never removed from box) and came with little booklets which were date stamped. One was a Licca’s Castle doll (a doll sold exclusively at Takara’s activity centre, Licca’s Castle) and information on her was available from their website. Another, I found nude at an op shop, so she’s a bit of a mystery, but I can guess that she’s an early to mid 1990’s doll, just based on other dolls I own. All of these dolls seem to have the same face mould and body type, though hair colour and face paint varies.
Licca’s Castle Licca and an unknown doll found at an op shop. I broke my only-one-doll-per-face-mould-or-character rule for the Licca’s Castle doll, I fell in love with her as soon as I saw her, and better still she was only $5. And I just couldn’t leave this little girl at the op shop. She was nude, so she’s wearing a Daiso Elly Yukata. The last photo shows her markings.
Although I love the modern dolls, it’s vintage Licca that holds the most appeal for me, and in the last couple of years I’ve come across a few older dolls. The first of these, I thought was a second gen doll – she has the right hairstyle – until I realised that she doesn’t have the cute, little, sticky-out ears that give vintage Liccas their adorableness. A consultation with some friends and a search of the internet eventually determined that she is a second/third gen hybrid – that is, a third generation doll with the second gen hairstyle. Or is she? Just to add to the confusion, Takara produced a doll called Lisa, almost identical to Licca, for the American market. So how do you tell the difference? I don’t know. I have been told that Lisa’s hair is made from a coarser fibre and her body markings differ slightly to Licca, but I haven’t been able to confirm either. My doll came in a Takara tagged dress that is not one that I’ve seen sold with Lisa, and although I don’t know if it is original, I’m guessing my doll is Licca rather than Lisa – but will keep an open mind. Her hair is a bit frizzy, I need to give her a day at the spa, but she’s still a gorgeous doll.
My second/third gen doll in the tagged Takara dress she came in. She has a third gen face with second gen hairstyle and the same markings as a third gen doll.
The next doll to come my way is a third generation doll. Her hair isn’t in great shape, but these little dolls are so hard to find here in Australia, I wasn’t going to quibble. The dress she came in isn’t tagged, but the style and fabric is right for Takara, so I’m assuming that it is a Licca dress. Whether it’s her original dress is another story, but it suits her, so it’s hers now.
My third gen doll in the dress she came in. It’s not tagged, but is similar in style toother Takara fashions so I’m guessing it is a Licca dress. Her hair is a bit frazzled, but these little dolls are hard to find in Australia.
My latest acquisition arrived only yesterday, and I nearly passed her up. I saw her for sale as a second gen Licca in an online group. My first reaction was to type ‘sold!’ But then the doubts started to creep in. Her ears looked right – cute, little, and sticky-out – but the mouth didn’t. Second gen’s usually have a closed mouth pout, but this girl had an open mouth, similar to a third gen. All sorts of misgivings started to fill my head, so I changed my mind and decided not to buy. But I kept seeing her every time I looked at that internet group, and she was so cute. So, I started trawling Licca photos and information and eventually discovered that late term second gen dolls (around 1979) did have an open mouth. I changed my mind again and bought her, and boy, I’m glad I did. She’s gorgeous and I love her. She came nude, so for now, I have dressed her in a Rement fashion that has similar stying to some second gen fashions, even though it is a bit big. Happily, I had her rose button hair clip. I bought a bag of doll bits – clothing and accessories – at a doll sale for $1 ages ago, and was surprised to find the Licca button at the bottom of the bag. Of course, I still want a second gen with the closed mouth and I’d love a first gen, so the hunt for vintage Licca continues.
My second gen Licca wears a Rement dress that is similar in style to some second gen fashions. I love her cute, little, sticky-out ears. She is marked between her shoulders.
There are a lot of differences between my three vintage dolls. The second gen is the smallest, standing only 21 centimetres tall (approximately) and although she has an open mouth, similar to the third gens, her face is rounder, cheeks chubbier, nose bigger, and she has those ears. Her body is a different design and much smaller than the others, her arms and legs are thinner, and her hands better defined. Although the second/third gen and third gen appear to have the same face, the head of the second/third seems slightly larger than the third. The third is slightly taller at approximately 22 centimetres, the second/third only approximately 21.5. The bodies, while similar in size, are completely different, although they have the same markings. The fourth gen dolls are around 1-1.5 centimetres taller and the bodies are bigger.
A comparison of the second gen, second/third gen, third gen and fourth gen Licca bodies.
Licca – both vintage and modern – has a range of friends and family that is constantly changing. I have one vintage Licca friend, but to add even more confusion to proceedings, she’s from a range of Lady Licca dolls that was released around 1970. Lady Licca uses the usual first gen Licca head mould, but is much taller than other Licca dolls, at around 25 centimetres tall, and appears to be a different character than the smaller Licca. She has two friends, Aya and Junko, and I found Aya on eBay earlier this year. She is a gorgeous doll with the most beautiful eyes. She came wearing a very Mod styled, Lady Licca fashion called ‘Wasurenagusa’ (Forget Me Not).
Licca’s friends and family: Aya, Mama and Papa, Miki, Maki and Yu and Sakura, who is not wearing her original outfit, but another tagged Licca dress.
I also have some modern family and friends dolls, Licca’s Papa (who I think is named Pierre), Mama (who may be called Orie), and twin baby sisters, Miki and Maki, as well as one of their friends, Yu, all from the mid 1990’s (I think), and a more recent friend called Sakura, who has colour change hair. Licca has also had a range of fashions, accessories, cases, houses and play sets over the years. I have a few fashions, and one playset from the 1980’s, a McDonald’s drive thru, that a friend found at a Trash and Treasure market. I don’t have the space to set it up and have thought about selling it several times, but each time I get it out to sell, I have a bit of a play with it and then can’t bear to part with it, it’s so much fun.
The 1980’s McDonalds play set features a third gen Licca and friend Isumu on the box and the cardboard money has Licca’s portrait on each note.
Two fourth gen Licca fashions, a mini Licca key ring or phone strap, a mini Licca doll and a Rement mini reproduction doll in box. The box shows pictures of first gen Licca friends Wataru and Izumi and Mama Orie.
If you are able to help with information on vintage Licca, I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment or contact me via the form at the end of my blog. In the meantime, a couple more websites with some information on Licca are Yu’s Cutie Dolls and Poupee Mechanique.