Mar 102014

If you look at the comments on this site and on my Facebook page, you will see that the number one question I get asked is “How much is my doll worth?”
For several years I have been doing my best to research the values of dolls that people ask about (no, I don’t know them off the top of my head!) but I no longer have the time to do it. So, in this post I give the step by step instructions, so you can do your own appraisals.

The only way to know the monetary value of a doll, or any object for that matter, is to find out what similar ones have sold for recently. And the best place to find out what a vintage item has sold for recently is on eBay.

Step 1: You need to identify your doll before you can look it up. If you already know who your doll is, proceed to Step 2. If you don’t know who she is, check the back of the head, or her back, to see if there is a manufacturer’s mark. In this site’s Main Index, you will find the most common doll manufacturers listed. If your doll is unmarked, or just marked with numbers, post a photo on my Facebook page and I will try to help you identify her.

Step 2: Once you know who she is, or some more information about her, you can proceed to find her value. Start in the Dolls section of eBay, where most vintage dolls will be listed. There are a few dolls which might be listed in a different section, for example an advertising doll such as Swiss Miss or Tony the Tiger might be located in the Collectibles: Advertising section instead. If you’re not sure, you can always start on the
eBay home page.

Step 3: If you’re starting on the Dolls page, you’ll see a menu on the left side of the screen, with categories such as Antique, Art Dolls, Baby Dolls, Barbie, etc. If you know the manufacturer of your doll, such as Ideal, Effanbee, or Madame Alexander, click where it says “By Brand, Company or Character” and on the next page there will be a menu to select from. If the manufacturer can’t be determined, but you know what material the doll is made from, select “By Material” instead, and on the next page you can choose from Composition, Vinyl, Hard Plastic, etc. If you select “By Type” you will find categories such as Kewpies, Trolls, Nesting Dolls and Celebrity Dolls.

If you know your doll’s manufacturer, click on “By Brand, Company or Character” to go to the next menu.

Step 4: Once you are in the right category, use the search box at the top of the page to enter your doll’s name, or the name of the manufacturer if there isn’t a separate category for them. If you don’t know her name or who made her, you can enter some descriptive terms, but try to keep it as general as possible to start with. If you enter “14 inch vinyl girl doll blonde hair blue eyes pink dress white shoes” you won’t get any results because that’s too specific. You can always narrow it down later if you get too many results.

In this example, I am searching for Whimsies dolls in the American Character category.

Then click on the Search button.

Step 5: Once you click on the “Search” button, the page of results you get will be of dolls that are currently for sale. Ignore these! The asking price for a doll has nothing whatsoever to do with its actual value. A doll is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. And the way to find out what someone is willing to pay is to look at ones that have actually sold. On the left hand side of the screen (you might have to scroll down a little) under “Show Only,” click on “Sold listings” to get those results.

These are the current listings. The prices of the dolls are listed in bold black type.

On the left side of the page, click where it says “Sold Listings” to find dolls that have sold recently.

Step 6: If you get some results on the Sold Listings page, the next step is to compare those dolls with your doll. To get an accurate value, look for dolls that are in similar condition to yours. When you click on a Sold listing, you’ll get a page trying to show you things that are currently available for sale. Look for the link near the top of the page where it says “See original listing” in tiny print. There can be a huge difference in value between a doll in mint condition, and one that has been played with. Read the descriptions and look at the pictures. Whether a doll has its original clothing or not can also affect the value. If you got no results under “Sold Listings” go to the next step.

The prices of Sold Listings are always shown in green.

Step 7: If you got no results under “Sold Listings,” go back and select “Completed Listings” instead. This will show you items that have sold as well as items that did not sell. While there can be many reasons an item didn’t sell (seller has too many negative feedbacks, listing doesn’t give enough information, etc) the most common reason a doll doesn’t sell is because the price is too high. So that will tell you something as well. For example, if you find a Completed (but not Sold) Listing, for a doll offered at $50, in similar condition to your doll, you can be pretty certain yours is worth less than $50.

On the Completed Listings page, the dolls with prices in green are the ones that sold; ones with prices in black did not sell.

Additional tips: Many dolls were made in multiple sizes, and the size can greatly affect the value. For example, a 26″ composition Shirley Temple doll is worth a lot more than an 18″ one, because the 18″ size is much more common. Life size baby dolls tend to be worth more than smaller ones. Original clothing can sometimes be worth more than the doll itself. If you can’t find any sold examples of your exact doll, try to find something similar, made in the same time period. If you have a lot of dolls to research, it might be worth investing in a subscription to Worthopedia, a site that compiles sold listings of all types of antiques and collectibles from the past several years, from eBay as well as live auctions and other sites. If you have a doll that is less common, you are more likely to find sold examples there.

I hope this helps you to figure out a value for your doll. If you have a question about the process, you can reach me through my Facebook page.

Copyright 2014-5 by Zendelle Bouchard

May 262013

Vintage dolls at a live auction.
Photo courtesy of Withington Auction, Inc.

I receive a lot of questions regarding how to go about selling a doll collection from collectors who are ready to downsize, and from other folks who have inherited a collection and need guidance in how to dispose of it.

