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Porcelain China Dolls: Antique Treasures

Updated on June 14, 2015

Antique Porcelain China Dolls

My grandmother has an antique china doll that everyone in the entire family absolutely covets. Her cheeks are not quite as rosy as they used to be - probably from years of love. If she was like The Velveteen Rabbit , I'm sure she'd be a real girl by now. I've often wondered how old this doll is, and desired to learn more about china dolls in general. The history is quite fascinating.

China dolls were not made in China (as the majority of their doll cousins are these days). In fact, most were crafted in Germany in the mid-1800s. Others were created by manufacturers in Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Denmark and Sweden. The dolls are characterized by their glazed porcelain heads, arms and legs, and soft bodies. They were most popular in the late 1800s, although they were still being produced in the early 20th century. Porcelain is created by firing special clays in a kiln over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Collectors of the dolls enjoy the variety of hairstyles created on these little toy ladies. The styles themselves give some indication to the period in which the doll was created. For example, the "covered wagon style," popular in the 1840s, is basically straight hair on top, with sausage curls around the face. Later, the "Dolly Madison" style became more popular, with all-over curls tied up with a ribbon. The vast majority of china dolls are white females, with black or dark brown hair. Those that have blonde hair are quite rare. A few male dolls were created, as were a number of black china dolls.

Dolls with intricate hairstyles and decorations are, obviously, more valuable. The dolls that have glass eyes and a head that swivels can fetch upwards of $1000 at auction sites!

By the 1880s, china doll heads and limbs were sold separately so that owners could create their own bodies and design their own costumes. Its kind of creepy, actually, to view photos of these decapitated heads, so delicately painted and beautiful.

Antique porcelain china doll
Antique porcelain china doll | Source

Who Makes Porcelain China Dolls?

Manufacturers of porcelain china dolls include the following companies: KMP Berlin, Meissen, Royal Copenhagen of Denmark, and Rorstrand. Dolls created by these outfits are of high quality and can be distinguished from look-alikes by their authenticating signature on the inside shoulder plate.

Other creators include A.W.Fr.Kister, Kestner, Schlaggenwald, Limbach, Kloster Veilsdorf, C.F. Kling, Dressel & Kister and Conta & Boehme.

If you discover a porcelain china doll stamped with the word "Germany" on it, that doll is no older than 1891. This is due to the fact that the McKinley Tariff Act was passed in 1890, requiring goods to be marked with identification of the county in which they were made.

If your doll says "made in Germany," it cannot date earlier than 1921, when the law was revised to require the phrase "made in."

In the mid-20th century, china dolls came back into style after fading from view for about 50 years. Among some of the newer manufacturers include some from Japan. Although the more recently-made china dolls may be listed as "antique" on auction sites, they often are actually of low quality, with little value.

Porcelain Dolls

Beautiful and eerie porcelain doll heads
Beautiful and eerie porcelain doll heads | Source

When is a Porcelain China Doll a Precious Antique?

Indications of high quality porcelain dolls include: lack of cracks in the glaze, undamaged shoulders, no flaking paint (glazed on colors do not peel or flake, but hand-painted repaired areas will), no rub wear to the face or hairline, and body age, size and quality. These are considerations to make before investing money on an antique doll through an auction. Additional information about marking and manufacturers can be found in the books listed below.

If you are lucky enough to inherit a porcelain china doll, it may be most prized for its sentimental value. Then again, you may discover a treasure worth hundreds of dollars in your grandmother's attic!

Do you have an antique porcelain china doll?
Do you have an antique porcelain china doll? | Source


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    • profile image

      realchyna 3 years ago

      Hello I was wondering if anyone can help me I have 2 japanese dolls im trying to find out if I can sell them like if they worth anything they r antique dolls my contact info email:


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      punkin 3 years ago

      I have a generic cabbage patch doll that is made from "shellacked or hardened" lettuce.they have folded hands as if in prayer with a DOA tag that reads " lettuce give thanks for our food". then there is some smack about the colon benefits of lettuce.any clue as to wtf this is???

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      richard cardinali 4 years ago

      Our church received over 100 porcelain doll molds. I would like to sell them (cheap). I know nothing of the doll field but if anyone could assist I would appreciate the assistance. We are in Ocala Florida.

