Choosing The Right Doll: TAODC, Part III

A funny thing happened this morning. I was going through some of the old drafts I’d written for this Blog, and came upon one titled: “Choosing The Right Doll: Tips & Advice.” Apparently I’d already written quite a bit about the topic, long before the first The Art Of Doll Collecting post last week! Such is the nature of rediscovering old drafts, I guess.

With this wall of text already written, I wasn’t ready to scrap it and write something else. So this shall, indeed, be a continuation of doll collecting advice; the third in this series of TAODC.

In the first post, I addressed how to initially begin collecting dolls, and a few things to keep in consideration. I didn’t really go in-depth on how to choose dolls to add to one’s collection; primarily because it all depends on one’s own perspective. Personal preference is key. Everyone has their own idea of an “ideal doll” or “ideal doll collection.” The kind of doll you like versus the kind I like could be entirely different, and no doubt is.

That being said, there are a few ways to narrow down your search even further. This isn’t the “ultimate list,” but hopefully it will point you in the right direction to begin your search:

Do you have a firm, clear-cut budget? Don’t underestimate the power of the budget. There are dolls out there that are way too expensive–for a beginner collector, at least. Especially if you’re uncertain about quality, don’t risk it. Sometimes it’s worth it, most times it isn’t. Instead, find high quality dolls from reputable brands that are still decently priced. Set yourself a fixed budget. You can be lenient, perhaps by $25-$50 if necessary, but not beyond that. Leave enough money to be able to add more to your collection later.

Is the doll/collection meant for play, or display? The word “collection” might sound obvious, but isn’t always so. Many collectors find delight in setting up scenes–picnics, theater tea parties, etc.–which takes a lot of time and energy, but is also very enjoyable. It all depends on how much you plan to do with your collection, and how much fun you’re going to have. This will also help you decide if the material of the dolls should or should not be breakable; porcelain and vinyl, for instance.

Do you prefer to buy dolls in mint condition, or would you rather make outfits for them? How important is it for you to find a doll in perfect, or near-perfect, condition? Dolls that are in mint condition will sell for a LOT more than dolls that have been played with; that’s just the nature of how they are. In fact, some collectors will buy a doll or a whole series just for the purpose of keeping them intact, never opened from the box, to perhaps sell a few years later. (Which, as you may have guessed, isn’t the case in my doll family; they’ve all been played with quite a lot. 😉 )  In contrast, other collectors don’t always need dolls that have their original outfits, because they can make their own outfits for the doll. Usually, when I see a doll that really catches my eye, I buy her regardless of what she’s wearing, as that is the more temporary aspect of the whole set. I don’t buy any doll just because of the clothing, as that is, I believe, the most dispensable part. Clothing can tell you about the quality of the manufacturing line or crafting line that made the doll. The only time you might need to weigh the clothing value, is if you can’t decide between two dolls.

What is the preconceived idea of the doll’s value? Basically, the rarer a doll is to find–in stores, online or on the secondhand market–the more you have to ponder whether a doll is worth the price. It all comes down to value. There are definitely dolls that, if discontinued, will skyrocket in cost. In the play dolls realm, Madame Alexander, Sasha, Robert Tonner, Sylvia Natterer, and other similar kinds of dolls, are a few examples. Götz and Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls may transition from being predominantly play dolls, to costing much more due to future rarity. As for BJDs… well, they’ll probably always be out there. A select few companies may discontinue their products, but BJDs in general are way too popular to cease production altogether. Bottom line: don’t lose track of the difference between cost and value. How much you think a doll is worth, vs. how much other people think, will help in your search.

How diverse do you want your collection to be? Diverse has a dual meaning. The first is in reference to ethnicity. The second regards how many different companies the dolls are from, what size doll, what kind of mobility joints, and so on. I tend to look for the most intriguing hair/eye/faceup combinations, and have 1-3 dolls per company. It may not seem important at first, but the more variety you have, the more you can experiment with ideas including “family dynamics,” and the more well-rounded your collection will be.

A few other points to help your search:

Don’t always follow the trend, but listen to others’ advice. Just because something may seem trendy at first, or because other people urge you to buy it, doesn’t mean it’s the best. Though that doesn’t mean you should spend an eternity contemplating which specific doll to get. It’s good to be selective, but not over-meticulous. If you wait too long, the doll could be sold. You may think you can get a similar doll that will look almost exactly the same, but that doll may not fulfill your expectations. Just be prepared for that. The point is not to get too caught up in making the right decision. If you have money to spend, you can experiment with getting different varieties of a doll and see which one(s) you prefer. If the doll’s returnable, then return her/him if that doll doesn’t fully appeal to you. If you have even the tiniest inclination that a doll isn’t right, it should raise a red flag that your money is better spent elsewhere on another doll of better quality or design.

Avoid going for the cheapest. I realize that there are exceptions to this rule, such as OG or Lori mini dolls that are priced very reasonably and suitably with very decent quality. However, don’t put your budget at the lowest of the low. As you proceed with your collection, keep in mind that something cheap doesn’t always yield to being withstanding. There are some OOAK artist dolls out there that sell for nigh $2,000 and above. If something looks too cheap for its value, it probably is.

Don’t be afraid to say no to a doll. There are two ways to look at the urgency of buying a doll, or even a toy. One is more direct, the other more laid-back:

  1. Buy her first and return her if you don’t like the doll.
  2. Wait awhile, think about it, come back and see if the doll is still there the next time you check online, or visit the location.

Get a second or third opinion! It doesn’t always mean your budget will fly out the window. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if a friend or family member introduces you to a whole new doll line. If Mom hadn’t pointed out the sheer beauty of Kidz ‘n’ Cats Princess in Mint, Götz Happy Kidz Sophie (2012), or the Götz Just Like Me dolls, I wouldn’t have even considered adding them to the family. The same goes with Amber and Alister. Huge round of applause to you, Mom, for making that decision, and for helping me.

Remember, how you “rate” your collection is predicated on how satisfied you are, personally, of how much work you’ve accomplished.

In the next TAODC post, I’ll compile a list of several doll companies, brands, artists, and price ranges, that can be of use to fellow (and future) collectors. The ones I’ll be listing are mainly dolls still in production, so if you’re looking for a much rare doll, that brand may not be in my list. That said, I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

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