Collectible dolls are one of the most prized items in an antique collection. Thousands of brands with specific characteristics were attached to the fashion or manufacturing of the time they belonged.
Being a doll collector is an expensive but exciting hobby but one of the most authentic ways to connect your inner child with that adult who seeks to preserve history, becoming a doll collector.
In this guide, we will teach you the history of collectible dolls, as well as essential characteristics that you must know to learn to differentiate when you are in front of a great piece or not.
Facts about collectible dolls
The “fashion” of collecting dolls begins with the desire to have objects representing a bygone era, and even better if they have characteristics associated with a particular fashion or trend.
A doll that is 100 or more years old, although up to 80 years old, and depending on its model, could still be considered an antique.
Why are they so special? Because at that time, doll making was art; careful details, painting, and hand-sewn clothes were some things you could find in collectible dolls. Without mentioning, the nostalgia it brings.
In addition to the above, the horror boom of the 2000s spawned an even greater fascination with antique dolls, commonly associated with death and evil spirits.
In this world of collectible dolls, the most appreciated are older ones, such as Rag Dolls, which existed around 1915 in the United States.
However, there are also later brands whose care in manufacturing these wonders gave them an exclusive place in the catalog of the best antiques. Before going into the details of what they were, let’s see how you can value a collectible doll.
How to value an antique collectible doll?
Step1: Recognize the materials.
To value an antique collectible doll, you first need to know its materials. Previously, most dolls were created of wax, paper-mâché, wood, porcelain, bisque, or cloth the porcelain dolls are the most popular.
Bisque porcelain is a white, unglazed ceramic that, unlike ordinary porcelain, allows dolls to give a warmer color and texture. This material began to be used in the Victorian era and managed to capture the facial structure of the doll better.
In the case of the bodies, these were made of kid leather or cloth—generally softer materials. Knowing the materials of each collectible doll not only allows us to know which one is more valuable, but also to locate each piece in its manufacturing time.
Step2: Identifying the manufacturer’s brand
Although some manufacturers are easier to recognize, you can identify a doll by looking for a distinctive manufacturing mark.
- The manufacturing mark is found on the very body of the collectible doll.
- Usually, the manufacturing mark is on the neck or back of the doll’s head.
- You could also find the mark on the shoulder blades or the bottoms of the feet.
- It is rare but possible that the manufacturer has the mark on the clothing tag.
- If the doll has a wig, you could check if the mark is on the bald spot.
- Madame Alexander collectible dolls were marked on clothing, specifically on a tag.
When you have a doll in your possession that you are unsure of its authenticity, send the manufacturer’s mark to a collectible doll specialist or compare it with images on the internet.
Remember that some classic brands are more valuable than others.
How to know the year of manufacture?
Due to the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, all products coming from outside of the United States were marked with their origin country. So if you see a label with the doll’s origin, it means that it was created in 1890 or later.
To be even more sure, check the materials with which the dolls were made. For example, Chinese porcelain is a material that predates the Victorian era, while the dolls became bisque in that era.
- Baby dolls began to be marketed in the early 1900s.
- Another detail you can look at to know the age of a doll is its eyes.
- Painted eyes indicate that it is a fairly old doll. When the manufacture of dolls began, the eyes were painted.
- Glass or crystal eyes became widespread in these objects long after being painted, specifically in the 19th century.
- The age of a doll is greatly reduced if you notice that its eyes can close or open.
To get a better idea of the year of manufacture of a collectible doll, you can look at its hair and clothes. Early dolls had painted, or molded hair parted down the middle.
In the 1800s, hair went from being painted to being rooted, looking royal; This was mainly because it was made with real hair or mohair.
On the other hand, doll clothes in the 19th and early 20th centuries were made of leather. Later, clothing began to be manufactured with synthetic materials and fabrics.
Tips for antique collectible dolls repair
Before repairing an old doll, you must first consider certain aspects:
Any type of repair could decrease the value of your antique doll. Collectors are usually looking for pieces with the fewest changes from the original doll, so if you don’t want the value to drop 25-50%, consider leaving your old doll as it is.
