Dolly Data: The Price of BJDs (Ball-Jointed-Dolls)
Rules of Thumb
The price of a BJD (ball-jointed doll) varies depending on a lot of factors. Size, country of origin, quality of materials, number of accessories, and the limited nature of a head sculpt can all affect how much you will pay for a doll. Generally speaking this price starts at about $200 and just goes up and up and up.
If you're trying to save your pennies for a first doll (or just a new one), here are some things to remember if you're trying to save save save:
1. Bigger dolls, bigger prices, but it's not proportionate. The smallest dolls usually run from $200-400, but dolls that are nearly 3x the size may start at around $450. If you're looking for value, then a small doll may be cheaper, but it's not really a "good deal" unless it's absolutely the doll you want. I do NOT recommend getting a small doll as your first "just because." Only get it if that's the one you like.
2. A fullset is less flexible, but it can be cheaper than buying everything piece-by-piece. Some companies only sell dolls as sets while some offer the option of picking and choosing what you want. Just keep in mind that when you pay for things like wigs, eyes, makeup and clothes as extras, you pay the full price.
3. Many companies have summer and winter events with free heads, or special gifts you get by spending a certain amount. It can be worth waiting around or aiming for a monetary goal to get some freebies.
4. Doing your own faceup (makeup) isn't cheaper unless you already have all the materials you need. (Brushes, eyelashes, paint and a sealer spray, to start.)
5. Shipping! You're probably buying a doll from Korea, China or Japan. There are a few retailers in the US and in other places. Some will offer free shipping over a certain price, but remember that EMS shipping from overseas can cost quite a bit.
6. Layaway! Some companies offer it! See if the doll you want is available on layaway and pay it off in 3-12 payments. It's hard to wait that long, but it makes very expensive dolls more affordable.
7. Lucky bags! Some companies may offer lucky (grab) bags at the end of the year. These will usually include some assortment of wigs or other accessories, which may be ugly or unpopular, or might be quite nice. It's a good opportunity to add some random stuff to your collection.
8. Beware of second-hand items! Make sure the seller is reputable, and do your research. Remember that a price that's too good to be true is probably too good to be true. There are plenty of scammers in the dolly world, and unless the doll you need is really rare and only available on the second-hand market, paying full price from the company can offer you peace of mind. They're more likely to try to please you and work with you if there's, say, any damage to your doll during shipping.
9. Beware of recasts! (See #8.) Some sellers on ebay are up front about their dolls being recasts. Others are not. Don't support dolly piracy (arrrrr).
10. Customs. If you live in the US this shouldn't be a problem, but many countries charge customs fees for dolls because they're so expensive. Don't forget to factor that into your price! Check to see what others in your country pay for a similar doll, or look at the customs regulations for your country.
The Cost of Cute
How much should you expect to pay for a doll?
Tiny: Around $200-400 depending on whether it's a fullset, LE, etc. This includes very teeny-tiny dolls, most anthros (animal-style dolls), and tinies/Yo size dolls (around 10-11"). They are usually scaled to be toddler size, although there are dolls that are basically BJD Barbies that are a similar height.
Mini: These are usually around 16-18" and can run you from about $300-700. Some of these are proportioned to be children and some are more mature.
"SD": These are 22-27" and will generally start at around $400 and can go for even as much as $1500 depending on accessories. A basic "SD" size doll will run about $400-800.
Big: These vary in price simply because some are proportioned more like the SD size dolls and some are proportioned much larger. Expect to pay $800+ depending on the size, and expect to have a difficult time finding wigs and accessories! Some like the Soom Mecha Angel are on the lower end of the price scale, while a Dollmore Lusion or Trinity doll will cost you $1500-3000.
Why do they cost so darned much?
BJDs are labor-intensive, from start to finish. Even if you're buying a blank doll, a lot of work went into it to get it to that stage.
1. Design. Someone had to sculpt that body and face, and it probably didn't take them an insignificant amount of time. There may be trial and error that goes into this, or a constant design process in order to make the body design more efficient or poseable.
2. Materials. Resin and the casting process aren't cheap or easy. Sometimes batches of resin will turn out poorly and need to be thrown away. Molds, it's said, can only be used so many times before they need to be retired. Better quality resin also = more expensive.
3. Time. From design to molding to finishing, everything takes time and labor. People have to be paid. These aren't factories churning out dolls by the dozens. These are skilled people doing what they love for people who also love dolls. They gotta eat.
4. Location. Even a little studio in Korea needs to pay rent and keep the heat on in winter. A larger company like Volks, with several showrooms across Japan and abroad needs to make money to survive. Most folks aren't doing this out of their garage, unless the operation is so small that this is feasible.
5. Profit. Yes, companies are trying to make a profit. Imagine that. If you're only breaking even with your costs, that's no fun.
6. They just do. Please remember that making a doll yourself is probably not a cheap way to go about getting a doll, and reportedly costs as much as buying one from a company. Even if you try to rationalize away the need for people to eat, pay rent, and compensate people for their time. Keep in mind that they're probably not making money hand over fist. And if you don't believe that, try it yourself.