Collectible dolls are among the most beloved and recognizable collectibles of all. Whether you've owned or played with one, most can describe the most famous dolls, such as Barbie, Cabbage Patch Dolls, or Raggedy Ann and Andy. Like other collectibles, collectible dolls generally fall into three categories: antique, vintage, and modern. Explore the collectible doll brands and their characteristics.
Antique Collectible Dolls
Antique dolls, like most other antiques, date back to prehistoric times. However, when discussing antique dolls, those produced before 1940 are considered antique. According to antiques emporium Ruby Lane, a doll can be 80 years old and still be considered antique.
Collectible Doll Materials
Antique dolls were usually made of wax, papier mâché, wood, china, bisque, or cloth. This is typically how they're usually classified. Bisque is perhaps the best-known material. It's a kind of unglazed porcelain. Its matte surface is more realistic than the shinier glazed china. These categories refer to what the doll's head was made of; the bodies were usually made of softer materials such as kid leather or cloth.
How to Identify Antique Dolls
Most antique dolls were made to look like adults and came with removable clothing. However, there are particular dolls made to look like children. While prices can vary based on the popularity, condition, and age of a collectible doll, there are a few popular brands to watch for when identifying an antique doll.
French BeBe Dolls
French bébé dolls were designed after children with bisque and porcelain heads. They included elaborate outfits in luxurious silks and velvet, along with accessories stockings, purses, shoes, hats, and more. The price for French Bebe Dolls vary based on the condition and popularity but can be found on Ruby Lane for more than $4,000 depending on rarity.
German Dolly-Faced Dolls
German "dolly-faced" dolls were produced between the 1870s and 1930s. Made of porcelain and bisque, these dolls were hand sculpted with expressionless faces. Finding an intact German "dolly-faced" doll is rare. These dolls and heads can be found between $100-$200 on the site Ruby Lane. But prices can be much higher.
Some of the first talking dolls, mama dolls, were invented around 1915. These dolls combined a soft body with two innovative characteristics: a voice mechanism that said "mama" when the doll was turned and leg joints that allowed the child to "walk" the doll. These realistic dolls were the first doll craze in the United States and one of the great fads of the 1920s. Price ranges for these dolls vary, but they can be found on Ebay for under $200 depending on condition.
Raggedy Ann & Andy Dolls
Another fad from these early decades of the 1900s and one of the first dolls to appear in storybooks were the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. These dolls had a simple scarecrow look to their faces and red hair. They both had distinctive outfits tailored to the story. They were first created in 1915 and are amazingly still in production more than 80 years later. Prices vary based on condition. However, the Very Rare Knickerbocker Raggedy Ann DARK stripe legs 1960's was priced for $225 at Ruby Lane.
Buying Collectible Doll Brands
Antique dolls, like modern dolls, were made as children's toys and so usually show at least some wear. How much depends on what the doll was made of and, of course, how carefully it was handled. Antique dolls can be found on auction websites like eBay as well as other sites specializing in antiques.
- Ruby Lane - a collectible buying marketplace
- Kathy Libraty - antique doll marketplace
- Ann Marie's Antique Dolls - antique to modern collectible dolls
Vintage Collectible Doll Brands
Vintage collectible dolls are those produced between 1930 and roughly 1980. This category includes famous collectible dolls like:
These dolls are notable because they have had a lasting impact on American culture. Both Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake have played lead roles in many movies over the past decades, as well as being featured in children's story books, clothing designs, and toys.
How to Identify Vintage Dolls
While most of these dolls were made of composites, vinyl, or plastic, cloth was also common, particularly for dolls designed for very young children. However, the different doll types have distinctive features to look for. Additionally, collectability of the doll depends on rarity, edition, popularity, and condition.
Dating back to 1959, Barbie dolls have been a hot commodity in the collectible doll world. Not only do they have limited and princess versions, but Barbies come with all different types of accessories. These plastic dolls with can have careers, sisters, and even pets. The creator Mattel offers collector's editions along with a collector's membership. Prices for collectible Barbies vary; however, the original 1959 Barbie is worth $27,450.
Chatty Cathy came out in 1959. This collectible doll had short curly hair, freckles, blinking eyes, and talked when her string was pulled. The doll has a very child-like appearance with a fluffy dress. However, various versions were made. For example, the Twilight Zone episode The Living Doll (1963) was not only based on Chatty Cathy but used the voice of the original Chatty Cathy, June Foray. Like most collectibles, the price varies on condition. For example, a 1960 Chatty Cathy can be found for $450 on OriginalChattyCathy.com.
