Preface and disclaimer
I promised myself that I wouldn’t record Jesmar clothing like I am the Coleco clothing. There is a lot of it, and I don’t have the same personal experience with it that I do with Coleco clothing. However, I am breaking that promise as I have been asked many questions, and there is an obvious need. Special thanks to Eve for inspiring this post.
The problem with Jesmar dolls, indeed any of the foreign factories, is that little factual data exists about their manufacture; however, there is a lot of speculation and assumption among collectors. Sometimes it is hard to separate fact from fiction. I welcome any data or primary source material that proves or disproves anything within this post.
This post is intended as an overview of Jesmar clothing. To start, I give a very basic review of the manufacture and body tags of the dolls in order to provide context to the clothing information.
Table of Contents
1. What is a ‘Jesmar’?
2. Historical Background
2.1 Jesmar Dolls
2.2 Doll Body Tags
2.3 Jesmar in Canada
3. Jesmar Clothing
3.1 Jesmar Preemies and Clothing
3.3 Clothing Tags
3.4 Identifying Jesmar Clothing
4. Taking pictures for the project
What is a ‘Jesmar’?
A Kid referred to by the factory code ‘J’ or by the term, ‘Jesmar’ refers to dolls manufactured in a factory located in Spain, which produced the second most common mass-market CPK dolls. For a variety of reasons (that I have listed HERE), these dolls are generally highly coveted by collectors. Read on to learn more.
Jesmar S.A. was a Spanish company licensed by O.A.A. to manufacture and sell Cabbage Patch Kids within specific areas of Western Europe, starting in April 1984. For information on Jesmars sold on the Canadian market, go here. The dolls were packaged in boxes and with birth certificates, that were in the language of the country where they were distributed. In some countries, the kids were distributed by another company altogether.
Other than Canadian market Jesmars (Jump to: Jesmar in Canada), as far as I am aware, there is no way to distinguish which country your doll was sold in unless you have the birth certificate and/or that box that it came in. There is nothing on the dolls themselves that indicate which country they were distributed in.
“Some collectors, after years of observing Jesmars, feel that there are three to five different types of Jesmar Kids, which might suggest different factories made them. The information on the Jesmar production factories remains a mystery.”(Ref#3, p. 29)
Foreign factories lose their licenses
In the spring of 1985, O.A.A pulled the licenses of all the foreign factories (Jesmar, Tsukuda, Triang Pedigree, and Lili Ledy). The leftover material was shipped to the remaining Coleco factories and used.
This resulted in half-in-half Kids. These Kids had heads and bodies made at different factories. “Some of these foreign combinations included Jesmar heads on Coleco bodies, Coleco heads on Jesmar bodies, and there have even been Jesmar heads on Triang-Pedigree bodies reported.” (Ref#3, p.30)
By late 1985, they were selling Jesmar dolls in regular US boxes that had the ‘Made in China’ label on the box covered by a sticker that read ‘Doll and clothes made in Spain’. The closures might also explain why Jesmar outfits in Coleco boxes were surfacing at Toys R US stores in the US around 1986 and 1987. (Ref#4, Vol 2, Issue 3, p. 2)
The dolls came with head molds #1 – #4. The bum signature, which indicates which year the doll was made, is either black or brown for 1984 and blue for 1985. For both years, the dolls produced earlier in the year have undated signatures, and those produced later in the year are dated.
A great deal of the appeal of Jesmar dolls (or any foreign doll) is the differences between them and the Coleco dolls. Some of the Kids (generally thought to be earlier), had a string holding the heads on instead of a zip tie. Some have eyes that sit higher. Jesmars tend to be a few inches taller than most Coleco Kids. One of their most popular features is their freckles. Jesmar, unlike Coleco, freckled kids with all four head moulds and the freckles come in a variety of patterns. (Ref#3, p. 198-199)
Doll Body Tags
The dolls come with one of five body tags, depending on when they were made and which market they were intended for. Based on data collected so far, I believe the tags without J or OK came after the ‘early Jesmar’ tags, but still early in 1984. They were followed by those with OK in mid- 1984. Finally, they started using the J tags quite late in 1984 and into 1985. (Refer to: Jesmar in Canada)
Leah S. has mentioned that there are Jesmar tags that say ‘Made in Hong Kong’, but I have never seen one. These are supposed to be on some of the earliest Jesmars. (Facebook group conversation, Aug. 11, 2017)
Jesmar in Canada
CPK’s in Canada were distributed by Coleco Inc., Canada, which was based out of Montreal, Quebec. For a history of Coleco Inc. in Canada visit: http://www.colecovision.dk/history.htm or Coleco: The Official Book .
