Porcelain dolls have been made for about 200 years.
Why do people collect antique porcelain dolls? Perhaps they collect because it brings back memories from their childhoods. Maybe it’s because they appreciate the craftsmanship involved in making the toys. It might be because porcelain dolls are valuable. Regardless of your motivation, there are a few things that you should know as you start collecting porcelain dolls.
The Chinese developed porcelain over a thousand years ago and succeeded in keeping the formula secret for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the poor, captive alchemist Johann Friedrich Bottger, held by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, perfected the formula for European-made porcelain in the first decade of the 18th century that porcelain became common in the West.
Dolls can be between half an inch and five feet tall. The heads of the dolls are in two forms, porcelain or bisque. Bisque is unglazed porcelain and has a warmer, more natural appearance.
When looking at collectible porcelain dolls, consider the overall craftsmanship of the pieces. The formation of the hands and fingers is very important. Open hands and fingers are harder to make than closed hands and fingers. The “skin” of the doll should be smooth to the touch and as lifelike as possible.
When considering a bisque doll, a doll with a closed mouth is generally more collectible than one with an open mouth. Like porcelain dolls, bisque dolls should have “skin” that is “unblemished” and have a realistic look.
Victorian porcelain dolls continue to be a popular collector’s item. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a Victorian doll that is still in perfect shape. Interestingly, a restored doll may actually be worth less than a damaged doll. Regardless of whether you are considering a restored doll or one in its original condition, the more information that you can get, preferably in writing, the more valuable the piece might be. The age and origin as well as any other facts that you can garnish will add to the “story” of your Victorian doll.
Also consider edition porcelain dolls. The value of this type of doll lies, in part, with the fact that a limited number of dolls were produced. Make sure that you have all the supporting information, such as certification. Retaining the original packaging can add value to your doll over the long term.