In 1979, the Strawberry Shortcake dolls were released, modeled after American Greetings cards. These unique dolls and accessories were food themed and had scents to match their theme. This brand grew to include other dolls like Cherry Cuddler and Huckleberry Pie. Some of these dolls have even started to come back into production. Currently, a 1980 Kenner Strawberry Shortcake Rag Doll in used condition is available for $10. However, an Strawberry Shortcake doll house went for whooping $1,200 on eBay.
Madame Alexander created the first line of celebrity dolls. These included:
- Dale Evans
- Margaret O'Brien
- Scarlett O'Hara
- Shari Lewis
These collectible dolls have a unique round face and wide eyes. They also feature a plastic head and come in a variety of styles. Pricing for these dolls has several variables. However, the Madame Alexander doll price guides on Doll Values included a 1947 Flower Girl for $550.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Cabbage Patch Kids were a major fad in the 1980s, largely because of the wide range of variations that made each one was unique, capturing the spirit of the handmade originals, and because the dolls came with signed birth certificates. These dolls had a plastic face and cloth body. Their hair was made of yarn, and each had its own unique features. While some Cabbage Patch can be worth more than $1,000, Antique Trader notes most sell for between $10-30.
Modern Collectible Doll Brands
Some consider modern collectible dolls to be only the dolls made for the collectibles market, while others include any kind of doll that becomes a collectible. Many modern dolls are continuations of vintage doll lines, such as Barbie, Madame Alexander, and Strawberry Shortcake, and some, such as Ginny and Raggedy Ann and Andy, are based on antique doll lines. Check out a few different modern collectible doll lines to jump into.
Bratz dolls were a modern twist on the classic Barbie. They have larger heads and huge eyes, along with glamorous features. Additionally, they come with a plethora of modern and trendy clothing. Bratz dolls can be found at local venues and specialty stores. However, collectible dolls like the MGA Bratz Big Kidz Music Stars can be found on Etsy for $125.
Marie Osmond Dolls
Marie Osmond dolls were created by Marie Osmond and debuted on QVC. This collection of dolls has cutesy features similar to antique collectible dolls. Names of these dolls include "Remember Me", "Olive May", "Adora Bell" and more. Marie Osmond dolls can be found on Judy's Dolls ranging from $50 - $160.
Lee Middleton Dolls
Lee Middleton dolls are lifelike baby dolls currently sold by Madame Alexander. They can be found in clothing like jumpers, dresses, and rompers, to name a few. The true hallmark of these dolls are their life-life faces and bodies simulating the look of newborns and toddlers. Prices vary by collection, but Pansy of the 2011 Collection can be found for $160.
Adora makes dolls designed for play. However, these trendy baby and toddler dolls have caught the eyes of collectors. In addition to their chubby angelic features, Adora baby dolls come in a variety of styles with fun headbands, sassy clothing, or pop culture references. Price for Adora dolls are around $100 and up. For example, Bubba Bear can be found for $120 on Samantha's Collectible Dolls & Bears.
American Girl Dolls
American Girl dolls are historical toys that grew out of three original base models. These unique dolls each have a specific back story and characteristic features. For example, Kit lived during the Great Depression. These dolls all have unique facial expressions and designs based on their era. Their clothing and accessories are also era-specific. Some original dolls like Samantha Parkington are worth more than $1,000.
Reborn dolls are the merging of art and doll collections. In these artistic creations, artists take manufactured dolls and turn them into lifelike babies. From the head to the tips of the toes, these dolls are increasingly realistic. The level of realism and price of these unique creations vary but they can be found for $100 and up from AstonDrake. However, reborn dolls on Etsy can be found for over $1,000.
Caring for Collectible Dolls
Dolls, like most other collectibles, need to be stored in places that keep them from extremes of heat, humidity and temperature fluctuations, and that provide them with protection from dust but sufficient air circulation. Always use acid-free materials for packing and protection and do not let metal parts touch plastic dolls.If you have a doll you need to identify, Doll Reference has an extensive guide of dolls from the 1800s through the 1970s.
Knowing Collectible Doll Brands
Doll collectors love their collections. However, knowing the hot brands of dolls can be hard to understand. Now that you have a bit of doll collection knowledge, you're more prepared for diving into this antique field.