According to E.N. Chapman of Patchwork: The Missing Piece Bok Choy Wah Way, “Jesmar’s were fairly common in Canada early on.” (Ref#5, p.32) and “Jesmars were in Canadian boxes long before they were in American Boxes.â” (Ref#4, Feb 1987, p. 4) J. Mullin mentions, “These Kids with the OK Made in Spain body tags were found in either Coleco or Canadiana boxes.” (Ref#3, p.41)
Canada was the only non-European country to have Jesmars as part of their regular distribution along with Colecos. There is no explanation of how or why Jesmar dolls came to Canada and ended up in authentic Canadian market boxes. I have two theories:
1) As the factories were shut down, they decided to funnel Jesmar Kids into the Canadian market before the American market.
2) Even before the Jesmar factory started being shut down because the dolls weren’t selling well in Western Europe, Jesmar got special permission to send them to the Canadian market. No record of such a permission exists that I am aware of.
To sell in the Canadian market, they needed to comply with Canadian language laws, meaning they needed a bilingual (English/French) side tag. However, there are two distinctive bilingual tags: one with OK factory and one with J factory.
As noted above, the OK tag likely came out around the middle of 1984, and the J tag started being used late in 1984 and then into 1985. I wonder, were these kids manufactured, and/or clothed, and/or boxed at the OK factory in China, and then sent to Canada for distribution? Is that why they have OK on them? Why did they change the OK to J?
As for their clothing, I have evidence of Canadian market Kids wearing just Jesmar-tagged clothes and Jesmar clothes without tags, but I have no evidence of these Kids wearing bilingual-tagged clothes. This seems counter-intuitive. Do you have a Kid with that combination? (Jump to: Clothing Tags)
What side tag the dolls have, what they are wearing, and which boxes they ended up in, likely depended on how and when they were manufactured or packaged for distribution. I just do not have enough data to draw any conclusions.
Interestingly, as time went on and Coleco (US) and Coleco Inc. (CAD) found themselves with an overabundance of ‘specialty’ outfits, so they started putting all sorts of wacky combinations together, and some included the remainder of the Jesmar and other foreign dolls from the recently closed foreign factories. In the Canadian market, you can find Jesmar dolls wearing World Traveler outfits, often in twin sets. In some cases, you can find Jesmar’s dressed up as a clown.
I am working on a research project to track and record Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid clothing. They are generally labelled with a letter/number code. To learn more about this project, visit my first two blog posts. (Blog#1, Blog#2) As most Jesmar outfits are also ‘numbered’ after a fashion, I have started to record this information too.
“Jesmar and other foreign clothing came in a much wider variety of colors, fabrics, designs, and even applique selection.”(Ref#3, p.363)
Generally speaking, Jesmar produced its own version of the 1983 Series Coleco outfits. The only outfits not reproduced were the Sleeper (#2) and the Corduroy Suit (#5). Jesmar outfits were often made out of fabrics and patterns that were not used by Coleco. These differences add to the appeal of Jesmar dolls.
- The Velcro on many Jesmar outfits was applied as a long thin strip, rather than the small squares used on some of their outfits and by all other factories.
- A single type of Jesmar outfit could be made out of many different fabrics.
- The silk CPK label might be located in an odd spot on the outfit.
- Jesmar did not always match the ‘gender’ of the doll and the outfit. (Ref#4, p. 80)
- Jesmar outfits are known for having many leftover threads inside the outfits. It’s like they never cut off the extra threads at all!
Jesmar outfits are generally considered to be more shoddily made than the Coleco outfits. There was little consistency in fabric, colours, patterns etc. There were also differences in size. Take these two swing dresses. One has 80 on the tag, the other is 89, but they’re definitely two different sizes.
