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Doll Collecting Tips

Doll collecting is now the second biggest hobby in the United States. Stamp collecting is number one. If you are new to doll collecting, it can be overwhelming. Here are some tips I think you may find interesting and useful

Many people have a special doll from their childhood and want to find out more about that doll. Many others have always loved dolls and want to know more about them. Here are a few easy tips to follow when beginning to collect these little treasures.

Collect what you like. When you start collecting you may find yourself looking at any doll as a doll to purchase, and this will be fine to a point, but you want to know that you are going to like your collection once you have put the effort into obtaining your dolls. Many people collect dolls not because they are going to be worth a lot of money, but because they think they are beautiful and they look like their children or simply because the dolls make them smile. Whatever the reason, learn as much as you can about the antique or collectable dolls that are available so your collection will be wonderful to see and share with others.

The first step in collecting anything, especially dolls is to get educated. This is easier than it sounds. Sowatzka’s Dolls carries a full line of books designed to educate both the novice and the serious doll collector.

There are a few basic types of dolls every collector should be able to identify:

  • Composition
  • Bisque
  • French Bisque
  • German Bisque
  • Glazed China Heads
  • Untinted Bisque
  • Paper Mache
  • Wax
  • Modern

Tips for Successful Doll Collecting:

  • Collect what you like. Don’t spend your time, money and effort to fill your house with something you don’t like or for the sake of profit. If you like antique dolls try and stay in this area. Stick with what you like, and both your interest and collection will grow.
  • Educate yourself. Learn to tell the difference between real antique dolls, good reproductions, and bad reproductions. The books listed in the Books and Reference Materials are a good place to start. Once you learn how to identify dolls, it will become much easier to make decisions on which dolls to buy and which ones to pass on.
  • Set your goals. Do you want a small collection of rare exceptional dolls? Do you want a collection that is simply pleasing to look at? Are you going for quantity to fill a show room or parlor? Is this an investment or a hobby? Depending on your goals, your tactics for finding and collecting dolls will be as different as the types of dolls you can collect.
  • Garage Sales and Estate Sales. Spend weekends visiting area sales. Even if you don’t see dolls, ask. Many people would never think anybody would be interested in buying their dolls. It is also a good way to make connections. They may not have any dolls, but they may know someone who does.
  • Beware of Overpricing. This goes along with being educated. Because doll collecting is becoming popular, some dealers think that if it is an old doll, it is worth a lot. A lot of bisque dolls look beautiful and valuable, but they were over produced, which makes them less valuable. Know what you are buying and it’s value. Being aware of the tendency of some dealers to overprice. This will save you time, money and heartache.
  • Look at what you are buying. Look for rub marks, where some of the paint has been rubbed off, hairline cracks, chips, torn clothing, cracked leather bodies, or any other damage. Any of these things decrease the value of a doll. Many people believe a cracked bisque head is worthless, but if you are buying for pure aesthetics, this may be an inexpensive way to add to your collection. See Grading Dolls for more information.
  • Look For Diamonds in the Rough. Many fine dolls are found in pieces. A knowledgeable doll doctor can repair minor problems for a reasonable fee. Your local doll shop can also assist you with appropriate clothing, eyes, wigs and bodies. So, if you find a beautiful head, you can salvage the majority of its value. Remember, 60% of the value is in the head on an antique doll.
  • Visit Good Will and other Thrift shops. Many people donate valuable dolls and without realizing what they are giving away.
  • Going to shows is a good way to find dolls. You may not find many great deals, dealers at shows usually know what they have and what it is worth. Fortunately though, shows are a great place to learn. You can gain valuable information by seeing dolls in person. You can only learn so much from pictures in a book. In addition to learning what particular dolls look like, you will get a feeling for the market value of some of your favorite dolls.
  • Ask Questions. Go to your local doll shop and ask questions, get appraisals done, and inquire about dolls that you have and want. Many doll collectors and dealers love talking dolls. You never know what you’ll learn unless you ask.
  • Collect a variety. Try to avoid buying all one size or style of doll. A good doll collection has a variety of sizes, styles, ethnicity’s and values. Buy small dolls to fill in gaps in showcases, baby dolls for that special child’s cradle, and large dolls for a prominent showpiece. Dolls of different origins can also represent family heritage, and add special meaning to a collection.
  • Many people love the style of antique dolls, but can’t afford them. Buying good reproductions is an alternative that you may want to consider. Remember, dolls made today are the antiques of the future.

Tips on Doll Collecting
Courtesty of Gary G. Sowatzka

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