Collectible Dolls Buying Guide
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Collectible Dolls Buying Guide

Collecting dolls is both a pastime and a passion. Whether you're looking for a collectible doll reminiscent of your childhood, selecting a gift for a special child, or investing in a vintage doll for your collection, you'll find a wide variety of collectible dolls to meet your needs and budget on eBay.

Discover the Types of Collectible Dolls

Discover the Types of Collectible Dolls

Throughout the centuries, doll makers have created dolls using everything from papier-mâché to metal. Choosing the right collectible doll, therefore, is largely a matter of deciding which type of material is most appealing to you.

  • Cloth dolls: A collectible doll that is made of cloth. Many cloth dolls have flat cloth faces with hand-painted features, wigs made of yarn, and clothing made by hand. The best-known examples are the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.

  • Composition dolls: Composition dolls are made up of a mixture of several compounds (such as sawdust, paper, glue, and plaster of paris). Examples of composition dolls made famous by Madame Alexander include: Tiny Betty dolls and Little Betty dolls, Betty dolls, Wendy Ann dolls, and Princess Elizabeth dolls.

  • Bisque dolls: Made of tinted, unglazed porcelain. Collectible doll makers added color prior to firing, though sought-after German and French bisque dolls often have multiple firings to give a warm, rich color to the collectible doll.

  • Hard plastic dolls: Made of flesh-toned painted hard plastic, these collectible dolls became enormously popular between 1940 and 1950. Hard plastic dolls tend to have sharper, more defined features than composition dolls, for example.

  • Metal dolls: Metal dolls may be made entirely of metal, or they may just have a metal head. The United States and Germany produced most metal dolls, beginning in the mid-1880s. Metal dolls can be found in a variety of metals, such as silver, tin, pewter, and brass.

  • Papier-mâché dolls: Papier-mâché dolls made from a fragile mix of torn or shredded paper, glue, and water can be difficult to find in good condition.

  • Porcelain dolls: Fine ceramic porcelain dolls are made by firing pure clay. The translucence of the material makes for elegant dolls.

  • Vinyl dolls: Most mass-produced dolls are vinyl dolls made of a soft plastic.

  • Wood dolls: Wood dolls date back to primitive times. Highly-carved wood dolls, carved from basswood or linden, exist as folk art pieces.

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Select Modern Collectible Dolls

Select Modern Collectible Dolls

In addition to collecting rare or vintage dolls, many doll collectors have recently become interested in modern dolls. Modern dolls offer doll collectors out-of-the-box, mint condition, reasonable prices, and high availability.

  • Barbie dolls: A favorite for many generations, Barbie dolls are popular with collectors because they have a variety of themes and designs that keep them engaging.     

  • Madame Alexander dolls: Vintage Madame Alexander dolls can be pricey, but modern dolls that offer such themes as The Wizard of Oz, storybook characters, or high fashion are available at a fraction of the price.    

  • Lee Middleton dolls: Known for their “baby dolls,” Lee Middleton offers inexpensive collectible dolls. But because of their fine workmanship and very limited production, collectors seek them out.     

  • Adora dolls: Another maker of “baby dolls,” Adora dolls appeal to young and mature collectors alike—especially since Adora dolls offer more affordable, widely accessible collectible dolls. Moreover, Adora produces dolls in all races, hair, and eye colors, appealing to a much broader audience. Adora also produces a more limited, expensive line of dolls for serious collectors.     

  • Robert Tonner dolls: With several lines of popular collector dolls, including Tyler Wentworth dolls, Kitty Collier dolls, Betsy McCall dolls, Tiny Betsy McCall dolls, and Mary Englebreit dolls, among others, Robert Tonner collectible dolls run the gamut from fashionable ladies to cute children to nostalgic reproductions.    

  • Vogue dolls: Since the 1950s, the Ginny doll from Vogue has been a hit with collectors. Ginnys have a stellar wardrobe—everything from Halloween costumes to formal wear.

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Talk About Collectible Dolls: Common Terms

Talk About Collectible Dolls: Common Terms

When buying collectible dolls, be sure to familiarize yourself with the collectible doll terminology.

  • Antique dolls: Antique dolls were made prior to 1930.    

  • Collectible dolls: Any doll that you can collect can be called "collectible." However, the term typically applies to dolls made 25 to 75 years ago.    

  • Modern dolls: Modern dolls are less than 25 years old.    

  • Contemporary dolls: Contemporary dolls are still in production.    

  • One-of-a-Kind (OOAK) dolls: Unique one-of-a-kind dolls do not have replicas and will never be created again.    

  • Reproduction dolls: A collectible doll made from a mold, copying a doll made earlier.    

  • Restoration dolls: A restored collectible doll has had repairs, such as repainting of body parts, or replacement of missing clothing.

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Value Collectible Dolls

Value Collectible Dolls

Once you narrow down your choice of collectible doll or collectible doll type, consider the factors that will affect its price and value. Prices vary greatly based on the popularity of a given doll, but the doll’s overall condition and vintage will often determine the price.

  • Antique dolls vs. new dolls: Some antique dolls cost less than or about the same amount as contemporary artist-produced dolls, or more popular in-demand collectibles.     

  • Details: Looking at the details of collectible dolls can help you determine quality. Evaluate hairstyle, stitching, and facial expressions. Some dolls have lovely, carefully painted faces, while others do not.     

  • Damage: Imperfections such as cracks or holes may affect resale value. However, if you truly love the doll and expect to keep it for yourself, small abnormalities might not matter to you. Damaged dolls usually cost less, so you may be able to pick up a treasure that would usually be out of your price range. If you do buy a damaged doll with plans to restore it, remember that you'll often need to purchase eyes, wigs, or other body parts, as well as original or period clothing for the doll, separately.

  • Overall condition: Dolls that have been played with and loved can make charming additions to your doll collection. They may not come with their original clothes, but they usually cost less than dolls in pristine condition.

  • Doll clothing, shoes, and accessories: Some doll clothes are as well made and beautiful as haute couture for women. Many collectors find these items indispensable in a serious collection.     

  • Popularity: Remember that despite its book value, a doll is worth what any single buyer is willing to pay for it!

Do your research

If you’re thinking of making a purchase with an eye to a doll's future resale value, do in-depth research before buying. Some highly-collected dolls have specialized books that can help you determine value. In general, values listed in books apply to well-preserved dolls. If you’re looking at dolls with more wear and tear, adjust value accordingly.

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Find Collectible Dolls on eBay

Find Collectible Dolls on eBay

Once you know what type of collectible doll you want, go to the Dolls & Bears portal, click Dolls, and start searching for item listings on eBay.

  • Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Antique (Pre-1930), Artist Offerings, OOAK, Reborn, Barbie Vintage (Pre-1973), and more. As you dig deeper into the site, you'll be able to further narrow down your choices.     

  • Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find Madame Alexander dolls, type “Madame Alexander dolls” (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.

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Buy Collectible Dolls With Confidence

Buy Collectible Dolls With Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that a problem arises during your transaction, eBay and PayPal are there for you.

  • Pay safely with PayPal: PayPal enables you to pay without the seller ever seeing your bank account or credit card numbers. In fact, PayPal protects buyers 100% against unauthorized payments from their accounts. Plus, with PayPal Buyer Protection, your purchase can be covered up to $1,000.

  • eBay Security & Resolution Center: Visit the Security & Resolution Center to learn how to protect your account and use eBay's quick and efficient resolution tools.

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