Many dolls need repair. Their stringing comes loose, their glass eyes fall out, a limb falls off, clothing rips and stains, bodies loose stuffing, porcelain dolls fall and break. But, it is not always worth it to fix a broken doll. Doll repair can cost a great deal of money, and depending on the doll and circumstances, cost can easily outweigh the reasons for fixing a doll and/or the doll's monetary value. So, when should you try to fix your broken doll? This article will help guide you.
1. Emotional Value Of A Childhood Doll To An AdultNo matter what I say here about the cost of a particular type of doll repair, one thing might overrule any cost consideration over whether or not a doll should be repaired--emotional attachment to a childhood doll. If the doll was a childhood doll of an adult and the doll is emotionally important to that adult, the value of the doll and the cost of the repair (even if the repair would cost several hundred dollars more than the doll is worth monetarily!) will not matter much. A well-loved doll cannot be replaced by a similar model...or even an identical doll in some instances. As an example, I have my broken legs-in-pieces Talking Barbie doll in a draw. On my display shelf, I have an identical model (in one piece). It's the Talking Barbie doll in the draw, the one with its hair a mess from all my play and her particularly faded lipstick that I still love.
2. Emotional Value Of A Play Doll To A ChildIn the case of a child with a well-loved doll that is still being played with, whether or not the doll needs to be repaired or can be replaced may depend on the age of the child. Many times when I owned my doll store, I'd have a panicked mother come in with a broken or hopelessly soiled favorite doll (or a totally lost doll!) looking for an exact replacement of the doll for their child. I can report that for most very young children, a complete replacement of the doll usually will work. For older children (school age and older) often the same type of emotional attachment to a particular doll that an adult may have has already developed, and if at all possible, it is better to repair the doll than replace it.
3. Doll Restringing And Limb Replacement
Generally speaking, if a doll has limbs, head, and torso held together with elastic (called "stringing"), if a limb falls off, it is an easy repair usually costing from $10 to $25, and it is an easy choice to repair the doll's stringing. Sometimes, you can even do the repair yourself--see How To Restring a Doll
However, if the doll has a more complicated method holding the doll together, such as a walking mechanism, or if the legs and arms are held together by a type of knob, putting the doll back together can be much more expensive and complicated. Also, restringing antique dolls with many ball-joints can also be more complicated and expensive, and something that only a trained doll doctor can do.
4. Resetting A Doll's EyesIf your doll has set eyes (eyes that are glass or plastic, not painted eyes) and the eyes fall out, usually resetting the eyes is not very difficult to do. If the eyes sleep or flirt or otherwise move, or are on a very small doll, the repair becomes more complicated. Most doll doctors can reset eyes for a reasonable price. If you are a skilled crafter, you might be able to reset simple eyes yourself from directions online. Generally speaking, for a doll you are going to keep that is worth over $50, it is worth it to reset the eyes. If you have a doll for resale, value of the doll and cost of the repair if you cannot do the repair yourself must be weighed.
5. Porcelain RepairRepairing a cracked or shattered porcelain doll head is one of the most expensive (and difficult) of all doll repairs. In fact, in today's modern world it can be difficult to even find anyone skilled enough to do the repair. Due to the cost (proper repair can run several hundred dollars), only the most expensive antique dolls or dolls with a strong emotional personal connection are worth fixing with a porcelain repair.
6. Broken Or Lost Doll LimbIf a finger is off of a composition or porcelain doll, repair is often a simple matter of regluing the break. If a composition or porcelain doll limb is shattered, often the only way to replace the limnb is an expensive repair (see Porcelain Doll Repair, above) or finding an exact replacement limb. Repair of the limb can be the only way for some dolls (for instance, bisque arms on an antique Bru or porcelain hands on a French Fashion Doll), but limb replacement can be easier and more cost effective for most modern dolls (Barbie dolls, composition dolls, even more common antique dolls). You can find replacement limbs at a somewhat reasonable price form poor-condition dolls being sold online. To have the limb replaced, see Restringing above.
7. Vinyl Doll Repair
For many modern vinyl dolls, the cheapest way to have the doll repaired is to find the same doll being sold cheaply online, and cannabilize that cheaper (usually damaged in some other way than your doll) for pieces). There are also doll doctors skilled in certain types of vinyl doll repair (for instnace, green ear on a vintage Barbie doll, broken talk box on a Chatty Cathy, etc). Price will vary depending on the type of vinyl repair needed. For information about repair to vinyl Barbie dolls and other plastic dolls, see Special Tips For Restoration of Barbie® and Other Plastic Dolls
8. Redressing A DollI always prefer to see an original outfit on an older doll repaired if possible, or if not possible, replaced with a doll from the original period. I am very adverse to having a "new" outfit made for the doll, especially if the new outfit is made from materials that didn't exist at the time the doll was made (nylon laces, polyester, etc). There are many doll outfits available online at reasonable prices, and if you would prefer a new outfit for your doll, make sure that you or your chosen seamstress uses time-apporpriate materials, styling and trim. Redressing an older doll inappropriately can actually reduce the value of the doll
9. Final Word of Doll Value
If your doll isn't a doll with a strong emotional value, you will have to carefully weigh the value of the doll against the cost (or cost of materials and time involved if you are doing the repair yourself) of the repair. It makes no sense to spend $200 to repair a broken Armand Marseille bisque doll head if the doll itself is worth no more than $150, and you are not emotionally attached to the doll or if the doll is for sale. Of course, sometimes it is worth it to repair a doll due simply to historic value or conservation needs