Anita Jo Intenzo
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Collecting Tips

The first thing to remember when you start an antique doll collection is that the majority of these dolls were greatly loved by little girls.  They were played with, dressed and redressed, patched and replaced as bodies sometimes wore out.

If your budget is limited, well-loved dolls, often without their original clothes, can be a wonderful way to start a collection, especially if you can sew.  Remember, though, that replacing eyes and body parts, as well as finding original or period clothing for an antique doll can be a very expensive proposition.  Good antique doll shoes for German and French bidque dolls can be well over $100 a pair!  Original clothes for a Jumeau or Bru can run several thousand dollars.  Reproductions of clothes and shoes (as well as the expensive dolls themselves) are widely available, but before investing in such items, you should study antique dolls for awhile, seeing as many original dolls and outfits as you can to better help you judge authenticity and quality.

Museums and doll auctions (run by such auction houses as Theriaults, Frashers and McMasters, are two excellent places to see antique dolls in person.  Well-illustrated books are also an excellent source of information and there are many that are available.  Antique Doll Collector, a monthly magazine, is also an excellent place to find specialist antique doll dealers.
New collectors should also consider that many lovely antique dolls can be purchased for prices that are equal or less than prices for current artist-made dolls, or late 20th century collectible dolls like Barbie.  For instance, many lovely china dolls can be purchased for under $500, whereas a #3 Barbie mint in box will set you back $700 or so!

Many papier mache dolls are also under $500, as are lovely German doll-faced dolls.  When selecting a German dolly-faced doll for your collection, try to take special notice of the facial painting, which can vary greatly.  For instance, if you are purchasing a common German bisque doll by Armand Marseille, pay attention to the individual artistry of the doll.  Some are hastily painted with one-stroke brows and heavy tint and blush, while others have nicely feathered brows and pale bisque.  Also, although the prices of all-bisques by Kestner and other known makers have skyrocketed in recent years, there are many affordable all-bisques, such as unmarked stationary-head German "candy dolls," often for under $200.  Some frozen Charlottes (china dolls, all stationary) can be had for as little as $20-$25 for a doll under 2" tall.

Most experts will tell you to stay away from dolls with hairline cracks or other imperfections.  This is sound advice if you have any expectation of reselling your doll in a few years time.  However, if you are primarily buying your doll for personal enjoyment and the discount is fair, you can afford rarer examples of dolls for your collection.  Often, minor damage is not noteceable when a doll is displayed.

Another niche for someone who cannot afford the finer examples of antique dolls is to concentrate on the lovely garments, shoes, hats and accessories made for the dolls.  Fine French dolls had entire stores devoted to their clothing and accessories, including everything from purses to card games and chatelaines to bibles.  The clothing made by expert seamstresses rivaled the finest fashions for women.  All of these items are quite pricey but fine examples can be had for much less than complete dolls.

If you are not limited in funds, try to find dolls in original condition that are in original or period clothes.  This is especially true for dolls that are not as rare, such as many of the china dolls or German doll-faced dolls.  All-original dolls are getting harder and harder to find, and their values are likely to continue to soar.

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Anita provides expert consulting advice to new and prospective collectors of dolls, as well as advice for the seasoned collector.

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