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Doll Collecting and Doll Information

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Doll Collecting

By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor


The first 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.

Reproductions of 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 quality.

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.

For 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.

Damaged Dolls

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 complete dolls.

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 inspection.

About Cathy: She and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy, write to thecathyfactor@yahoo.com. Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.


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