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Antique, Vintage or Modern Dolls?

Which type of dolls is right for you?


Kley & Hahn Walkure German Antique Doll

Kley & Hahn Walkure German Antique Doll

Denise Van Patten
If you are new to doll collecting, you might be overwhelmed by the many types of dolls that you can collect, as well as by the vast, rich history of doll manufacturing which spans well over 200 years.

There are endless ways to categorize dolls; however, dolls can generally be divided into the three major categories: antique, vintage and modern dolls. If you love dolls, you may already be drawn strongly to one category, but it is just as likely that you are confused and overwhelmed by the variety of choices. If so, this article will help you determine which category of dolls is right for you.

Antique Dolls

Antique dolls are considered to be those dolls produced prior to 1930. Most dolls in this category are made of bisque, china, wood, or wax, but the category also includes early composition dolls and early celluloid dolls.

Are Antique Dolls Right For You?

Antique dolls are perfect for you if you are drawn to history and fashion of earlier eras. Each antique doll is a historical artifact, and collecting and exploring these dolls will teach you much about history, especially the history of 19th century Europe, since most antique dolls were manufactured in Europe, specifically in England, France and Germany. Many people who collect antique dolls are also drawn to historical fashion--the dolls from this era are miniature representations of the fashions of the day, including clothing, hair styles, and footwear. If you love the fashions of the 19th century, and/or Victorian and Edwardian fashion, these dolls may be right for you. As for cost, antique dolls are generally the most expensive dolls to collect; however, that said, there are many fine but more common antique dolls that can be found for under $300 or even $200.

Vintage Dolls

Vintage dolls are the dolls from the mid-20th century--many from the golden heyday of American dollmaking (before production of dolls basically moved to China). Vintage dolls were generally made between 1930-1980, and they include mostly composition, hard plastic dolls, celluloid dolls, and the early vinyl dolls. Most vintage dolls were made as children's playthings, as were antique dolls.

Are Vintage Dolls Right For You?

If you are drawn to collectible items from the mid 20th century, including the childhood toys of the Baby Boomers and Gen X, then Vintage dolls are right for you. Vintage dolls span the history of American dollmaking, with such impressive dollmaking companies including Madame Alexander, Ideal, Effanbee, American Character and Mattel. Vintage dolls include icons of the 20th century, including Shirley Temple and vintage Barbie dolls. If you love the fashions of the 20th century, or if you played with these dolls as a child, then you may easily be drawn to this era of collecting.

Vintage dolls can be collected on any budget--many composition, hard plastic and vinyl dolls can be found for less than $100, and certain dolls including National Tourist dolls (dolls from foreign countries manufactured for tourists), common, generic plastic dolls, and even some celluloid dolls can often be found for under $20.

Modern Collectible Dolls

Modern collectible dolls are dolls create from approximately 1980 to today that are made for adult collectors (as opposed to being made as children's playthings). Modern collectible dolls are a relatively new phenomena, with the market for these dolls really only establishing itself in any significant way in the 1990s. These dolls are from companies including Ashton Drake, Madame Alexander, Tonner Dolls, Barbie Collectibles, Marie Osmond Dolls, Lee Middleton Dolls and many others.

Are Modern Collectible Dolls Right For You?

Modern collectible dolls are often little works of art--dolls that are finely sculpted, dressed beautifully, and created to last. These dolls are not generally made to be played with, although many, many adult collectors do "play" with their dolls--redressing them, creating vignettes, even repainting and redoing hair on modern dolls. Some modern collectible dolls are true art--dolls made by hand, as a one of a kind or in a small edition. Others are often produced in China, but designed and marketed by American companies.

Modern collectible dolls are a good choice if you DO like to play with you dolls--you don't have to worry about damaging a precious, historic object through display or play. Modern collectible dolls are also often produced for an adult's aesthetic taste, not a child's aesthetic taste, and so they can often be what an adult collector is drawn to. Finally, those who collect modern collectible dolls are easily found on the Internet, via Forums and other online communities. Modern collectible dolls can be found in all price ranges, but by far the great majority are priced between $40.00 and $200.00.

Hopefully, this brief overview can help you discover the category of dolls that is right for you.

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