It’s no secret that dolls are some of the most collected goods on the market. The best part about it is that the doll doesn’t have to be ultra old to be a valuable collectible, but the older they get and the better they’ve preserved the more value they’ll hold on the market. However, small things can make a difference between an antique doll and modern doll kids play with today.

With an identifying mark or any sort of patent or serial number, people can identify and evaluate dolls with ease. However, dolls that are older than 200 years can be more difficult to identify as, not only have the marks disappeared but many dolls were designed and sewn by parents or relatives who couldn’t put any special marks on them.

It’s important to note that not all dolls are as valuable as others. The materials, the manufacturer, the condition, and many other things will determine whether some antique doll is valuable or not, and exactly which doll it is.

Before we delve into the identification of antique dolls, it’s worth drawing a parallel between modern, vintage, and antique dolls. Modern dolls can be any dolls that were designed in the last 30 to 50 years. Vintage dolls are dolls that were designed from 50 to 100 years ago, while antique dolls are dolls that are older than 100 years.

Some of the earliest recorded porcelain dolls were designed in the late 18th century but were most abundant in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Identifying the dolls properly will help appraisers set a value for them, so if you discovered an old collection of antique dolls in the attic, you’ll be able to sell them for a lot of money if you manage to identify them properly.

Collecting antique dolls is a hobby that is enjoyed by many, but it’s also a good investment for the collectors and those who sell them to collectors. That being said, if you want to earn some good money selling dolls continue reading this article to learn more.

If you’re a novice collector who’d like to collect as many antique dolls as possible, continue reading this article as you’ll find it quite valuable and educative.

How to Identify an Antique Doll Based on the Exterior?

Antique Doll

If you’re lucky, your doll will have some identifying marks on you that will help you identify it with ease. If not, you’re going to resort to some other markings on its body to help you date and identify it. Continue reading to learn more.

Identifying Marks & Labels

You shouldn’t waste time identifying the doll based on its designs, color of hair, skin, and the material it was made of if you don’t have to. All dolls that were manufactured by a professional company come with identifying numbers, labels, or logos that will help you identify them, just like modern dolls do.

If they have it, you won’t spend a lot of time trying to identify it, and you’ll be able to evaluate it and put it up for sale in no time.

The manufacturer’s marks, numbers, and labels can be located anywhere on the doll. That’s why you’ll have to examine it thoroughly. Check for the doll’s legs, feet, shoulder blades, clothing tags, and other areas on the body of the doll. Sometimes, it can be on the back of the neck, covered by a doll’s wig. That being said, if your doll has it, you should check it.

Most of the dolls are dressed in some nice dress or cultural or traditional attire. Some manufacturers usually put their marks on the clothing to make it more accessible, especially if it’s some designer brand that designed the doll too.

A manufacturer’s label can be anything, from the logo and brand name to a serial number or a combination of numbers and letters. Sometimes, they even form a word. There are many doll catalogs online, so whatever combination of numbers and letters you do find, you can insert them into Google.

You can even take a picture of the doll and use Google’s Search by Image feature to find the identification for your antique doll. This site is very helpful in identifying the manufacturer marks you find on dolls.


If you weren’t lucky enough to identify the doll based on the serial number or manufacturer labels because the doll is either too old or the markings faded, you’ll have to examine the doll thoroughly and see whether the materials it was made of can shed more light on its origin and identification.

Dolls used to be made out of a plethora of materials, some of the most common materials from the 1800s until now include:

  • Carved Wood – Some of the oldest dolls were made out of carved wood. There are not many such dolls which makes them quite valuable on the market. Interestingly, woodworkers still design these dolls.
  • Wax – Some dolls from the early 1800s were made out of wax and can still be found on the antique market and at auctions. Doll manufacturers found molding wax easier than carving wood, which is why these dolls grew in popularity. They’re quite valuable but also rare as they got replaced by porcelain and other materials.
  • Papier Mache – This is another type of doll that was being made in the early 1800s, particularly in Germany, where they were exploding in popularity. Papier mache are dolls made of a combination of paper and other textile materials. Unfortunately, the trend died in the late 1800s.
  • Porcelain – This is one of the most popular and valuable materials used to make dolls. They’re also known as bisque dolls but this expression is not as popular as porcelain dolls. An alternative name for porcelain dolls was also “china dolls.” China dolls can be easily identified because of their pale tan. These dolls had a head that was made out of bisque porcelain while the bodies were sewn in with the fabric. The most valuable bisque dolls are German and French porcelain dolls from the 19th
  • Plastic – Vintage and some antique dolls were made out of celluloid plastic that was highly flammable before they were replaced by hard plastic in its entirety. As the 1940s passed through and entered a more modern era, plastic dolls prevailed. We also call this the Barbie era as this is the time when the first iconic Barbie dolls emerged.

Clothing & Accessories

Antique doll clothing varied depending on the year they were made in. For the most part, dolls that were made in the 19th and early 20th centuries had clothing that was made from leather. However, as years passed by synthetic materials were introduced. Most bisque dolls featured detail-rich dresses that resemble Victorian style.

Editor’s notes: In ideal cases, the clothing is well-preserved and free of tears and stains, and discoloration.


