By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
thing to remember when you start an antique doll collection is that the majority
of these dolls were greatly loved by little girls. They were played with,
dressed and redressed, bodies sometimes worn out, patched and replaced. If your
budget is limited, well-loved dolls, often without their original clothes, can
be a wonderful way to start a collection, especially if you can sew. Remember
that replacing eyes, wigs, and body parts, as well finding original or period
clothing for an antique doll can be a very expensive.
Good antique doll shoes,
for German and French bisque dolls can be well over $100 a pair. Original
clothes for a Jumeau or Bru can run many hundreds of dollars.
clothes and shoes, and the original doll are widely available, but before
investing in these, you should study antique dolls for awhile, seeing as many
original dolls and outfits as you can to help you judge authenticity and
Museums and doll auctions (run by such auction houses as Theriaults,
Frashers, and McMasters) are two excellent places to see antique dolls in
person, and many well-illustrated books are also available. Antique Doll
Collector, a bi-monthly magazine, is an excellent place to find specialist
antique doll dealers.
Prices of Dolls
New collectors should also consider that many, many lovely antique dolls can be
purchased for prices that are equal or less than prices for current artist-made
dolls, or late 20th century collectible dolls like Barbie. For instance, many
lovely china dolls can be purchased for under $500. A #3 Barbie mint in box will
cost you $700 or more.
Many paper maché dolls are also under $500, including the
lovely German dolly-faced dolls. When selecting a German dolly-faced doll for
your collection, try to notice the facial painting, which can vary greatly.
instance, if you are purchasing a common German bisque doll by Armand Marseille,
pay attention to the individual artistry of the doll--some are hastily painted
with one-stroke brows and heavy tint and blush, while others have nicely
feathered brows, pale bisque, and are as nice as dolls from better-known makers.
Also, although the prices of all-bisques by Kestner and other known makers have
skyrocketed in recent years, there are many affordable all-bisques, such as
unmarked stationary-head German "candy dolls" often for under $200, and frozen
charlottes (china dolls, all stationary) which can be bought for as little as
$25 for a doll under 2" tall.
Most experts will tell you to stay away from dolls with hairline cracks or other
imperfections. This is sound advice if you have any expectation of reselling
your doll in the future. However, if you are primarily buying your doll for
personal enjoyment, and the discount is fair, you can afford rarer examples of
dolls for your collection that you might not otherwise be able to afford by
buying a slightly damaged doll. Often, minor damage is not noticeable when a
doll is displayed.
Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories
Another niche for someone who admires the artistry of the antique dolls, but
cannot afford the finer examples, is to concentrate on the lovely garments,
shoes, hats and accessories made for the dolls. Fine French dolls had entire
stores devoted to their clothing and accessories, and accessories included
everything from purses to card games, and chatelaines to bibles. The clothing
made by expert seamstresses rivaled the finest fashions for women. All of these
items are quite pricey, but fine examples can be bought for much less than
If you are not limited in funds, try to find dolls in original condition, which
are in original or period clothes. This is especially true for dolls which are
not as rare, such as many of the china dolls or German dolly-faced dolls.
All-original dolls are getting harder and harder to find, and their values are
likely to continue to soar.
Places To Find Antique Dolls
Sources of antique dolls include antique and specialty doll dealers, auctions (uncataloged
auctions offer the best bargains, but they are "buyer beware," so it is wise to
study dolls for awhile before participating) and from the Internet, from both
doll retailers and auction sites such as eBay, Boxlot Auctions, and Amazon.com
Auctions. One thing to remember, it is very difficult to purchase antique dolls
over the Internet. Unlike modern collectible dolls like Barbie, which are
painted in a standard way, with standard manufactured clothing, antique dolls
and their clothing tend to be unique, like individual works of art, and
therefore antique dolls are extremely difficult to purchase without a personal