The history of humanity is full of unique and beautiful works of art. Paintings, sculptures, great works of literature, all of these things show us how we as a species have evolved by showcasing the gradual progression and shifting of styles in these various works. Dolls are one of these art styles that have existed for as long as we have. Dolls have been in existence from the time of the very first humans and are likely to continue to be created for years to come; and for nearly as long as they have existed, people have loved to own, create, and collect these works of art.
The varieties of dolls that exist are many and the people who collect them can are as varied as the collections themselves. Some of the most popular types of dolls collected by people around the world are antique porcelain or bisque dolls, fashion dolls, ball jointed dolls, Madame Alexander dolls, and dollhouse dolls. These different types of dolls are collected by both women and men, children, adults, and the elderly. Some dolls are traditional representations of little girls and boys, some dolls are dressed in the most modern fashions, some are made to look like popular celebrities, and still others are made to look like villains out of your worst nightmares. There are virtually no limitations when it comes to the types of dolls that can be found and created.
Dolls made entirely from, or partially from porcelain are one of the most commonly collected types of dolls. A china doll made entirely from porcelain that is without articulation and is what is now known to collectors as a “Frozen Charlotte” doll. People call these “Frozen Charlotte” dolls and dolls made only partially out of porcelain, by a variety of names such as porcelain dolls, bisque dolls, or sometimes china dolls. Many people who only casually collect dolls are likely to have at least one porcelain doll in their collection. These dolls are frequently dressed in ruffles and skirts and are given very childlike appearances. These dolls were very popular in the 19th century and were made to be toys for young children during that time. Today these dolls are created with the expectation that they will not be used as toys, and instead will be displayed on a shelf or in a cabinet and handled very rarely. Antique bisque dolls today are quite rare and can be found at auctions selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Fashion Dolls are another doll type collected by many people around the world. One of the most popular fashion dolls is the Barbie doll which was created by Mattel., Inc. and first sold in 1959. She was dreamed up by Ruth Handler after she watched her daughter Barbara playing with her baby dolls and pretending they were older than they were created to appear. In modern America, and most of the rest of the world as well, Barbie is a household name and it is estimated that there are well over 100,000 dedicated Barbie doll collectors in the world today. The most valuable Barbie dolls are the dolls from the earliest years of their release. In 2004, a Barbie doll from 1965 set a record when it was sold for a total of $17,000 in London. Other fashion dolls collected by people around the world include the Dollfie dolls, created by a Japanese company called Volks, Sybarite fashion dolls, created by Desmond Ligard and Charles Fegan, and the Tyler Wentworth dolls, created by designer Robert Tonner. Unlike Barbie dolls, these other fashion dolls are created specifically to be collected and customized.
For many young girls, doll collecting begins the moment they are given their first toy doll, however, serious doll collecting may not begin until a much later age. When first deciding to begin a doll collection, it is easiest to find one type of doll to focus on. With so many options, all the information can become overwhelming if you don’t first find a way to narrow your search. If you begin buying dolls without first understanding the dolls you are choosing to collect and purchase before doing your research, you are likely to lose money by not getting the best deal or by buying dolls that you won’t like in the long run. Once you’ve found a type of doll you think you may want to collect, research online and if possible, join a doll club in your area and ask the current members any questions you may have. Doll collectors enjoy sharing their hobby with others and will likely be more than happy to help you begin a collection of your own. There are doll guilds found around the world and one of the most well known is the Doll Artisan Guild (DAG). The DAG was first established by well known doll collector Mildred Seeley along with Rolf Ericson in 1977, and today is one of the most reliable places to find information on creating, restoring, and selling antique porcelain dolls. The DAG has a school of doll making, holds seminars, and is there to answer any questions those new to antique doll collecting may have.
Another great way to integrate yourself into the world of dolls would be to visit any doll shows in your area. Doll shows are a great way to get to know other collectors and to discover a variety of doll types. Ask vendors questions about the dolls and write things down, then do more research on the internet once you return home.
If you’ve decided to begin a doll restoration project, depending on the condition of the doll, the materials that were originally used to create the doll, and your available budget, you may have a big task ahead of you. Here are some tips for beginners: Find out what the hair and body are made from by researching online. If the hair is made from a low quality mohair, detangling will likely be much more difficult than other synthetic hair fibers. If your doll has synthetic hair use conditioner or fabric softener to help detangle the hair. If the hair is beyond saving, many hobby shops have synthetic hair in stock. You can also measure the circumference of the doll head and purchase a doll wig to attach to your doll’s head.
When restoring an antique bisque doll, there may be some scratches, dents, cracks, or even holes found on the porcelain pieces of your doll. You can use a sculpting clay such as Darwi Air-Dry modeling compound to smooth the surface. Once dry and molded paint can be used to match the repaired area with the rest of the doll. If you choose to repaint your doll completely be sure to only use acrylic paints. Other oil based paints can stain your doll permanently or cause other more severe damage. Keep in mind that the more of a doll that is altered, the lower the doll’s value. Other factors which influence doll value are how much of the doll is original, how much damage the doll has, if the doll contains original clothing, the age and rarity of the doll, the artist, and much more. Books on doll collecting exist to help collectors accurately value their antique dolls. Bringing your antique dolls to doll shows and asking experts in the field is another way of getting an accurate picture of how much your doll is worth.
Doll collecting is a hobby that has existed for thousands of years and is likely to exist for thousands more. Museums such as the V&A Museum of Childhood in England contain collections of the some of the oldest and most unique dolls in existence. The doll collection at the V&A Museum contains over 8,000 dolls ranging from wooden dolls dating back all the way to 1300 BC to modern plastic dolls. For the serious doll collector, that dream doll, no matter how rare, is worth almost any cost. This is why from time to time news articles can be found talking about a doll that has broken a new record with how much it sold for at an auction.