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      Francbex 4 years ago

      I have a Pair of Copperart HANSEL AND GRETEL Bisque porcelain Dolls both in their own original Boxes..Numbered 5170 and 5171 could you please give me the value of these

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      claire 4 years ago

      i have a china doll, how do i find out if it is of any value?

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      Margarette 4 years ago

      I( have a porceline doll from the ELIZABETH COLLECTION and it has a number onback of the neck that has Elizabeth collection ( 200003 ) It is a China doll and has blue glass eyes and blond hair with a hat with a pretty flower on it and a white dress with lace over it and two pretty red rose's on it. It looks very old but is in mint condestion. Could you be so kind and let me no where I cound find out how old it is and how much it would be worth. I thank you for your help and time . Margarette.

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      anneupward 4 years ago

      hi i have a porceline doll in a christening outfit complete with bonnet and knickers ,but don't know how to age her , i have had her since i was around 3 im now 34 yrs old ,victoria is very similar to the picture above in the bonnet but she has brown eyes , any help you can give would be grateful

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      crystaldeverell 4 years ago

      I have a china porcelain doll and a rubber baby doll that i cant find details on. I don't want to sell them but I'm not working and that is the only reason I'm willing to part with them since my grandma gave them to me. The china doll has the hands, feet, and head of porelain and cloth body. My rubber baby has rubber for a body but the head is of different material of rubber/plastic and it makes a sound when you grab it. help anyone.... plz.

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      Katie 5 years ago

      I have a Shader China Doll. I don't know how old it is. She looks like a dutch girl, she has an interesting hat that kinda looks like a nurse cap, and a brown dress with white leggings and shoes. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

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      dave 5 years ago

      i was wondering if you could help me. my daughter got a doll in germany at a flea market. while she got three. one is about 14in tall and has the number 97022 the doll has curly blonde her and a red tad on the cloths that looks like 2 heads. do you know the markings

    • louromano profile image

      louromano 5 years ago

      Woe ! interesting video. interesting hub.

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      Evelyn 5 years ago

      I have a china doll with china arms and legs(there are pink bows painted around her knees. There are no markings as to manufacturer. I think she is a high brow flat top. She has the original linen dress which is covered by a dress made from my grandmothers wedding dress dating back to the mid-1800's. The beige linen pants go to the knees and are trimmed with lace. The doll was purchased at an estate sale in Butler, PA in 1946 and at that time we were told it was 100 years old.

      I can provide photos if necessary. I am looking for a value so I can sell.

      You can respond to my email

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      Shelly 6 years ago

      I have a doll stamped Germany on the back of her head and dorthy on the front. She is excellent condition. I Also have a German doll 390 n. Original clothing in excellent condition. Can you tell me there value

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      Bonny Williams 6 years ago

      I have a doll from Amtex Collector House dated 1986. The doll is called Winter. She has brown hair, blue eyes. Wears red satin dress and ecru coat and hat. The hat and coat have a ribbon the same color as the dress. She has old fashioned high top shoes with pearls on them. She has pantaloons under the dress. The doll has always been in her box and never played with.

      Thank you

      Bonny Williams

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      Lara Milne 6 years ago

      Hi I am interested in buying limbs for a small White glazed porcelain doll. Basically I have a small glazed china doll head and would like to make her a body by collecting parts. Can anyone help? Also cloth bodies for a small china doll.


    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Great tips on how to identify the age of an antique doll. A friend of mine collects dolls - beautiful old dolls. Never been into that myself but I can see the allure. And if you've inherited the doll, what a wonderful keepsake to have. Your pictures are wonderful! Voted up!

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      Breanne best 6 years ago

      Hi I have a full set of limitation copperart porcelain dolls and was wondering if they were an antique or not and how much they would be worth

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      TROLF 6 years ago

      i have a doll that i got from my step-mother, who said it belonged to her grandmother.. there are no markings, stamps or other indications of where/when/by whom this doll was made.. how can i identify the type of doll it is and her worth?

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      Ash 6 years ago

      Hi, I've inherited a leonardo collection porcelain doll with a tag on the arm which says 'hi my name is jack' it's been in the family for around 40 years I've been told but I don't know how true this is. Have you ever heard of this doll? If so how much is it worth please?

