Collecting vintage porcelain dolls can be a very rewarding hobby. Talented artisans have been creating beautiful dolls for decades. The number of options from countries around the world is huge! Although good quality reproductions can be purchased today, modern technology has also seen an increase in fakes. How do you detect that these counterfeits are being sold as originals? There are many tell-tale signs that will set off alarm bells. Here are the basics:
This is a topic for its own article though, let’s take a quick look at it.
If you are purchasing in the US, all dolls manufactured and imported after 1891 must be marked with the country of origin. Although the shape of the mark can be located on the back of the head, chest, shoulder, or soles of the feet, it can also be encoded within the material or simply on an attached label. The presence of a mark immediately dates the doll to post-1891. The mark will commonly imply a mold number, size number, patent number, and, of course, the maker’s initial or stamp. no markings CAN means pre-1891. If the doll has no markings, be sure to check the following:
Look closely at the eyes and look for these signs:
- Look for glass, not plastic.
- If the doll is to have ‘sleeping eyes’, make sure they work and are not just glued in place.
- The eye socket or cut should be symmetrical.
- The porcelain at the edge of the socket should be thin.
- Does the eye socket have the correct colors for that doll? Old dolls usually only have eye shadow.
- The lashes should not be symmetrical.
- One tab should have more strokes than the other.
- They should be thin strokes, thin not thick.
- Eyebrows must be finely painted. Similar to tabs.
- They should not be symmetrical.
- Check the location on the face. The doll should not have a surprised look on her face.
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Legitimate china will have been around for a while and will most likely be made from a realistic looking bisque. Expect to see some hairline cracks. Of course any cracks or evidence of repair will affect the value.
- Is the doll‘s costume or dress appropriate for the doll‘s era?
- What material is used? There should be no polyester or any other relatively modern material.
- Mohair or human hair not polyester.
Most antique porcelain dolls are actually a combination of pieces from different manufacturers. It was common practice for manufacturers to specialize in headers and supply the larger market. Be sure to check for markings. See above.
It is difficult to quickly assess whether an antique doll is real or fake. Although the list above is a brief description, familiarize yourself with the doll or dolls that interest you by visiting museums and other collections to study closely what the real doll should look like. This will give you a good reference point.