Sylvanian Families were created in Japan in 1985 and are a quintessential collector’s item with a worldwide following and hundreds of dolls and accessories.
The modern Sylvanian Families are different from earlier models due to changes in manufacturer and design, and this guide will help buyers find the Sylvanian dolls that they are looking for in terms of price, type and condition on eBay, the site with the largest and most competitive market for Sylvanian Families.
What are Sylvanian Dolls
Sylvanian Family dolls are distributed across the world, with major collector markets in the U.K, USA and Japan. There are differences between the dolls depending on the country of origin and sale. Looks vary across the three main countries, and the same ‘family’ of dolls may look different depending on which country they are distributed in – for example, Japanese Sylvanian dolls tend to be bigger and their clothing higher-quality than other dolls. Japanese dolls, particularly vintage ones that were not continued after the Tomy’s re-launch as Epoch, are most sought-after by collectors. Japanese dolls are frequently tagged as ‘JP’ on eBay listings.
Sylvanian dolls come in three main shapes – adult, child, baby, and depending on the species of the family there may be gender differences as well, as in the case of the Friesian Cow family. There are a huge range of animal types available for Sylvanian Family dolls, such as:
- Cow – Friesian, Brown.
- Rabbit – Grey, Brown.
- Dog – Collie, Dalmatian, Labrador, Beagle, Corgi.
- Mouse – Grey, Champagne, White.
- Cat – Ginger, Persian, Silk.
This is only a small section of the animals available, with many dolls being currently out of production or parts of limited runs. Though each family has its own name (such as the Bamboo Family), many Sylvanian Family sellers sell the products after the animal name, as many buyers are not aware of the family names and this makes the search easier for them. Various families have been re-issued over the years, and there may be slight differences between dolls depending on which manufacturer issued them – later dolls have moulded hands capable of holding items, for example. Dolls also come clothed and perhaps with some accessories that are suitable for the doll in question.
The buyer should also keep in mind that while in Japan, the U.K and the rest of the world the dolls are known as Sylvanian Families, in the USA the dolls are known as Calico Critters due to Tomy losing the rights to the name. When searching, buyers can try using the two different names to see if results change, particularly if looking at international sellers.
Special Sylvanian Dolls and Sets
There are special dolls and sets available that do not come as part of the usual family or individual sets of Sylvanian Families. These can be very valuable as they are often part of small runs that are not repeated.
For example, depending on the figurines wedding sets can be valuable, and Japanese limited editions are also particularly favoured by collectors due to their designs and scarcity outside of the country. When buying items listed as special or rare, it is worth checking with Sylvanian Family collector forums to see how valuable certain dolls should be and to get expert advice on how to judge the condition and value of dolls.
Sylvanian Doll Accessories
Along with the figurines, Sylvanian Families come with various accessories to go with their dolls. From items as small as food and tea sets to entire houses, choosing the ideal items to go with dolls is quick and easy on eBay. Post-1990 dolls for sale in the USA and U.K also have moulded hands that can hold items, and newer items tend to reflect that.
Buyers should consider if they will need anything to go with their dolls or the accessories they buy – for example, houses usually require furniture. Buying accessories will raise the final cost, as many items – in particular buildings – are quite large and therefore will merit a higher shipping price. Accessories, if not boxed, often come in bundles with other items, see below for more details.
Sylvanian Doll Sets and Bundles
Many Sylvanian dolls come in sets of various sizes, with boxes including families (two parents and two children), two adults or two babies. The sets of an entire family are the more popular sets as they contain four dolls as a lower price than the dolls would be individually, and they can be found on eBay new and boxed or used. There are also sets that have one figurine, but this may be a special character (such as a Doctor) and they may come with accessories to accompany them.
Buying doll sets is far more economical than buying the dolls individually, and larger sets will mean that the buyer does not have to locate each family member. Some sets are new and still in the box, and will be more expensive than used items. Despite this, sets are priced far more competitively on eBay than they are in brick and mortar stores, and may come in mixed lots. Mixed lots are bundles of items, and Sylvanian Family bundles frequently include entire family sets, accessories and buildings. These are often the result of sellers discovering them in abandoned boxes in attics or trying to liquidise their large collection. They often come at a great price as sellers want to ensure a quick sale, and buying a bundle of Sylvanian family items will save the buyer having to collect various items themselves.
Buying Sylvanian Dolls
eBay is an ideal place to look for Sylvanian dolls of all ages, but when looking for dolls on eBay the buyer should be aware of the factors that will affect their choices, such as:
- Price – this is a major part of searching eBay, as dolls will vary in price due to their condition, rarity and type. Setting a budget before searching is the best way to keep costs down.
- Type – this refers to the ‘family’ the doll belongs to. With a variety of animal families available, the buyer choosing a family they would like will help guide the search.
- Brand – there are various manufacturers that the doll may be made by due to changes during the 1990s, and U.K dolls may be attributed to either Flair or Tomy. Tomy was the original manufacturer however Flair took over distribution after they closed. Flair redistributed Tomy items with different clothing and accessories so which brand is desired will have an impact on what the buyer can find.
- Condition – this will have an impact on price, as dolls may come either used or new. Choosing the condition desired will impact the buyer’s final choice as eBay searches can be adjusted to reflect the condition desired.
Buying Sylvanian Dolls on eBay
With the huge range of dolls, figurines and buildings, buying on eBay is the best way to ensure the perfect purchase, with helpful search preferences and competitive prices for every variation of doll. When searching for dolls on eBay, the buyer should consider:
- Price – prices will vary depending on family, scarcity and the amount of items included if buying a bundle. Buyers can set their personal budget in the search preferences, and flexibility in purchasing is provided with items for sale at Auction or Buy It Now.
- Type – which family the buyer decides to purchase is purely personal preference, and buyers can look by name in the search bar.
- Accessories – any extra accessories will naturally raise the final price, and the buyer should consider which accessories they would like to go with their doll.
- Condition – whether buying used or new, prices will change a great deal. Boxed dolls will be more expensive than used; however used dolls may have wear such as fur rub (balding patches where the doll has been handled too often). Checking the condition of the doll in the photographs provided is advisable.
- Local Sellers – buying from local sellers is the best way to keep costs down, particularly if buying large and awkward to ship accessories such as buildings.
If the buyer is in need of further advice, then they should make sure to check the Search Tips page for guidance on how to adjust the searching technique to find exactly what they want. If they have any questions about the dolls or accessories they see advertised, they should not hesitate to Ask the Seller.
Sylvanian dolls make great collector’s items, and with all the various families and accessories making a small village out of collected dolls is hard to resist. This guide will help buyers in their search for the perfect Sylvanian doll and aid them in finding it for the most competitive price available.
As mentioned, it is critical to investigate and carry out research into each specific Sylvanian doll, and determine which is required for your specific needs. This could be determined by geographic location, doll type, or by what specific accessories can be added to the family.