Collecting antique dolls is a popular hobby, fun to do and an investment for the collector. Checking the manufacturer's brand is the best way to find out the type and era of an antique doll. However, you can also determine whether it is antique based on the appearance of your porcelain or bisque doll. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of your doll, please contact a professional antique doll appraiser for a reliable judgment.
Method 1 of 2: Checking the manufacturer's mark
Step 1. Look for a manufacturer's mark on the back of the head
Look under the hair if the doll is wearing a wig. Most antique dolls have a manufacturer's mark on the back of the head or at the bottom of the neck.
- If the doll is not marked anywhere and you still suspect it may be antique, contact a professional doll appraiser.
- While the marking is usually on the back of the head or neck, it can be in many other places as well. Look on the back, under the arms, or the bottoms of the feet.
Step 2. Read the manufacturer's mark
This brand often indicates where the doll was made, the brand or name of the maker and the size of the doll. The interpretation of the dimensions differs per brand and per doll maker.
Step 3. Use the brand of the manufacturer or doll maker to search reference books and websites
The manufacturer's mark will often give you all the information you need to identify the doll. Go to the library or search the Internet for websites that specialize in information about the provenance of antique dolls.
- In the same places you can also find information about the value of the doll.
- Since you can't always rely on looks alone for a good estimate, this is the most accurate way to identify the doll.
Step 4. If you are unable to identify the doll itself, seek professional help
If finding or interpreting the manufacturer's label fails, contact a doll appraiser. It will be able to accurately determine the type, era and value of the doll.
Method 2 of 2: Identifying porcelain and bisque dolls
Step 1. Check if the doll is made of porcelain, bisque or other material
Hold the doll's face against your teeth. If it feels hard and cold, it means the doll is made of porcelain or bisque. The doll's body is usually made of other material, such as soft leather or fabric.
- Other materials that an antique doll's body is often made of include composite (sawdust, wood, and glue), ceramic, and papier-mâché.
- Bisque is unglazed ceramic porcelain. It has small pores that trap dust and dirt. Usually, the more dirt there is in the pores, the older the doll is.
Step 2. See if the doll has 2 holes near the shoulders
The head, neck and shoulders of antique porcelain and bisque dolls are made using a mold. The two holes show where the head attaches to the rest of the body.
The two holes can also be at the bottom of the neck
Step 3. Look - if possible - at the filling of the doll
Antique dolls with a leather or cloth body are usually filled with sawdust or horsehair. The filling will be very compact so that it can bear the weight of the head.
Antique dolls will never be loosely stuffed, or stuffed with polyester
Step 4. Look for thin cracks on the doll's porcelain or bisque surface
Antique dolls often develop fine lines as they age, which resemble cracks that spread across the china or bisque. These will often be seen on the doll's face.
A doll with obvious facial cracks is usually very old
Step 5. See if the doll's color is faded or discolored
A faded face color is a hallmark of an antique china or bisque doll. The doll's eyes, cheeks and lips will look a bit faded.
Step 6. Look at the doll's eyes for an indication of its age
Antique dolls made before 1870 had painted eyes. From the 1870s to the early 1900s, dolls had glass eyes that did not move. From the early 1900s, dolls' eyes are large and slightly convex, with a sideways gaze.
The painted eyes of dolls from before 1870 are usually light blue, but sometimes they are also brown or black
Step 7. See if the doll's hair is painted on it
Most antique dolls have painted up hair, which is black, brown, or blonde. The only exception is German antique porcelain dolls, which often have wigs made of mohair or human hair.
- Red hair is very uncommon in antique porcelain dolls, as it was thought to bring bad luck.
- German porcelain dolls will have wigs glued to the head, unlike the rooted wigs that are common with newer dolls.
- Mohair is the hair of an Angora goat.
Step 8. See if the clothes are old and faded
An easy way to identify antique dolls is to look at what the clothes look like, because the older they look, the older the doll itself usually is. The color of the clothing is usually faded and dusty and the fabric is often damaged or torn.
- Antique dolls will never have modern Velcro fasteners.
- Check the inside of the clothing for any labels that can give you more information about the doll.