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Collecting and Selling Paper Dolls

Updated on March 19, 2010

Paper Dolls

A paper doll is a 2D figure drown on paper that can be dressed up and set with different accessories. In most cases, the paper dolls are people, typically females, but animal, males, and other objects can also be found.

Although, a paper doll may not seem as much fun as a real baby doll, Barbie, or even a Cabbage Patch Kid, but paper dolls provide loads of pleasure and entertainment for children around the world. They have been popular among young girls since about 900 A.D., when they were used in ancient Japanese ceremonies.

France had an assortment of paper dolls in the 1700s, and in 1828, McLoughlin Brothers, was the largest producer of paper dolls, was founded. McLoughlin Brothers actually produced their paper dolls from thin slices of wood that sold for five to ten cents.

Throughout time, paper dolls have been imported and exported through European and American manufacturers. These simple designs were famous worldwide, and even today make a great collector's edition.

Paper dolls have come in the form of popular figures (celebrities, politicians, etc.) as well as regular people, and even cartoon characters such as Sailor Moon. When collecting paper dolls, there are a lot to choose from; many collectors will stick with a theme or two.

Collecting Paper Dolls

If you have a fascination with paper dolls, and remember playing with them when you were younger, by all means, start or continue your collection. There are many people in the hobby, so you definitely won't be alone.

When collecting paper dolls, many teens and adults actually start their collection with paper dolls of an older female in the family getting passed down, or even a find in your own attic of paper dolls you used to play with as a child. In any sense, maybe you're just a big lover of dolls, and want to add a section of paper dolls to your doll collection.

However you get started collecting paper dolls, make sure that you know the ins and outs because, it's actually a fairly large hobby.

When you start to get serious about collecting paper dolls, you want to make sure that you know how to preserve them as best as you can because in any sense the dolls are still paper.

The best way to keep your collection of paper dolls from getting damaged, is to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place, and trust me, there are a number of different things that can damage paper dolls.

  • Bending, folding, or tearing from storage, improper mailing, or play.
  • Pen or marker ink bleeding from one side or the other.
  • Scraping surface ink
  • Ink smearing from pressure caused by packing too tight.
  • Storing in brown paper bags, cardboard, or with other acidic materials (such as tape, glue, plastic, or paper).
  • Excess heat, cold, dryness, or humidity.
  • Rodents, bugs, and other pests.
  • Exposure to dirt, dust, oil, smoke, aerosol spray, and other debris.
  • Paper clips, staples, binder clips.
  • Fluorescent lights.
  • Using PVC covers, photo albums, or other improper forms of storage to display.

Storing Paper Dolls

If you can prevent the above damaging situations, you can prevent your paper dolls from becoming damaged.

When storing your paper doll collection, you want to follow the below tips, so that you can prevent any damage or prevent further damage to your collection.

  • Use "Archival" and "Acid-Free" materials to store your paper dolls. Acid can destroy paper, causing it to become brittle. It's best to use archival material with mylar polyester film and ATG tape.
  • Use matching watercolor ink to fill in cracks and imperfections in the original ink. If you have problems matching the ink, ask an artist, as you may need to mix different colors to get the exact shade or color to match. Keep in mind that it's easier to darken a color than it is to lighten it, and paint generally dries darker.
  • Always use acid-free materials when storing. You can purchase acid-free tissue paper to place between each paper doll when stacking in a box, and consider lining cardboard boxes with mylar.
  • When filing, used acid-free paper, and be careful not to over-pack to avoid pressure.
  • When framing, use an acid-free mat to keep the paper from touching the glass, as the mats will create an air pocket to allow the paper to breath an release extra humidity.
  • You can microwave your paper dolls to kill pests and bugs that have caused pinholes in the paper. Just place a small bowl of water in the microwave, set it on high for about 30 seconds, and the bugs will be zapped dead.
  • If you notice mildew, you cal microwave the paper to kill the mold. Brush off as much of the mold as you can before microwaving and use a damp cloth to brush the corners and outer surfaces. Put the paper in the microwave on high for 30 seconds; don't use a bowl of water, keep everything dry. Remember mold grows in moist areas.

Selling Paper Dolls

If you decide to sell you paper doll collection, whether the entire collection or just a few of the dolls in the collection, consider selling on eBay, conventions, or various paper doll collector websites and forums.

When listing your paper dolls for sale, you'll want to carefully list the number of dolls, type (die cut, book, etc), title of the doll, publisher, condition, and price of the dolls that you are trying to sell.

Condition codes that you'll want to use include:

  • Pristine Mint-PM
  • Mint-M
  • Near Mint-NM
  • Very Fine-VF
  • Fine-FN
  • Very Good-VG
  • Good-G
  • Fair-F
  • Poor-P

When trying to decide how much to charge for the paper dolls, you'll want to consider the condition of the doll, how much you paid, the year the dolls was created, and the availability of the doll. By attending conventions and staying in the hobby, you'll be able to better price your paper dolls without under or over charging.


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    • profile image

      Confused 5 years ago

      How does one microwave paperdolls? Where do they go? On top of the bowl of water?

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Great hub and this reminds me of a book of Shirley Temple paper dolls i have. I have never punched these out, but I like being able to look at the book fro mtime to time.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Great Hub on the ins and outs of paper doll collecting and preservation.

      I sure wish I had kept my Grace Kelly paper dolls from the 50s!

      Thumbs up.

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 9 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      Hello Whitney05; back in the day my two sisters and I had a massive collection of pepper dolls that we played together with. We kept them in covered shoe boxes and even made extra clothes that we drew and colored with crayons. It was just pure fun for us and your Hub brings back great memories.