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Finding the Value of Old Dolls

Category Dolls
Many people have heirloom dolls that have been handed down from mother to daughter for generations. This is a guide about finding the value of old dolls.
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April 4, 2017

A lot of people write on here wondering about the value of their old dolls, so I wanted to post a small guide that may or may not prove helpful.

  1. The first step is to surrender the fantasy that your porcelain doll is worth a lot of money, unless you have a truly rare (as in, not part of a 'collector series' that some mass production enterprising doll company churned out in the 80s) or antique (as in, older than 1917). 'Vintage' dolls manufactured anywhere from 90 to 40 years ago probably do have some monetary value, but really only if they are in their boxes and in impeccable condition. And probably not as much value as you might want.

    For another view on the 'value' of porcelain dolls, especially those from collectors' series of more recent vintage (40 years old and newer), we can look to the wise words in doll reference.com:

    "Modern porcelain collector dolls sold from about the 1980s to present, were meant to appeal to adult doll collectors, not children. The theory was; buy it, keep it in the box or debox, but keep it unplayed with, after some time passes, you'll be able to sell it for more money than your original purchase and make a profit. Dolls were easily found in department stores, grocery store toy aisles, card shops, toy stores and on TV from QVC etc. The quantities sold of each collector doll could be large, it's the sheer quantity of all available porcelain collector dolls today, that is determining the current value, as they flood the market place, online and elsewhere..... Sad to say, but these dolls are now available in such large quantities they have little to no value today."

  2. Notate any and all markings, on the clothes, or on the dolls themselves. If you can find absolutely nothing on the doll itself to identify its designer, manufacturer, etc, it will be virtually impossible to learn its vintage.

    For decades, doll manufacturers used some very specific glyphs and symbols as 'signatures' that kind of look like Satanic amulet markings to identify their creations. These marks usually appear on the back of the dolls head, on the back, under arms, bottoms of the feet, but could really be anywhere.

    Some links that identify these marks are here:

    Also learn to distinguish what materials your dolls are made out of. Dolls can be made out of bisque, celluloid, china, hard plastic, cloth, composition, wax, metal, or wood. Knowing the materials can give a hint as to the doll's ages. For instance, bisque was mainly used in the 1800's, and if you have a celluloid doll you know it cannot be older than 1940, which is when the material was outlawed.

  3. Consult various websites regarding the value of your dolls. Dollreference.com is a great reference. You can find anything about materials, marks, vintages, factories, etc on this site. Dollprice.com is another great site that lets you search an extensive database of dolls, by age, materials, quality, etc.

  4. Check with eBay to see the real-time price where things are selling, and for how much. This is a great how-to from doll reference.com:

    "with the name, maker or type of doll, use the below link to; Ebay Advanced Search - Find Items - Doll Sold Listings. Fill in the details on the form on the page link, check the Completed Auctions Only box and you will see recently
    sold doll prices which are shown in green and that's as current a doll value, as you can get.

  5. Some final thoughts regarding 'value' in the marketplace:

    First of all there is the issue of actual intrinsic value to consider. Under these circumstances, most certainly any doll manufactured from the 70s and older that happens to be in impeccable condition should have some intrinsic value.

    The second issue, however, is what the marketplace will bear. Who is buying these dolls? How much are they willing to pay for them? If something theoretically is worth $1000 but nobody wants to buy it, is it really worth that? These are some of the contradictions of capitalism that have been around since the days of the tulip frenzy of the 1600s and that continue on through today with the overvalued and essentially worthless tech startups of Silicon Valley. Anybody remember the Beanie Baby craze of the 90s? Or the yearly bloodletting at Black Friday as folks mow each other down to get the newest Hatchling or whatever other commodified abomination is trending that Christmas season? Well, next time any of these 'phenoms' involves porcelain dolls, (and the commodity fetish marketplace is so fickle that, really, you never know) then all of you, dear friends, wanting to extract monetary value from your pretty dolls will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Source: Dollreference.com

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