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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Deluxe Reading Penny Brite

I've owned my little Penny Brite doll for several years, and I've used her as an extra in several posts, but it's only now occurring to me that she deserves a review just like my other old dolls.  So today she gets her turn.
I found Miss Penny in the same shop that I found Andrea Doria, a shop that sold second-hand furniture.  When I spotted the Deluxe Reading mark on her neck I knew that she was an old doll and that I wanted her.  The man at the store informed me that we'd bought enough stuff that day and that since the doll had been there almost a year with no takers, I could just have her.  I took her home, found out who she was, and settled little Penny into her new dolly family.

I don't know much about Penny or Deluxe Reading, except that Deluxe Reading was apparently also Topper, the crew that made Dawn dolls and Suzy Cute.  Apparently Penny was fairly popular, as she was around for the duration of Deluxe Reading's existence, inspired at least one clone, and a lot of stuff.  Most of the dolls available from Deluxe Reading were quite large, like this one.
Cinderella, or "Psycho Cindy," as I like to call her, is two and a half feet tall, and she won't be getting a review because in spite of her large size there's not much to her.  Most of the other Deluxe Reading dolls I've seen are of a similar height to Cindy, so the diminutive Penny is a bit of an anomaly, and possibly a sign of things to come given Deluxe Reading's morph into Topper and Topper's subsequent fondness for small dolls.  Penny is smaller than both Sophie (rebodied California Dream Midge) and Licca-chan.
She makes an adorable younger companion for Tammy's sister Pepper.
She's a little taller than her "cousin" Suzy Cute, but not much.  The difference in height is greater when Suzy sits, and less when both sit.
She's taller than Lime Chiffon, but that's not saying much because 95% of my dolls are taller than Lime is.
And of course, she towers over her more distant cousin Longlocks.
I think I've made my point.  Penny is smaller than most, but not all, of my dolls.  She's got nice hair, though.
At first glance it looks like Penny has the honey blonde hair that most of my vintage dolls have, but if you look at her in person you'll see that she has a slight reddish cast to her tresses.  These dolls can have a few variations in hairstyle; my doll has a short bob, while others have slightly longer hair styled in a pageboy cut.  The fibers are thick and so is the root job.  There are a few spots that are missing hair, mostly along the left hairline...
...but for the most part this hair is very thickly rooted.  In fact, there's so much hair crammed in that I think Penny's head may have split along the part!  See?
I've seen more than my fair share of child-mangled dolls, but I doubt very strongly that this was done by a kid.  No hair is falling out so I guess no harm done, but I can only imagine what Barbie would look like if this happened to her!  Fortunately, Penny can handle it a bit better than Barbie would've because her head is made out of some pretty tough vinyl.  It feels like the same vinyl that Suzy Cute is made out of, in fact.  You wouldn't think that Penny is the tough type with this cute face, would you?
Penny would've made a superb Shirley Temple doll with those dimples!  But let's start where I always SHOULD start and don't always:  eyes.  Penny has very dark side-glancing "pie" eyes with cheerful, lifted eyebrows.
These dolls had a couple of eye variations; some had irises with crisp edges and some had irises with hazy edges.  They also sometimes had individual painted lashes too.  My doll has hazy-edged irises and light lashes, plus a dark band of paint simulating more upper lashes.  I think these eyes are supposed to be hazel or dark brown, but to me they just look black.  No variations for the nose, though; all of the dolls had the same one:  flat and moderately wide, with no paint in the nostrils.  My particular doll has a small scuff on the tip of her nose, something that surprised me given the toughness of this vinyl. 
Must've been quite a mishap...or some little brat poking her doll with something sharp. 

Penny bears a smiling mouth with apple cheeks and big dimples.  Her lips are painted in a hazy pink-red shade, and her teeth are white.  Sometimes a big, smiling mouth is a gamble, but Topper and Deluxe Reading were apparently quite good at winning this gamble.  Suzy Cute had a stellar smile and so does Penny.  She is missing a little bit of lip paint, though I'm only now noticing this; under normal magnification these rubs are not noticeable.
No ear piercings, but that doesn't surprise me since most child dolls don't have piercings anyway.
Penny's body is an interesting one.  It's got appropriately childlike proportions...
...but the composition and jointing are worth a closer look.  Penny's torso is one piece, with a flat chest, a little bellybutton, and a slightly nipped-in waist.  Her stomach and backside both have the necessary molding, but neither protrude like a living child's features might.  This plastic is extremely robust, just like the vinyl of the head.  It's not hard, thin, hollow plastic that Tammy and Pepper have, but much thicker and smoother around the seams.  It's a nicely made body, with a big, round neck knob.  Penny's head can pop right off, though it doesn't do that easily.
With her head detached it's easy to see how this doll has faded over time.  Her head and extremities have yellowed a bit, her torso has faded, and her neck knob remains pink.

Attached to the body are (what else?) arms and legs.  These limbs are also surprisingly rugged, being made out of thick, smooth vinyl. 
This is a different vinyl from that used in the head AND from that in the torso.  The head is a little lighter and more matte than these limbs, while the torso is more rigid.  Hard rubber like this usually takes to a mold quite well, and these are no exception; Penny's little fingers have visible nails and creases on the knuckles...
...plus little palm lines.
The legs are not quite as well molded, with Penny's feet being oval shaped and a little like thick pegs, but they do have little toes visible.  Also visible are STAINS!!!
Penny got those from her shoes, shoes that I got from Etsy many years ago.  They even stained her socks, which are buried somewhere in my cache of ball-jointed doll stuff.  In spite of the staining I put these shoes on Penny anyway, because I hate it when a little doll is otherwise well-dressed but has absolutely no footwear.  But I'm not quite to clothes yet, because there's something else to discuss about the doll's limbs.  Doll Reference swears that these limbs do not hold a pose, but guess what?  My doll has limbs that can hold a pose!
Granted, I'm not sure if they're SUPPOSED to hold a pose, but they do. 