We know that this is more about the doll’s interior rather than exterior, but to identify and date the doll, you need to see how it was constructed. Many porcelain dolls had jointed construction, which meant that they had body parts that are connected with wires, nails, artificial joints, and more.

Some dolls were stuffed with materials such as feathers, fabric, and later foamy synthetic materials such as polyurethane.


Checking how the eyes were placed on a doll can help you date it, and with that also identify it. The oldest dolls had painted eyes. Although many dolls still have painted eyes, it’s worth noting that dolls were becoming more advanced in design when construction glass eyes were introduced.

Those eyes didn’t move and weren’t opening or closing as you’d shake dolls. Dolls from the 1900s, particularly the 1920s and 1930s introduced eyes that’d open and close depending on how you hold the doll.

Identifying Doll Based on the Manufacturer

Doll Based On The Manufacturer

As mentioned earlier in the article, your best bet to identifying your antique doll is by referencing the label or other maker’s marks that could give you more insight about the manufacturer. Once you know the manufacturer, you can easily catalog your doll to learn more about the model, as well as when it was patented and released in the market.

If you haven’t been able to identify the manufacturer based on product labels, or other identifying marks on its body, here’s a list of identifying labels and their locations based on who manufactured them. We only included the most popular doll manufacturers from the 1800s and 1900s, but other manufacturers have similar practices too.

  • Bertha Alexander usually marked their identifying number on the doll’s body or the clothing. Their most famous dolls were made from the 1920s onwards. They’re known for porcelain dolls, with distinguishable fashion styles.
  • Armand Marseille dolls have a common appearance and feature identifying labels under the wigs. They were mainly porcelain dolls with bisque heads that were made in Germany from the late 19th century to the 1930s.
  • The Ideal Novelty & Toy Company feature some of the newer and more vintage dolls that were recognizable for their style of fashion and composition that was nearly unbreakable. They were also making character dolls, so they might be relatively easy to recognize.
  • The French Poupee dolls were recognized for their tick marks which were stamped on the back of the doll or the back of their necks.
  • The Rose O’Neill dolls had an “O’Neil” stamp which would be located on the bottom of the doll’s feet, or sometimes on the shoulder blades.

Researching the History of the Manufacturers

Once you identified which company made your doll, it’s time to delve deeper into their design history and see to date the exact doll that you have. Various online doll catalogs hold information about different doll manufacturers so chances are you’ll find all the necessary information you need.

Wikipedia and other historical pages, as well as forums, can hold information about the manufacturer and help you see when exactly they started designing and manufacturing dolls, how many collections there were, and what kind of dolls were most popular among them.

Comparing the Traits of Your Doll to Other Products Featured by the Manufacturer

There is a good chance that the manufacturer of your doll featured other types of toys and collectibles at the time when they released the doll. As you’re researching the manufacturer, it won’t hurt you to check what kind of toys he released. Possibly, there can be pictures of other dolls too which is good because you’ll be able to find a doll that potentially looks the same as your doll and date it properly.

Consulting With an Expert to Identify Antique Dolls

Identify Antique Dolls

In case none of the above options worked or you aren’t sure enough that the doll you researched is exactly your doll, consulting an expert always sounds like a good idea.

Consult a Professional Antique Appraiser

Antique appraisers can be found in antique stores but also online. It’s important to find an expert who specializes in appraising dolls and has rich expertise in doing so. That way, you can be certain that he or she will be effective at helping you identify your doll.

Some antique appraisers have websites where they describe the services they do in detail. Make sure to read them properly and get the relevant information that can help you find all the relevant info about the doll you’re trying to identify.

Consult an Antique Doll Enthusiast or Collector

The only people who know as much as professional antique appraisers and antique dealers are people who collect the dolls themselves. They have already spent valuable time learning and researching all the relevant info about the antique dolls and their manufacturers that they can find and probably have all the necessary info you need on different catalogs and Wikipedia-like sites.

They can be found on different communities like Facebook groups, Telegram, Discord servers, and forums like Reddit. One of the best subreddits on antique dolls is called r/Dolls, and it’s definitely worth exploring and even asking a few questions you have about your doll.

Using Online Resources to Identify Antique Dolls

Lastly, the only option you have left is to indulge in a long and deep exploration process to successfully identify antique dolls. You can visit different forums such as Reddit and its subreddits which we detailed before to learn more about the dolls. Exploring social media and other outlets can also prove helpful.

Visiting flea markets and auction events can help you meet people who can help you identify your doll. You never know, however,

Exploring the Similar Dolls on Online Auction Sites

You may also have a chance to find your doll by browsing different auctions and sales sites where collectors and sellers buy and sell different antique dolls from different periods. One of the most popular sites where you can browse antique doll auctions is eBay where new listings are made daily.


Collecting antique dolls is a fun hobby that can also bring you a lot of money if you make the right strategic moves when it comes to buying, trading, and selling the dolls.

However, if you recently found an old antique doll passed down to you from your ancestor with pretty much no information about it, it might be difficult to identify it. Reading labels and maker’s marks is the best and fastest way to discover who made your doll, but with age, they fade away.

Luckily, if you read our article, chances are you’ll be able to identify your doll without hassle. Identifying the antique dolls properly is also important because it opens doors to potentially new designs, we haven’t been able to see before, increasing the value of antique dolls on the market. Additionally, you never know but you may be the owner of a unique doll.

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