The aforementioned applies to both the body of the old doll and its clothing.
Now that we’ve cleared this up, there are two ways to repair a doll. Doing it yourself or calling a professional.
If you feel that you can do a great job in regard to repairing your collectible doll, then you can do it yourself. Of course, consider that any wrong soap or chemical used on your doll can cause irreversible damage to it. The same goes if you try to paint her, especially when it comes to leather and kid dolls.
To make a good repair, first, try to recognize each material in your old doll and what things could improve or harm it, so that you will take the utmost care when carrying out the said repair.
It’s best to leave the job to professionals if your doll is very valuable. Before choosing a specialist to repair your collectible doll, take a look at these recommendations:
- Check their old jobs
- Ask about the quality of your repairs
- Do they offer a guarantee?
- What kind of dolls do they repair
- What materials do they work with?
Every detail counts when it comes to caring for your piece.
Classic brands of antique collectible dolls
These are the classic collectible doll brands, the ones with the highest value and whose models are the most in demand.
- Kestner Dolls
- Armand Marseille
- Kammer & Reinhardt
- Raggedy Ann & Andy
Called the King of Dollmakers, Kestner is one of Germany’s oldest antique dollmaking companies. Their production was from 1920 to 1930, and they began making paper-mâché and wood dolls and progressively moved on to bisque porcelain.
His bisque dolls are the best known and range from pieces with stationary necks to dolls with articulated bodies. The Ketsner Dolls are of the highest quality and variety.
If Mattel had a similar brand in Germany, it would undoubtedly be Armand Marseille. The brand is known for its collectible bisque porcelain Dolly-faced german dolls with rotating heads, and its 390 and 370 models are two of the best known.
The brand began producing pieces from 1885 to the 1930s. One of its rarest collections is that of lady and flapper dolls.
Kammer & Reinhardt
Although the Kammer & Reinhardt company was late to the doll party, their creations were so detailed and meticulous that they are known to be the most beautiful pieces of their kind.
Their vintage dolls, made of fine fabrics and rooted hair, were all the rage in the early 1900s. Kammer & Reinhardt preferred to keep their dolls more lifelike and less cartoonish.
Raggedy Ann & Andy Dolls
Raggedy Ann dolls were made based on a series of children’s books illustrated by Johnny Gruelle in 1915.
The story’s main character was a red-haired rag doll, which was replicated as a real doll to be marketed together with the books. The success was massive.
In 1920, along with Ann, she joined another character; also a rag doll called Raggedy Andy, who dressed in a sailor suit and played Ann’s brother.
In 2013, the doll regained popularity in doll collectors’ circles for a not-so-childish reason. After the movie “The Conjuring,” the information was spread that the supposed demon doll, on which the evil character of Annabelle was based, was a Raggedy Ann doll.
It would be impossible not to end the list with the famous modern dolls that still dominate the market. The first Barbie was launched in 1959 and has since revolutionized the world of toys.
But not only do children love Barbie, but collectors eagerly look for the first editions and models of these dolls, which cost thousands of dollars.
Some of the most expensive Barbie dolls include Barbie in Midnight Red ($17,091), Barbie 1959 ($27,450), De Beers Barbie ($85,000), Barbie and The Diamond Castle ($94,800), and Stefano Canturi Barbie ($302,500).
Where to sell & buy antique collectible dolls?
We must be cautious with the places chosen to buy or sell collectible dolls since we are exposed to scams. However, there are places where you can find good deals:
- Ruby Lane: a place to buy all kinds of collectibles by trusted sellers.
- Kathy Library: Antique doll Marketplace with fast transactions.
- eBay: One of the most popular marketplaces.
- Ann Marie’s Antique Dolls: A collector’s market full of classic and fantasy dolls.
Collecting dolls is a hobby and a job that only those who feel love for these wonderful pieces will be able to carry out.
After reading our article, now you know how to start collecting dolls and where to buy your first models. Keep researching, and you will become an expert.