Jump here for a more detailed list of differences – Identifying Jesmar Outfits
Jesmar Preemies and Clothing
Collectors believe that the Jesmar factory was in the first stages of producing preemies when they lost their licenses. The only part they had in production was the head. This resulted in the creation of half-in-half preemies, typically called Jesmar Preemies. These dolls have a Jesmar-produced head and a Coleco preemie body from the OK factory. They were packaged in Coleco boxes. (Ref#4, 1987, Iss.1 Vol. 2 p. 3)
These preemies should not be confused with the regular Coleco preemies that were sold in foreign boxes. Those dolls were entirely Coleco and wore Coleco clothing. (Ref #3, p. 231)
There are three outfits that are predominantly related to Jesmar Preemies, they are three velveteen versions of the terry cloth Bunny Preemie Outfit (#12). It is believed that they were the only outfits produced specifically for Jesmar Preemies. These special velveteen outfits came (in order of rarity) in navy blue (#12F), steel blue (#12E), and dark green (#12D) (Ref#2, p.96). It seems that, instead of using letters that were not already assigned to an outfit, they chose to reuse the letters D, E, and F for these outfits.
Dark green is very hard to find (FB Conversation, Jul. 7, 2020), and navy blue is the easiest to find.
They are labelled OK factory but structurally they appear Jesmar. The Velcro is typical of some Jesmar outfits and there can be extra threads everywhere, which are typical of Jesmar outfits. However, the navy blue and steel blue fabric are similar to another Coleco outfit produced in 1986, the velveteen overalls. The green is similiar to the material used in the green velveteen twin boys outfit.
These outfits only came on Jesmar Preemies, but Jesmar Preemies also came dressed in regular Coleco preemie outfits and regular Coleco preemies did come dressed in these outfits (FB Conversation, May, 22, 2010, Unboxing a Unicorn). For example, J. Mullin has examples of Jesmar Preemies wearing BSeries preemie outfits from later in 1985. (Ref#3, p.231)
Shoes -Visit: Jesmar Shoes & Hong Kong Jesmar Shoes
Jesmar Clothing Tags
Jesmar clothing appears to be tagged in one of four ways. It is the information on these tags that is the data I need for my project.
I am just beginning this research journey and need a lot more data to make any final determinations. In the case of Jesmar clothing, I also need more than just pictures of the tags. If it is available, I also need information about the doll it came on, the box it came in and, in some cases, how it was purchased. (Refer to: Taking pictures for the project)
1. Jesmar Tag Only
To date, for these tags, I have recorded various numbers between 1 and 100. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern as to which outfits have which numbers. For example, I have five outfits with the number #89. They consist of three different outfits and all five are different colours/patterns.
As other Jesmar factory dolls have similar tags, it has been suggested that they are somehow related to Jesmar operations rather than anything specific to Cabbage Patch Kids. If that is the case, then my tracking is useless. (FB Conversation, June 6, 2021.)
I speculate that outfits with only a Jesmar tag were intended for foreign markets, or for the US market (which did not require bilingual tags) after they began closing the foreign factories.
2/3. Bilingual (French/English)Tag – with & without the small Jesmar tag
As these white tags are bilingual, we can speculate that the outfits with these tags were intended for the Canadian market. Bilingual tags (French/English) are required by law in Canada. Generally, you find both a larger white tag and a small Jesmar tag on an outfit, but not always.
Side one of all the bilingual tags has one of two ‘factories’: FS or J. I have no idea what FS stands for or if it is referring to a factory at all. However, it is on the tag in the same format as all other ‘factory’ marks.
So far, all of the J tags have the codes P3A or P2A on the back, and all the FS tags have the codes P1B or P2C. (Information on Coleco clothing tag codes) Unlike the Coleco codes, I do not know what these codes refer to or why they are there. There is no pattern as to which outfits they are in. Unfortunately, I only have a small data set, so this could easily change. Over time we may find more codes, a pattern to the outfits, or something else I haven’t even considered.
