How to Buy a Vintage Doll on eBay

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How to Buy a Vintage Doll on eBay

Dolls are a widely collected product and take up a large section of the Collectables category on eBay. Even searching for ‘vintage dolls’ on eBay brings up thousands of results.

Vintage dolls are considered to be those created between the years of 1920 and 1979. Dolls created before that, are thought of as ‘Antique’ and anything after is generally considered to be ‘Modern’. Thus, it is the vintage nature of the doll that makes it collectable.

Some types of vintage doll can be of exceptionally high value depending on their material, age and design.

With this in mind, there are certain factors that should be taken into consideration in order to make certain that a fair price is being paid on behalf of both the buyer and the seller. All these factors will be explained within this guide.

Vintage Doll Materials

The material it is made of can decide the price of a vintage doll. Its material can also be indicative of the condition it will be in. Here are some of the most popular and collectable materials used in the manufacturing process of vintage dolls:

Hard Plastic:

The majority of vintage dolls are made from a number of synthetic materials invented especially for the manufacturing of dolls in the late 1940’s. It was popular for the amount of detail that can be achieved in its use. Hard plastic is so collectable because almost as soon as it became popular the more aesthetically pleasing and inexpensive soft vinyl dolls swiftly replaced them. Care should be taken if planning on purchasing hard plastic vintage dolls as hard plastic disease (commonly known as HPD) can set in. This will be explained further in the vintage doll condition section of the guide.


China and porcelain dolls are collected more for the their ornamental value as opposed to being purchased as a toy for children to play with. The naturally hard properties of both china and porcelain mean that the levels of details in the face and bodies of the dolls are not as high as the likes of hard plastic and vinyl dolls. China dolls can only really be purchase as used and because of this tend not to be of the highest quality in terms of condition.


Since its development in the late 1940’s, vinyl is the most widely used material in the manufacturing process of vintage dolls. It became so immensely popular due to its malleable nature. This meant that despite being one material it could be used for both a soft torso and a harder head and limbs, as a means of replicating human babies. Its scientific properties also allowed for the mass production of vinyl dolls using only one mould, all the while maintaining a consistent level of detail. Due to the fact that vinyl dolls were so popular at the time, they are now available second hand at very reasonable prices on eBay as vintage dolls.


Whilst cloth dolls exist mainly as antique dolls because of the development in plastic technologies, there is still a selection of cloth dolls available from the vintage era on the likes of eBay. Appreciated amongst children for their softness, cloth dolls could came in the form of both hand and homemade dolls, as well as being mass produced by certain companies who wished to keep the tradition alive. However, due to the materials used in cloth dolls, keeping them in prime condition is difficult. This means that whilst they are available on eBay, it is harder to find a good deal that represents both value for money in terms of its condition.

There are also a number of other materials that vintage dolls can be found in on eBay, such as wood, papier mache, celluloid and bisque but finding these in good condition can be difficult and higher up the price scale.

Condition of Vintage Dolls

The condition of a vintage doll should very much determine how much is to be paid for it. There are some condition-related factors that should be taken into consideration before a vintage doll is purchased from a site such as eBay. These factors include:


Dolls of all materials and sizes come with a set of clothes. On occasion, some clothes may be able to be removed from the doll in order for a change of outfit. However, the clothing on a vintage doll should be consistent with other dolls from a similar era or brand so as to ensure authenticity. Whilst spare clothing can be purchased, be sure to pay a price for a vintage doll that is relevant to the condition of the doll’s clothing. It a vintage doll is wearing the original clothing then it is guaranteed that it will of a higher value in the long run than one without.

Painting and Finish:

The painting and finish of a doll goes a long way in determining the true value of a vintage doll. Higher prices are paid for those dolls that have even and smooth finishes, as well as consistent painting in area such as the eyes. Scratches and inequalities on the doll’s surface and the paintwork are also detrimental to a doll’s value, so one should be aware of any similar defects. Fixing and restoring vintage dolls is a popular pastime amongst collectors and hobbyists, yet first time buyers may find it difficult to find a vintage doll that worth is worth the time and money in repairing.

Hard Plastic Disease (HPD):

If one is looking to purchase a hard plastic vintage doll it is wise to be wary or not as to whether the doll suffers from hard plastic disease. HPD is a chemical breakdown that occurs over long periods of time in the synthetic materials that make up hard plastic dolls. Dolls with this ailment can be recognised by an odour of a similar nature to vinegar, which has also led to the defect being known as Vinegar Syndrome. Vintage dolls that have hard plastic disease are rendered to have little to no value whatsoever. Be as thorough as possible when buying a hard plastic vintage doll in finding out as information about it as feasible.


Whether a vintage doll has all its original parts or not plays a part in its overall value. Whilst wigs, eyes and clothing can all be changed, if a doll is in good condition with all of its original pieces intact then it can be extremely collectable. Original vintage dolls are available on eBay at reasonable prices that are also of good condition.

Buying Vintage Dolls Online

Whilst there are a lot of considerations to take in during the buying of a vintage doll, there are plenty of opportunities available to buyers to ensure that the transaction is a fair one.

There are a host of vintage dolls discussion boards that cater for both first time buyers and trade professionals and they provide a lot of vital answers for questions that might arise during the buying process. It is sometimes a good idea to take part in these forums so as to gain further insight into the advantages and disadvantages of certain vintage doll specifications, materials or brands.

There are also an enormous amount of specialist collectors who run websites from which they both buy and sell vintage dolls. These websites can be useful in terms of finding prices that relate to certain types of vintage doll, as well as offering advice on different aspects of vintage doll collecting such as restoration or places to find replacement parts if needed.

Buying Vintage Dolls on eBay

It is widely recognised amongst the vintage doll community that eBay is a cost-effective and secure way of purchasing vintage dolls. Once a specific type, brand, material, size or condition of vintage doll has been decided on, eBay offers a number of amenities in making the search for an affordable deal a precise and efficient one.

With eBay having placed vintage dolls under the Dolls and Bears category, buyers should click said category and navigate their way to the Vintage dolls section. From here onwards, it may be a wise idea to use the keyword search bar to find, for example, a vinyl doll.

Furthermore, methodically look through the product description and the seller’s transaction history to make sure that the seller is being honest and fair in their selling of the product. It is always an option to ask the seller a question to find out more about the product. Remember that a vintage doll’s value is very much related to its condition.

Once a vintage doll has been chosen, there are several buying options. One can Bid for the item in an attempt to purchase it at the most inexpensive price possible. There may also be a Best Offer option or the choice to Buy It Now. With either of these options, PayPal guarantees a secure a smooth transaction.


Vintage dolls are a throwback to the toys and ornaments of the mid 20th Century. Whilst they may be highly collectable and of high value, there are still vintage dolls available in good condition that can still be purchased at a reasonable price. Use this guide to make sure that the buying process to be smooth and secure.

Don’t forget to read eBay’s Terms and Conditions before finalising a deal.

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