Identifying, Valuing, and Preserving a Doll Collection

Close-up of dolls in toy box

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From fashionable Barbies to elegant French bisque antiques, dolls can play a lovable role in a person's life. It's no wonder, then, that some turn to curating a beautiful doll collection. Whether you are new to doll collecting or have been gathering them for years, it's valuable to have a good grasp of the basics. This includes identifying your dolls, valuing them, and preserving them properly.

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    Identifying a Doll

    doll marque

    The first step in collecting dolls is identifying each one properly. It's a good idea to start a log of your collection so you know what you have and can reference it when needed. A simple spreadsheet or even just a notebook can help you keep this information organized.

    You will want to examine each doll thoroughly in good lighting. Take note of the doll's size, material, and physical attributes, such as hair, eyes, and clothing.

    Look closely to see if there are any markings or labels. This may be a manufacturer name or symbol or a model number. You can then match up symbols in a doll identification guide.

    If there's no mark, identifying the doll might be tricky. If you have an approximate date of manufacture, you might be able to narrow down the company or type of doll. Otherwise, be resigned that the doll will simply be noted as being a certain type of doll from a particular era.

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    Valuing Your Doll

    bye lo Rare Pouting Baby

    Many doll collectors will say that it's not about how much the dolls are worth but the hunt for a rare doll and enjoying the overall collection. However, it can be beneficial to know the value of each of your dolls for insurance purposes, as well as if you decide to pare down the collection.

    To determine the value of a doll, consider some key factors:

    • Has the doll been restored or repaired during its lifespan?
    • Is it chipped, dull, or showing other signs of wear?
    • Is there a serial number that an appraiser can identify?
    • Is there a manufacturer stamp and year?

    The internet has made it easier to determine the value of dolls. Look at an auction site, such as eBay, and see what has recently sold and for how much. While this doesn't mean your doll would sell for the same amount, it does give you a ballpark figure.

    If you think a doll is particularly valuable, skip online comparables and head to a professional appraiser. Those that specialize in antique dolls can give you a quote for its value.

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    Protecting and Preserving Your Dolls

    Dolls Displayed In Antique Shop For Sale
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    A doll collection can be both valuable and much-loved. That's why you'll want to take measures to protect and preserve your dolls so they stay in pristine condition.

    • Keep the dolls out of natural and fluorescent light. Natural light fades doll clothing, as well as some vinyl and cloth dolls. Fluorescent lighting can change the color of some vinyl dolls to a greenish hue. If possible, keep the dolls in a closed cabinet or under incandescent lighting.
    • Keep the area dust- and pet-free. Dust may yellow a doll's clothing and create a layer of dirt. Keeping pets away decreases the amount of dust in the room and decreases the chances that one of your furry friends will think the doll is a chew toy.
    • Don't smoke around the dolls. The odor easily infiltrates doll clothing and it's nearly impossible to remove.
    • Avoid temperature extremes. Super-hot or extra-cold temps can degrade the plastic or crack papier mache. Avoid storing dolls in the attic, garage, basement, or any other place in the home that's not temperature-controlled.
    • Keep the dolls out of air-tight plastic. If any moisture happens to be in the plastic before it's sealed, mold can grow. Keep dolls in containers that allow the air to circulate instead.