I have one confirmed example of a Jesmar outfit with ONLY a bilingual tag. There is no small Jesmar tag. This situation appears to be the rarest. Why did they do this? Did they run out of tags and decide that they were unnecessary for the Canadian Market? Did they start doing this because of the closure? I just do not know.
4. No tags
Why some Jesmar outfits come without any tags at all is a complete mystery, but other foreign factories, like the Tsukuda and Triang Pedigree factories, produced most of their outfits without any tags.
Identifying Jesmar Outfits
Here are the differences other collectors (Ref#3) and I have observed beyond those of fabric, pattern, and construction when compared to the Coleco versions.
(The title links will take you to information on the original Coleco outfit.)
Swing Dress (#1)
* The bows were made of silkier ribbon-like material.
* Some of them don’t have ‘ribbons’ at all! (Lori Clark, Sept 2023)
* The tights don’t fit. They are often too short and made of a thicker knitted material.
Elephant Romper (#7)
* Some come with striped shirts; some come with solid coloured shirts.
* Some have no patch or they often have a cat patch instead of an elephant patch.
* The buttons didn’t actually ‘unbutton’ because the straps were sewn to the outfit through the button.
* Sometimes the patch is located in the middle of the bib section.
* The shirt hem is not finished.
31 Tracksuit (#8)
* The silk label is on the pants, not on the shirt.
Bubble Romper (#9)
* The sleeves on the sweater are sometimes rather short.
* Like every other factory, the knit pattern of the sweater and booties is unique.
* The silk label may not be in the right spot.
* The logo looks different on the windbreaker. It is smaller than Coleco’s logo.
* The shirt’s bottom hem is not finished.
* The windbreaker is sometimes made from a thinner silkier material.
* The pants are made of thinner cotton-like material; it’s not jean material.
* The shirts can be multi-coloured stripes, not just white/colour.
* The shirts may have come in ‘not striped’ patterns although I’ve only seen one example of this.
Knit Ducky Dress (#11)
* Most did not come with a duck patch.
* They came in more vibrant colours.
* They had a different style hem at the sleeves.
* They don’t open all the way down the back.
* They have elastic in the waist of the bloomers. MOST Coleco do not.
Ruffled Overalls (#12)
* The buttons are clear. (Coleco only used clear buttons in 1983)
* The blouse has white lace, not rick-rack at the sleeves and neck.
* There may have been striped knit shirts with some of them.
* They don’t have velcro down the legs.
* The buttons don’t ‘work’. They are sewn.
Pinafore dress (#14)
* The pinafore section can come in off-white/light beige instead of white.
Bib dress (#15)
* The bibs may be patterned, completely blank, or have a different patch.
* They are physically smaller than Coleco bibs.
Denim Romper (#16)
* The romper is not always made with jean fabric; it is often made of thin cotton.
* The shirt has a peter pan collar and buttons at the back with a single button.
Heart dress (#17)
* They didn’t always come with the heart applique.
* Sometimes the heart appliques were the same colour as the dress.
Striped tracksuit (#18)
* They do not have a collar at the neck.
* Sometimes they don’t have stripes at the arm and legs.
* Sometimes the neck and bottom hems match other accents, instead of being white.
* Sometimes they don’t have any piping.
Sailor Suit (#20)
* The ribbon is silkier, not cotton.
* It doesn’t always have an anchor applique.
Taking pictures for the project
If you would like to send me information on a Jesmar outfit, please include the information listed below for each outfit. I welcome information on any outfit. Don’t worry if I have it already. We know so little that almost anything I receive at this point will provide me with information. Just have fun taking pictures one afternoon! (Instructions for taking great pictures)
> Pictures of the outfit itself (as outlined in the instructions)
> Pictures of the clothing tag(s) (if any); both sides if there’s a bilingual tag
> Outfit’s fabric type
If you have the original Kid it came on:
> Was the Kid a boy or a girl?
> Pictures of both sides of the dolls tag
> What country it came from (language on BC or box), if known
> Approximately when it was purchased, if known
> Where it was purchased, if known
Special thanks to Erin Cavill for editing the first draft of this post. Her information, ideas, and questions were instrumental in improving all aspects of this post.