Dolls. They captivate the hearts of little girls for years. When little girls start to grow up, they put away their dolls, wanting to be mature and grown-up. But years later, many turn again to those childhood memories and take collectible dolls out of storage and arrange them on the shelves once again. And rejoice that they saved those precious memories.
Over the centuries, toymakers have made collectible dolls from a wide variety of materials, from Papier-mâché to porcelain to metal. Some dolls are more valuable than others, although the rarity of the doll has nearly as great an effect on its collectability as the material from which it is made.
Some of the earliest dolls were made from wood. Some were exquisitely carved from linden or basswood. Most wood dolls today are created as replications of ancient dolls by folk artists.
Papier-mâché dolls are also rare collectible finds; these are made from strips of shredded paper held together with a watery paste. Because these are very fragile, finding a Papier-mâché doll in collectible condition is very difficult.
Cloth dolls are popular and often made by hand by family members or friends. These dolls usually have faces made of flat cloth surfaces. Eyes, mouths, and ears are usually painted on, and the hair is made of yarn. The clothing is normally handmade. Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are the most common types of cloth dolls.
The manufacturers of Madame Alexander made composition dolls very popular. These are made from a variety of substances, including glue, sawdust, plaster of Paris, and paper. Princess Elizabeth dolls or Tiny Betty dolls are some of the well-known Madame Alexander dolls.
In the late nineteenth century, doll makers in Germany and the U.S. began manufacturing metal dolls. Some were made entirely of metal; while others featured only metal heads. Different metals, including tin, silver, or brass, were used in the manufacture of these dolls.
Porcelain dolls and bisque dolls are often highly prized by collectors. Porcelain is made from pure clay that has been fired in a kiln. Bisque is clay that has been painted or tinted but not glazed before firing. Some bisque dolls are fired several times to achieve warmer, richer colors.
Hard plastic dolls became quite popular as collectible items during World War II and in the years immediately following, from about 1940 to 1950. Dolls made from hard plastic have clearer, more sharply defined features in comparison to cloth or composition dolls.
Today, most dolls that have been produced in large quantities for play, including most versions of Barbie are made from soft plastic material. These vinyl dolls are non-toxic, making them safe for children to play with. They are also very durable, and can safely withstand hours of energetic playing time with a preschool child.
Today's Dolls: Modern Collectibles
Although many doll collectors prefer to focus on antique dolls that are rare and hard to find, some have started to focus on collecting certain modern dolls as well. Many of these are available in mint condition, easily available, and much more affordable than many vintage dolls.
Barbie dolls were first manufactured in 1959 and are still widely sold today. Mattel continues to offer a wide variety of Barbie dolls featuring different themes and fashions that make them still highly sought after today. Some of the rarer dolls can be quite expensive.
Likewise, a vintage doll made by Madame Alexander is often costly. Many of the modern versions, however, feature concepts like Gone with the Wind or popular fairytale characters such as Alice in Wonderland. These are considerably less costly than the vintage versions.
Another popular line is the Robert Tonner dolls. These include a variety of collectible lines, including Tyler Wentworth and Mary Englebreit. Some of these lines feature ladies dressed in high fashion; while others are nostalgic reproductions or replicas of happy children at play.
In 1950, Vogue developed a new way of marketing fashions with the introduction of the Ginny doll. As a result, this doll is a quite popular collectible item. As a result of their close association with the fashion mogul, Ginny dolls feature an incredible wardrobe with an amazing array of fashion essentials.
Adora dolls specialize in the manufacture of "baby dolls", which are enjoyed by both older and younger collectors. These dolls are usually less expensive and easier to find than some other brands of collectible dolls. Additionally, Adora dolls feature representatives from many different races. The Adora line also has a small line of limited edition, more exclusive series of dolls for mature collectors.
Lee Middleton dolls are another fairly inexpensive line of "baby dolls." Because these are very well made and produced in limited numbers, however, they are much sought after by collectors.
Learn the language
Doll collectors have their own language, and it's best to be at least semi-fluent before getting started. First, define what the collector means by the term "collectible doll." While any doll can be collectible, this term is usually used by collectors to describe dolls that are between 25 and 75 years old. A modern doll is one that was made in the last 25 years, while an antique doll is one that was made before 1930. A contemporary doll is one that is still being manufactured.
In addition to describing dolls based on their ages, collectors use certain other terms to describe collectible dolls. For example, a restoration doll is a collectible doll that has been repaired. Clothing may have been replaced or the doll body may have been repainted. This can significantly affect the doll's value, so keep this in mind.
Some dolls are described as one-of-a-kind dolls. These are unique, and no replicas will ever be made of these dolls. In contrast, a reproduction doll is a replica that has been made of a previous collectible doll using the same mold.
How much is that dolly in the window?
The price of a collectible doll is affected by a number of factors, including age, condition, production number, and popularity. Despite the age, many antique dolls are less expensive than some contemporary collectible dolls. The overall condition of the doll is very important as well. Dolls that have once been a little girl's most cherished treasure may cost less because of marks or imperfections, but are often still worth collecting.
Dolls that have been damaged, however, may not have a high resale value. Some collectors, however, purchased damaged dolls and restore them. Damaged dolls are often repainted and dressed in reproductions of their original costumes. While these may be less valuable, many collectors are interested in these dolls as examples of craftsmanship, or for historical or nostalgic reasons.
Many collectors look for dolls with their original doll clothes in good condition. Some are almost as interested in the doll's wardrobe as in the doll itself! Other details are important as well. A doll's hairstyle or facial expression can even be a significant factor in determining its popularity. And popularity, over and above even book value, is the real key: some collectors are willing to pay higher prices than book value to add a certain doll or kind of doll to their collection.
If you're ready to start collecting, take some time to determine what kind of dolls you want to focus on, and how much money you're willing to spend, before getting started. After all, if you've ever seen television shows such as Antique Road Show, or watched an internet auction for a particularly rare doll, you'll know that sometimes, when it comes to money, the sky is the limit if enough people are interested. Know your limits before you start shopping.