Many people collect dolls.  Sometimes the hobby starts when we are children and never stops.  Sometimes it restarts when we get older or it evolves when we play with our own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  Some of us still have a doll that we brought with us when we came from Europe or we have  a special doll that we were given as a child.  Some of us, too, have held on to a favorite Barbie or American Girl Doll.  These dolls, like us, are getting up there.  Barbie is now over 55 years old and American Girl dolls are having their 30th birthday this year. These dolls, if nicely preserved are real collectibles.
     Dolls come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles and can range widely in price and quality.  In general, any doll which is over 100 years old is viewed as an “antique” doll.  These include most French and German bisque dolls, most china dolls and many wood, wax and papier mache dolls.  Hard plastic dolls are not yet old enough to be considered antique, but they are old enough to be considered “vintage”.  Even some vinyl dolls are considered vintage.  
     People collect all types of dolls.  One of the most popular types is bisque dolls.  We came across a fascinating bisque doll collection the other day locally.  The brother of the owner had been a sailor and used to bring back a new bisque doll from every port for his niece.  The collection is broad in scope and from many different countries.  A wonderful private collection.
     Bisque dolls were produced as long ago as the 1860s in France and are made of unglazed porcelain (bisque), sometimes with color added to give skin tone.  Before that, dolls tended to be glazed (these are called china dolls).  A doll is considered bisque if its head is made out of bisque.  Often the body is cloth or leather, because otherwise the doll would be too heavy.  Bisque isn’t really used today for play dolls, it’s too breakable for today’s rowdy children.  But some manufacturers, including the singer Marie Osmond, make bisque dolls as collectors’ items (check out the Donna and Marie dolls online).  You can buy bisque dolls for anywhere

All Dolled Up
                                     By George Stevens


So what do you collect?  Tell us about your collection and we’ll put it in a future edition of Senior News/Third Wave News.  Please call George Stevens at 908-964-7555 or email him at

​(908) 964-7555​

from $20 to $500 although the most expensive (out of my price range I’m afraid) went for over $200,000. Like all collectible items, you need to spend time in research before launching a buying spree.  The value is governed by the translucence of the bisque and the style and quality of the face painting.

        Some of you undoubtedly collect Barbie dolls, a guilty pleasure.  Not yet quite considered vintage by true doll aficionados, Barbie dolls are amazingly popular as collectors’ items.  Mattel, the manufacturer, estimates that over 100,000 people are regular Barbie collectors, 10% of whom are men.  Nearly half of these collectors spend over $1,000 a year on new items.  A lady in Germany has the largest collection of Barbie dolls in the world – over 6,000.  Of course Mattel has targeted this collector’s market and has a wide range of dolls based on movies and TV shows.  The original Barbie dolls, originated by Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, were made in 1959.  They regularly sell for $2,000-$3,000 on Ebay.  The record price for a Barbie doll is $17,000 paid for a Midnight Red doll made in 1965.  Who needs Powerball when you’ve got those dolls your kids played with in the attic?  Of course, they better have the boxes and all accessories!
     And, unfortunately for most of us, the absence of boxes and accessories, sharply affects value.  Like all collectibles, the nearer to mint condition the doll, the greater its value.  This, of course, means that dolls that were loved and played with often have little value other than sentimental.  If only you had kept it in the box, it would now be worth something.  But the joy it gave outweighs the money and now you are older you can track down the pristine replacement and start your own collection.