Now that that's settled, NOW we can talk about clothes.  Back in the sixties a new Penny Brite doll came in a red and white A-line dress with a white Peter Pan collar and blue floral appliques.  Her hair sported a large red ribbon, and she would wear either white or red flats...but my Penny doesn't have any of those things but the shoes.  When I found her, she was wearing this.
That is a Southern belle outfit, about as far a cry from the innocent but stylish garb she wore during her heyday.  I have no idea where this outfit came from, but it's okay.  Not great, not terrible.  It's one of my favorite colors (mint green) and it has lace panels...
...a sash...
...and a little straw hat with a green ribbon.
There are also these light pink pantalettes underneath.  They are permanently attached and make it a pain to put this dress on or take it off.
The seams are pretty crude, leading me to think that this is a homemade dress.  The hem on the skirt isn't finished either, and it looks ragged in places.
The rest of the dress is finished, oddly enough.  The pantalettes are trimmed with lace, and the sleeves are gathered.

Despite the difficulty in dressing Penny in this outfit, I'm going to do it anyway.
Penny looks cute as a Southern belle, but it's not her style.  I only put her in this on rare occasions, preferring instead to dress her in her Red Hat Society outfit.
If I were to guess an age based on looks alone I'd say that Penny is about eight or nine, way too young to be a Red Hatter.  A Pink Hatter, yes, but not a Red.  However, Penny started hitting store shelves in 1963, which is...<pauses to do math>...fifty-four years ago.  So I put Penny in a simple little Red Hatter outfit.  The hat actually was a brooch that one of my grandmothers received during her final years in the nursing home.  See where the pin back used to attach?
That peeled off easily, but I wish I'd left it alone because this hat has to be pinned to Penny's head.  I usually use a map pin and shove it through the crack in her hairline to avoid more holes in the doll's noggin, but if I'd kept that stupid pin back I could've just looped it through Penny's hair and called it a day.  Live and learn, I guess.  The dress is one that I made myself, and if my memory serves me correctly the pattern was supposed to be for a Blythe doll.
This is one of my better knitting projects, as unlike the light blue Dawn dress it fits Penny perfectly and doesn't have stitches that are massively out of scale.  Then of course, there's the shoes and the purse that came with them.
Little red plastic flats that stained Penny's feet and are a little fragile.  I originally had these over socks, but one of the shoes split a little so I took the socks off.  The seller was upset about a delay in shipping the shoes, so she tossed in the purse as a nice little freebie.  The purse is double-sided, having a different pattern on each side.
The rest of Penny's little clothes are...I assume that they're Mommy-made, but I can't be certain.  I got them from another Etsy shop that offers doll clothes in small lots...and of course I blogged about it!  That post can be found here.

Oh yes, I've also got these little red britches.
I talked about these (but did not share them) several years ago in this post; once upon a time there was an awesome website called idressdolls.com, and they offered dolly undergarments in a wide array of sizes and colors.  It wasn't just panties, either; I got two petticoats and a pair of socks from there.  Unfortunately the last time I visited that website they were only offering nylon panties in one size and one color (white), and now the store appears to be completely empty.  Etsy still has a spot for the shop, but there's nothing available to buy.  Bummer.  Anyway, I got these red panties from there.  I think they may have been intended for a Barbie, but they fit Penny without any fuss.

Before wrapping this up, here's one more picture of Penny and Suzy Cute together.
It's pretty obvious that these two dolls are in the same "family," shall we call it.  I'd even call them siblings if not for the obvious difference in size and proportion.  But then again, Vogue's sibling dolls weren't always in proportion to each other and they were siblings anyway.  Just check out Ginny and Ginnette if you don't believe me!  I think I'll call Penny and Suzy sisters from now on.

Now it's time for good stuff/bad stuff.

*Head appears to be splitting at the part line.
*One line of hair plugs is missing hair
*Missing a teensy bit of lip paint
*Nose is scuffed
*Feet stained

*Sturdy; even the split scalp is showing no further signs of deterioration
*Cute face; it's not always easy to create an appealing doll with a smile this big
*Nice hair
*Face is well-painted, and said paint is holding up reasonably well
*Limbs can bend, and the internal wires have not yet stained the doll
*Easy to clothe
*Vinyl has a lot of detail (dimples, palm creases, etc.)

I had no idea this little doll existed before finding her in that secondhand store, and I must say that she was a fortuitous find.  Penny is very sturdy and well-made, just like her relative Suzy Cute is.  Also like Suzy, Penny has an appealing expression, and her small-sized makes her a perfect younger companion for small fashion dolls like Barbie.  Lastly, this doll is surprisingly easy to dress...though unfortunately I can't name any dolls that can wear what she wears.  I'd love to compare this doll to an old Vogue Ginny and see how that goes.  So if you're into small dolls and don't mind digging around online then I recommend Penny Brite.  She's not terribly hard to find on eBay, and if you're not wanting a MIB doll then prices are reasonable.  She'll be worth the effort.

Best wishes,


  1. Penny is just adorable, I think my favorite thing is her adorable face!

    My mom had a giant doll sort of like your Cinderella, I wonder if they're by the same company? I should find that thing and investigate.

    1. That face is hard to resist, for sure!

      Psycho Cindy isn't really as bad as she looks in that picture, but with the lighting being what it is in my new place it made her look like a complete nutcase. I'd love to see your mother's doll if at all possible. I think that all Deluxe Reading dolls are marked, but I'm not 100% sure.