      Many thanks

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      Lauren 6 years ago

      We have inherited an imperial German doll but know nothing about its age. The only marking on its back are (370.A.M.2/0.DEP. Made in Germany)

    • profile image 6 years ago

      Hi, I have a doll that is a Green tree collectable, she is a fairy and her name is Pinky, I was told she is from the 1950s? can you let me know what value she has?

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      Lorraine 6 years ago

      I have several 1989 Heritage Mint LTD dolls. I was wondering how much they were worth besides the sentimental value.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Heather,

      You did a great job taking note of the stamp on the back of the doll's neck. I sent you some information via email on this antique china doll. Depending on the quality of the particular doll, it could be worth several hundred dollars or more. Best to you, Steph

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      Heather 6 years ago

      Hi, I was given a porcelain doll by an old friend years ago. I don't know anything about her except the lady was an avid doll collector just curious what the worth might be or even what kind of doll it is? Who could I call and ask about her or what website can I go to? I think she is 16" doll and she has a stamp on the back of her neck SFBJ 247 PARIS . . . then it has next to that (almost looks hand written but it is engraved)WAL SCD 1/84, then the only other thing I have is a tag on the clothing which says Shaders China Doll, she is very pretty she has Blonde Curls with really rosy cheeks and blue glass eyes????? Any help would be greatly appreciated . . .

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      Trish 7 years ago

      I have a chinese looking girl porcelain doll with thick very long black human hair with a silk band with a gold button in the middle around her head, she has a soft filled body and porcelain 3/4 arms and legs.she is wearing silk top, skirt and vest with a gold dragon embroidery and silk shoes,her legs have silk stockings on them..she has a red twined braided talisman made of a flat Greeny blue stone with Chinese letters painted on on it.On her neck at the back is a chinese letter or symbol shaped ^ like a point but bottoms are wider molded . Have you seen or heard of these dolls as I am having trouble tracing her..her eyes are deep set and french glass and very dark..

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      Mold Components 7 years ago

      Nice molding.

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      mary 7 years ago

      i have a complete set of porcelain dolls purchased from copperart could you tell me how much they would be worth mary

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      ashley 7 years ago

      hi i have a bunch of porcelain dolls from the hamilton collection from when i and my mother were growing up and i was just wondering if they would be worth anything now?

    • profile image

      Citra 7 years ago

      Hi! I have 3 china porcelain dolls, and now I'm looking for porcelain dolls with netherland traditional dress. Do you have any idea??? Thank you...

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      Sarah 8 years ago

      These are the most beautiful dolls I've ever seen--thanks for the beautiful and stunning images, and the music. The dolls are almost elegiac. I inherited a small box full of miniature china--porcelain? dolls, from my grandmother, who was born in the early 1900s. The box was labeled "Mom's dolls," so they may have belonged to her mother. I'm wondering if they've any worth beyond my sentimental value. Thanks for any suggestions-

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      I'm with you 3Juila - beautiful and creepy all at the same time... unless the porcelain dolls are fully assembled. ;-)

    • 3Julia profile image

      3Julia 8 years ago from Pegasus

      Wow these are really cool. I had always wondered about why you would find doll heads with the holes in antique stores. They're really appealing, and yet creepy at the same time.

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      alicia 8 years ago

      i have a load of leonardo collection Chins Dolls and wonder if they are worth anything, seems a shame to have them stuck in the attic!! thanks.

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      TERESA WILSON 8 years ago

      Hi I have a china doll and I want to sell it but don't know if it worth anything On her neck it stamped with Heritage mint ltd 1996 please can you give an idea

    • dollnasian profile image

      dollnasian 9 years ago from Denver, CO

      "China dolls were not made in China" how funny!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Anna Marie - I would love to help you with your antique china dolls. Please take a look at the heads and/or bodies and let me know if there are any unique markings. Email me and we can chat about this topic. - Steph

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 9 years ago from Florida

      Do you have any info on identifying antique dolls, websites, or that sort of thing? I have three antique dolls that I have no idea what they are. Any help would be great!!! I am at a total loss.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hello Nobody - I am happy to give you some websites for reference. Sounds like you have a real treasure. Hang on for a day, and I will post another comment here. Steph

    • profile image

      Nobody 9 years ago

      Do you know anything about dolls with heads something like the one made around 1880? I have one with a head like that and a jointed wooden body. I have no idea how old she is, I can't fin anything to tell me. She has no clothes other than stockings (painted on). Where might I find information about her?