There are many factors in determining the value of an antique doll. I will try to cover some of the most important basics in this article.
Age – It may surprise you that age is not the determining factor in considering value of an antique doll. Certainly, if a doll is rare as well as old, the value increases. Is the doll readily available? Is the doll a one of a kind? It is interesting to note, that many 20th century mass produced dolls are more valuable than older, rarer dolls.
Completely Original? – If an antique doll is completely original, including all body parts, wig, eyes, clothing etc. it is much more valuable than many dolls we find today, that are “put together” dolls. This means that the doll has been recreated using an assortment of genuine antique parts, but the parts are not original to the actual doll. Finding a completely original doll today is becoming harder and harder to find, so don’t pass up a beautiful doll just because her clothing or wig may not be original.
Quality of the Doll – Two doll heads from the same doll mold can look very different, and have equally different values. The talent of the artist painting the dolls had a lot to do with this. Always select the best quality of a particular mold that you can find. Look for uniform painting, smooth clear bisque, realistic coloring and nicely set eyes. Avoid dolls with unevenly painted brows and lips, black spots in the porcelain and eyes that are not set properly, often giving dolls a cross eyed appearance.
Size – As a rule of thumb, larger versions of the same mold will be more valuable than their smaller counterparts. This is only a guideline, and collectors of small dolls (such as myself) will often argue this point. Expect to pay more for large dolls, or have your large dolls valued higher than smaller versions.
Clothing – The most desirable clothing on your doll is of course original clothing in good condition. If you are fortunate enough to have original clothing on your doll, don’t be tempted to redress her simply to match a room, or to “freshen her up”. If you simply must replace her clothing, keep the original clothing wrapped in acid free paper, and stored in a dark, cool place. Make sure as well that you label the package according to what doll it belongs to. If the doll has no clothing, or is not original, be sure to dress it in fabrics and of the fashion popular when the doll was made.
Markings on your Doll – A marked doll is worth more than an unmarked doll, if all other factors are equal. On a shoulder plate doll, you will find the markings on the back of the shoulder plate itself. On a head meant for a ball joint body, the markings will be found on the back of the head, often under the wig area. In some cases the doll bodies were marked as well, usually with a hallmark stamp.
Body Type – Some body types are more desirable to collectors than others, but this is often a personal preference. Beautifully made and maintained kid bodies if in good condition, enhance the value of a doll. Equally so, a ball joint body in original, or skilfully repaired condition can add to the value. In dealing with newer dolls of vinyl or plastic materials, avoid dolls that have ink stained bodies as this will greatly detract from their value.
Hopefully I have provided some information that will help you in deciding what dolls to purchase, or if the dolls you have are worth what was paid for them. Most important, when purchasing antique dolls, learn to know what you are looking for. If you are unsure be sure to purchase your dolls from a reputable doll dealer rather than from a flea market or from a private seller. Purchase some good books on doll markings and values that includes good photos. There are many reproduction dolls on the market today that can easily fool a less seasoned doll collector.