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Buying Vintage Dolls

Collecting vintage dolls or vintage paper dolls is a past time enjoyed by many, many people in America today. In fact, it may surprise you to know that stamp collecting is the #1 hobby among collectible hobbies with doll collecting being #2. That’s right, the hobby of collectible dolls is a big #2. If you have an interest in collecting any one of the various types of dolls there are a few things you need to know.

#1 What should you collect. You can simply collect dolls that you find interesting as you come across them or you can narrow in on a specific type. Some collect paper dolls, others porcelain dolls, plastic, wooden ones or they gravitate to a particular maker. Some will collect only name dolls such as the most famous of them all – Barbie. You can also find cloth dolls, paper-mâché dolls, bisque dolls, compostion dolls or metal dolls. Whatever you decide on you will find a wide variety of choices including specific eras or specific characters. There is something for everyone to collect.

#2 Where to find dolls to collect. Garage sales and flea markets can still be a great source when you start your collection. Keep in mind that most valuable dolls will probably already be gleaned from these easy sources but you may still come across some great finds. In any case you can probably find some good specimins to start your collection and especially help you in the early stages of learning to recognize a true original in whatever category you’ve chosen to collect. Most of the well-known doll manufacturers marked their dolls and the doll clothing and accessories and you should learn what to look for as well as where to look for those markings. Most markings are usually on the back of the doll’s neck, right underneath the hairline, or on the doll’s back. But some dolls may have the marking on the inside of their arms or the soles of their feet. Once you have a good knowledge of what to look for then you can turn to other souces such as antique shops, specialty shops, auctions, estate sales or online sources such as eBay to find your dolls. There is always someplace you can look to find something new for your collection.

#3 Determing the value of a doll. Learning how to identify your particular collectors item is obviously very important as we’ve already discussed. Learning how to separate the fakes from the real is extremely important as you come
across something you want to add to your collection. But once you know that a doll is the real thing…how much should you pay for it? That’s a very important factor if you don’t want to be the fool parted from his money! Always consider the condition of the doll. Remember that most collectible books will list the “mint” condition of the doll. Some things to consider are:

-do you see any discoloration
-are there any splits
-is the hair in a good condition
-in what shape are the features of the face
-are the ears green due to discoloration from ear rings
-are there any missing parts
-does it have all of the fingers and toes

The perfect doll will be spotless [maybe still in the original box] and everything about it including clothing will be crisp and bright in appearance. Anything that moves away from this will lower the value and you need to keep this in mind. Look over all types of dolls in your category and get a feel for the various types of conditions and you’ll make your money go further.

#4 Keep your collection safe and secure. That means not only from theft but from deterioration. Keep your collection out of the direct sunlight or any kind of bright light. This prevents fading of both the doll and the clothing. Keep them free from dampness or mold to prevent cracking, splitting or warping. And keep in mind that keeping your dolls inside glass or plastic containers or holders amy also cause moisture and mold to form inside. If you have the money you can keep them in a climate controlled room for best results, especially if you spend a lot of money to create your personal collection.

What ever you do, whatever you decide to collect, make sure you have fun doing it. If you collect simply with the thought of building a valuable collection you may be disappointed when others don’t value your collection as highly as you do. Especially if you failed to learn how to distinguish the condition of each doll and you overpaid! Enjoy the journey as you build your collection and you can’t lose.

By: Lee MacRae

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