Buyer Beware – Things are not always what they seem.


As long time users of eBay Naomi and I have learned a few things about buying old stuff and one of those is that not all online sellers are knowledgeable about the items they are selling and some are downright dishonest.

One of the things that you sometimes hear of is sellers, and I’m not only talking about eBay here, who will try to pass off a reproduction item as a vintage one. Some will even deliberately scratch and age the item to make it look more like the real thing. It goes without saying that if you are buying something online that you should always read the sellers feedback and look carefully at any pictures before you part with your money.

However, there are a lot of people who buy and sell items in good faith but just don’t realise what they have. This can sometimes lead to you getting a bargain but at other times you may be disappointed to find that the item you bought is not what you thought it was or at least that it is not as rare or valuable as you were told.  Remember Naomi’s vintage Midge doll bought for $10 because the seller didn’t know who she was? That was a bargain.

Naomi's $10 Midge wearing a home made vintage fashion.
Naomi’s $10 Midge wearing a home made vintage fashion.

Fashion doll collectors have probably all seen Barbies on sale as “vintage 1966 Barbie”, a common mistake as sellers take the date stamped on the back of the doll as its age when really it is just the date of that particular body type.

I typed “vintage 1966 Barbie” into eBay’s search engine and it came up with several dolls which were plainly 1990s or later Barbies. For example:

This seller has mentioned the date on the dolls head as well, most of them don’t but he/she’s plainly confused about what it means. Of course a lot of online sellers are not collectors, they are people who buy and sell for a hobby or for a living.

Vintage is a very overused word too. I can’t get used to things from the 1990s being called vintage. That’s probably just me getting older though. The nineties seems like it was five minutes ago to me.

Naomi and I were discussing this subject recently as we often compare notes about things we’ve seen on sale and she suggested that I should write something to help people who are new to collecting avoid disappointment.

I thought that was a very good idea. One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to share knowledge and if we can help people who are new to collecting learn more about it that has to be a good thing.

Roswwood Manor a tin litho dolls house by Today's Kids 1986
Roswwood Manor a tin litho dolls house by Today’s Kids 1986

This tin litho house is Rosewood Manor by Today’s Kids from 1986 but it is frequently mistaken for a much older house despite having the date on the makers mark. I’ll be doing a full post about this house next week.

Naomi also sent me this list of points to consider when buying a used item. They could apply just as well to any type of collecting not just dolls or dolls houses. They are all excellent points so I’m reproducing her list as she wrote it.

  • Is it really vintage or a fake? Some people deliberately age tin litho items in particular by scratching them or leaving them in the weather to rust or fade in the sun. Yes it does happen.
  • Condition, are you happy with a roughie or do you want minty?
  • What does the seller know about the item? Was it theirs or did they buy it at auction. Ask questions.
  • Check out the web sites of enthusiast. They know more than sellers do.
  • Check prices by doing an online search for the item you want.
  • Always do your homework. Don’t take everyone else’s words as gospel. Sometimes people get it wrong. Human after all.
  • How hard is it to replace missing bits or do repairs on a roughie if wanted?
  • Value, is it better to restore or leave it as is?
  • Rare or common? Some items are rare or hard to find while others turn up all the time.

Naomi collects other types of toys and household items as well as dolls and dolls houses so she’s had a lot of experience in buying old things. As an example of sellers faking things she told me about a reproduction gramophone she bought a few years ago. It is one of the old style ones with a trumpet speaker. She bought it as a décor item as she could not afford to buy a genuine one. These reproduction ones are made from parts from old portable record players but are very poorly made and won’t play records properly. Naomi says that hers has a lot of dents. She bought it in a shop so she knew what she was getting and that it wasn’t a genuine antique but she has heard of a lot of people buying them online believing that is what they would be getting. The reproduction sells for $A200 or more but you could expect to pay over a thousand for the real thing.

A quick search of the internet turned up an article that verifies that this happens.

In the future we will write posts from time to time about our own experiences in buying dolls and doll related stuff and cover some of the points Naomi listed in a bit more detail.

As always I welcome comments from readers about their own experiences good or bad.



  1. Because my dolls aren’t collected for their value, but for their “acting ability” in my story telling, I haven’t had this problem specifically. I buy dolls because I like their faces first of all, and their posability or possibilities to be rebodied onto more posable bodies. But I have had some negative and positive experiences on eBay. I have purchased dolls that have supposedly been played with “gently” to find that my definition of “gently” must differ from theirs considerably. I have also received clothing that requires more repair than as advertised. But I live in the UK and many dolls that are relatively inexpensive in the USA are astronomically expensive here, but can be found for reasonable prices on eBay. There are also a lot of people selling rebodied dolls created by putting a fashionista head on a made to move body, then selling the MTM head on the fashionista body without explaining.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I know what you mean Wendy. I buy dolls based on whether I like their faces mainly. I think a lot of us do that. I don’t have a problem with people selling rebodied dolls but it is only fair to tell buyers exactly what they have done. I agree with you about the “gently played with” description too. I looked at some today when I was writing this post and one said vintage Barbie in excellent condition but she was not vintage and she certainly was not in excellent condition as she had frizzy looking hair and a sticking up fringe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, I’m learning to pay better attention to write ups on on-line items. Not even E-bay is perfect as I have been charged for the same item repeatedly and had to write and tell buyer when I paid to get item sent more than twice. I try to help sellers by letting them know when they have a jem, or where the issue date is on a doll, several have said thank you (but one said get lost unless you are bidding). I even tell the local thrift store when something is valuable or highly over price/over produced so easy to find..and I’m glad to donate duplicates or rehome them places more collectors or enthusiast will enjoy them. Collecting is fun, and we meet such lovely people, the search/research is engaging.It puts my mind into the right frame to do other research,genealogy and pop culture,’s a refection of times past and present and binds friends/family old and new.What a lovely blog spot you have,to look forward to! Thanks again!  

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is exactly how I feel too. I have so far not been told to get lost when I’ve corrected someone but obviously some sellers don’t care if it is going to impact on the sale. Personally I think goodwill is worth more than profits. We do have a lovely hobby and most keen collectors are happy to share their knowledge. I’ve been corrected myself on this blog or gained information from readers and I’m very grateful to them for their advice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, it’s lovely to read your articles anyway, but this has relevance to me, I sometimes feel like a Lone Ranger doll collector out there, I tried to explain to one chap that was selling a modern Barbie as a rare 60’s Barbie that it wasn’t, oh dear he was having none of it. Some people are pleased some are not. I have even offered to pay more if a seller is charging too little.


    • I recall having a discussion about this with some online collectors some years ago. Some people may feel that by telling the seller what they have you are decreasing the chance of getting a bargain. That may be so but on the other hand other people could pay more for something that really isn’t worth it. I just think that if you are selling something online you need to be more accurate because the buyer can’t handle the goods until they have paid for it. I enjoy sharing knowledge but of course you can’t force people to do the right thing. At least websites that offer information can help buyers make better informed choices.


  4. Recently Naomi sent me a link to an eBay sale for a “vintage 90s Sindy” saying “Isn’t that Elsa?” (My Hollywood Nails Barbie). It was and I contacted the seller to explain what the doll was and how I knew. He was nice enough to reply and thank me and corrected the listing. I think most people will do the right thing.


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