Vintage Doll Buying Guide

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Vintage Doll Buying Guide

Collecting Vintage dolls is a popular hobby for many. There are lots of ways of collecting and sorting dolls such as material, theme, function and type so the diversity in vintage dolls is infinite.

Vintage dolls can be a perfect gift to rekindle childhood memories, add to a growing collection or treating a special child. There is a variety of vintage dolls for the hard core collectors and gift givers alike available to buy on eBay.

Types of Vintage Dolls

Collectable Vintage dolls were generally produced from 1925 onwards until the late 1970’s. There is a large range of vintage dolls for different types of audiences. Many were used for advertising purposes, while others were used to engage children’s imaginations. Choosing the right vintage doll can seem like a needle in a haystack situation, but the main types of doll are below.

Doll Type


Advertising Dolls

Advertising dolls are exactly what their title suggests. These dolls are affiliated with a
certain product or service. The dolls would be sold for a small price in order to help with brand awareness.
Large companies like Coca-Cola and Kelloggs had their products associated with dolls.

Betsy McCall Dolls

Betsy McCall dolls started out as a paper doll in the popular magazine McCall’s in the early 1950’s.
Due to popular demand, Ideal acquired the rights to make a Betsy McCall doll.
Other companies such as Horsman have also been making these dolls since the 1990’s.

Blythe Dolls

Blythe dolls were very much ahead of their time.
With their large heads, skinny bodies young girls didn’t really warm to the dolls and they were taken off the
production line after one year. The most striking feature of these dolls where the movable eyes.

Boudoir Dolls

The Boudoir dolls were extremely popular in the 1920’s to 1940’s.
These art deco style dolls were made in France and the purpose of these dolls was to sit on a bed.

Chatty Cathy Dolls

Chatty Cathy dolls for Mattel were well known dolls in the 1960’s and were the first ‘talking’ doll that
were popular.  The string- pull mechanism prompted Cathy to say phrases such as “Please brush my hair”.
A real nostalgia laden doll for a generation of girls.

Crissy Dolls

Crissy dolls were well known for the hair that ‘grows and grows’.
She has a long ponytail which can be pulled out by pressing a button on her belly.
The hair could then be retracted by a twisting mechanism on her back.

Effanbee Dolls

Effanbee Dolls were first produced in 1912. These dolls were one of the first of the composition
dolls available. The dolls were later made in plastic and vinyl.

Hasbro Dolls

Household names such as G.I. Joe and Little Miss No Name are the poster dolls for Hasbro.
Hasbro was founded in the 1920’s and started producing dolls in the 1960’s.
These licensed dolls were huge sellers and are still well-known today.
The G.I. Joe doll helped to start the wave of ‘action figures’ for young boys.

Ideal Dolls

Ideal dolls were the play doll of choice for American girls growing up in the mid-20th Century.
These dolls can be recognised by people who aren’t familiar with vintage dolls as they
would include huge names such as Shirley Temple and Betsy Wetsy.
These dolls are some of the most iconic and are reflective of a generation of play.

Klumpe and Roldan Dolls

Klumpe and Roldan Dolls were created for the Barcelona tourist trade.
These dolls had a very distinctive design in which they were made with moulded felt into various
characters. They tend to not have a paper label, so it may be hard to tell whether the doll is
a Klumpe or Roldan, or indeed another of the 13 other Barcelona based companies that produced them.

National Costume Dolls

Souvenirs are a traditional part of the holidaying experience.
One of the most popular souvenirs were National Costume Dolls which
were basically a doll dressed in the national costume of the country visited.
They are a common doll and made by a variety of manufacturers.

Paper Dolls

Paper dolls have been a popular type of doll over the past 200 years.
The mid-20th Century saw paper dolls come in book form.
The owner would then cut out the dolls and clothing and bring the doll to life.

Choosing the Right Material for Vintage Dolls

During the 20th Century, doll makers used a variety of materials to produce more life-like and durable dolls. Choosing the right vintage doll, therefore, is heavily dependent on the material of that doll.

Bisque dolls are commonly but incorrectly referred to as porcelain dolls. Bisque dolls allowed for a more realistic skin tone rather than a glazed finish commonly associated with porcelain. Many of the dolls have leather or cloth bodies and then moved into composition bodies. Bisque dolls are fragile and made specifically for the collectors market rather than for play.

Composition dolls were hailed by doll makers as a more suitable material for play than bisque dolls. The emergence of composition dolls helped to propel the American doll making industry over the German market. Composition dolls are made from a mixture of glue mixed with sawdust and is easily moulded which is perfect for the making of the dolls heads.

Hard plastic dolls took over from the more fragile dolls made from bisque and composition. Hard plastic revolutionised the doll making process as it could be moulded and painted with ease and was very hard to break. The dolls were produced from the 1940’s until the late 1950’s where vinyl plastic became more popular for doll production. Companies that produced hard plastic dolls include Ideal Dolls and Effanbee.

Vinyl was a doll makers dream material as it was unbreakable, soft to touch and easy to produce dolls with. The dolls hair could also be rooted into the material making it more adaptable to play than the wigged variety. These were first produced in the 1950’s and most companies who were using hard plastic jumped to vinyl including Ideal. Vinyl is still used to make dolls and toys today.

Make sure to choose the right material for the dolls purpose. If looking for a doll for a child to play with, look no further than the hard plastic and vinyl items to ensure durability.

Find Vintage Dolls on eBay

Once chosen the vintage doll required, go to the Dolls & Bears category, click Dolls, and start searching for item listings on eBay.

  • Categories: The Categories listed on the left side of the page will help to narrow down the listings by item type. Here there will be links for Brand Names, Doll names, Materials, and more. There is the option to narrow down the search the further you go into the site.   
  • Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if wanting to find Effanbee dolls, type “Effanbee dolls” (without quotation marks) into the Search bar. To expand the results, click "Search title and description". For more tips on searching with keywords, visit eBay's Search Tips.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.

Buy Vintage Dolls with Confidence

Make sure to know exactly what is being purchased before making the purchase. Research the seller and understand how eBay and PayPal protects buyers from fraudulent sellers.

Know Your Purchase

Carefully read every detail in the item listings and make sure it is exactly what you are looking for.

Factor in delivery/shipping costs into the total price. If it is a product worth a lot of money, make sure the seller will the item when it ships.

If more information is required, ask by clicking the “Ask Seller a Question" link under the seller's profile.

Always make sure to complete the transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

Never pay for the eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your Seller

Feeling positive and secure in the purchase is paramount, so research the seller prior to buying the item.

Does the seller have a good feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

What has been said in their seller feedback?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer Protection

In the unlikely event that the goods offered are not receives or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover the purchase price plus original shipping. 


Vintage dolls are popular collectors’ items, and a wide range of dolls and accessories are available. These range from the rare and hard to find, to the affordable and fun. There is a wide variety of vintage dolls and accessories available, and these can be easily found on eBay.

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