Understanding the Low Cost of Russian Nesting Dolls

Having been in the business of selling Russian gifts and collectibles for over 15 years, I have had the experience of seeing every type of misguided understanding about the sales price of various Russian goods - especially nesting dolls.  This post should hopefully provide some useful insight to the nesting doll shopper.


First thing I would like to establish is that nesting dolls are very inexpensive given the amount of labor applied into creating one.  The process for making a doll is, basically:

  • Wood is cut and transported
  • The wood dries for about two years
  • Sections of wood are mounted to a spinning lathe and then the sections of the nesting doll (bottom and top for each subsequent piece) are carved. The carving is generally done by a hand chisel - so extra time is needed in the carving process to ensure the top of a doll, for instance, properly matches up to the bottom of a doll.
  • The blank nesting doll shells are then transported
  • Artists purchase the blanks and do handpainting on them. 

A typical 5 piece Semenovskaya is one of the more simple dolls made in Russia.  The actual labor put into the doll, however, clearly exceeds 2 hours.  The doll, in most Russian stores, sells for about $20.  And, for argument's sake, let's imagine that the retailer is trying to get 40% margins.  Means he purchased it for about $14.25.  The wholesaler tries to get 40% margines, so he purchased it from the artist (or artist's clearinghouse) for $10.18.  So, that means the cost of the doll was about $5.00 an hour in cutting, transporting, carving and painting the doll.

If the same doll was made in the United States, with the same hand methods, it would obviously cost many factors more.

It amazes me that people don't understand this and have their various reactions to the reasonable prices of well-made nesting doll.  Hopefully the reader will now have a better grasp of how typical prices offered by Russian gift stores are amazing, given the amount of effort put into making the doll

NEXT BLOG COMING:  Discerning the Quality of a Nesting Doll


Published on November 25, 2013.

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