Since there is no single answer to the question, “How do I sell these dolls?” this article outlines the various options.

The right way, or ways, to sell a collection depends first and foremost on what you hope to achieve. Do you want to get the most money for your dolls? Do you want them out of your living room as soon as possible? Or do you need to find a solution that brings the most return without taking over your life?

Show Me the Money
In order to get the most money for your dolls, you will need to sell them individually. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. You can set up at a doll show in your area. You can also rent space in an antique mall, or set up at a flea market. These options require some money from you up front. You can advertise them in the newspaper or on Craigslist. Or you can sell them online. It used to be that eBay was the only game in town for selling online, but now there are a number of options, including Etsy, Rubylane and other portals.
Of course, there is a tradeoff to getting the most money for your collection, and that tradeoff is time. Selling dolls one at a time, especially online, where you have to research the dolls so you can describe them correctly, then deal with taking and uploading photos, answering email questions, and packing and shipping, is very time consuming. (In the case of advertising the collection on Craigslist or in the newspaper, you also want to take safety into consideration before inviting strangers into your home, especially if you are a single woman.) Only you can decide if you have the time to devote to researching and selling the dolls one at a time. If not, read on…

Just Get ‘Em Outta Here!
At the other end of the selling spectrum, there are people who will come and purchase your dolls, or take them on consignment, and get them out of your way. Antiques and collectibles dealers, and dealers who specialize in dolls, will purchase the entire collection and sell them individually, by any or all of the methods outlined above. A reputable dealer (like me!) will pay you one-third to one-half of what they think they can sell them for. This might not sound like much, but once you have tried selling them individually yourself, you will appreciate how much work and expense goes into it. Dealers might advertise in the newspaper or on Craigslist; or you can contact online dealers who specialize in dolls. You can also ask around at a local doll show or antique mall.
An auctioneer in your area will take your dolls on consignment to sell at a live auction, and take a commission. Most auctioneers will not set reserve prices, so there is some risk involved. Many auctioneers will purchase collections outright as well. You can find auctioneers in your area by going to Auctionzip. There are several auctioneers around the U.S. who specialize in dolls; they are mainly looking for high-end antique and vintage dolls. These auctioneers advertise in doll magazines.

A Happy Medium
If the first option is too much work, and the second option is too little money, the right way for you to go might be with a combination of strategies.
Right now I am in the process of advising a friend of a friend, who has a very large collection (literally thousands of dolls) inherited from her mother, on how to dispose of it. She began by separating those dolls that she wanted to keep for herself and other family members. This should always be the first step. Many of the remaining dolls are modern “collectible” porcelain dolls that don’t have much value, and she is going to begin by thinning some of these out at a yard sale. What’s left over from the yard sale will go to a local auctioneer, who will probably sell them in box lots.
Once she has some room to move, she will concentrate on researching the better-quality modern artist dolls, and perhaps selling some of these individually, or consigning them to someone to sell individually for her. She may set up at a doll show or in a shop. She will probably have more yard sales throughout the summer, and consign the leftovers to auctioneers. I will advise her to spread them around – you don’t want to concentrate too many dolls in one place at one time, because a “saturation point” can be reached. I will make her an offer on the more interesting vintage dolls in the collection, which I will document for this site and then resell.
So piece by piece, her mother’s dolls will find new loving homes with the next generation of collectors. She will get the most she can for them, without making it her life’s work to sell them.

I would love to hear your comments on how you downsized or disposed of a collection.

Sweet old photos

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Aug 232012

I just love old photos of little girls and their dolls. Sad to think that in this age of digital photographs, most people don’t keep hard copies any more. Nothing for those collectors of the future to find! The photos I most like to find are ones that have the subjects identified. This one came to me in a lot with several pages of the child’s baby book, letters and even her baby booties. Her name is Elaine Dee Wolf and the photo was taken in 1904. She holds a fabulous cloth doll.

This vintage photo is unidentified. Anybody recognize the doll?

Dolls as Therapy – Dolls as Art

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Mar 202012

“Marwencol” is a fascinating documentary about Mark Hogancamp, a brain injured man who uses Barbie dolls, G.I. Joes and other action figures to act out elaborate storylines in a miniature town he has created in his backyard. This award-winning film chronicles how the dolls provide both physical and emotional therapy in his recovery, as well as an artistic outlet for this creative and unique individual. Highly recommended.

Apr 252011

Effanbee’s composition Patsy was a real trendsetter. Debuting in the 1920’s, she was one of the first American made dolls who was truly modern. She reflected the big changes that were occurring in fashion and society – flappers, bobbed hair, short skirts for little girls. Patsy was a smash hit and Effanbee took the opportunity to put out a whole series of similar dolls in different sizes. Among them were Patsy Ann, Patsy Lou, Patsy Mae, Patsy Baby, and this little sweetheart, Patsyette. At 9″ tall, Patsyette was the perfect size for a little girl to take everywhere. This darling set in the original cardboard case holds a dressed doll and three extra outfits. Photo courtesy of Debbie’s Dolls.