January Tip of the Month: Researching Your Dolls


Our Greatest Resource

One of the things that I enjoy about doll collecting is learning how to ID my dolls and learning about the history of the companies that made them so this month I’m going to talk about the various resources we can use to do that.

I’ve written before about how as my generation of doll collectors age there seem to be fewer doll museums and doll clubs around so new collectors must look elsewhere for information. I firmly believe that our greatest resource as doll collectors is each other. Many of us have little snippets of information about a doll or company and when they are put together a picture emerges. Of course, that is what good researchers can do. If you like solving puzzles researching can be a lot of fun even if it is frustrating at times.

Doll Clubs

As I said there are not as many doll clubs around as there used to be so there may not be one in your town. If there is you are lucky because there may be regular meetings, they may run doll making classes, they may put on doll shows, they may have a club library and of course, it is an opportunity to spend time with other collectors. A lot of clubs have an online presence these days and may have a blog, social media page or a website to keep members and visitors updated on their activities

Online Resources

Online groups on social media sites are everywhere. One of the main reasons, apart from keeping in touch with family and friends that I don’t see, that I stay on Facebook is the number of doll groups you can find there. There are general doll collecting groups, groups who collect specific types of dolls, buy and sell groups, groups who ID dolls. These are very handy if you are looking for a particular doll, or trying to ID one as there are very knowledgable members. Most of the doll groups that I belong to are Australia/New Zealand based. I chose them because it is obviously cheaper to buy from someone in Australia than overseas and because they generally talk about dolls I am more familiar with. I do belong to one US-based group called “Let’s ID Our Dolls” which is very good too. Many of these groups are private and you have to be approved to join the same as with any club. I have had good experiences on a few occasions I have bought from Facebook group members but like anything you have to weigh up the risks of buying from a stranger without having seen the doll. Unlike eBay, Etsy and other sales sites there are no feedback ratings to go on.

YouTube is another useful resource for collectors and quite a few YouTubers have doll channels where they show and tell about their own collections, review new dolls or do tutorials on repairing and restoring dolls. I’ve looked at a lot of these and while I’m usually a person who likes written instructions I have found some of them very useful.

The latest video from “A Thousand Splendid Dolls”

I am aware that there are also doll groups on Instagram and Twitter and probably other social media that I know nothing about. I’m not sure if they are good resources for information but they may be good for photos and young people like this type of social media so it may be the way collectors communicate in the future.

Finally, I’ll mention sites such as Flickr which has many doll photos which can be useful when you are trying to ID a doll. Sometimes the photographer will have included useful information about the doll while for others it is more about the presentation. Pinterest can also be a handy site but I often feel like I have fallen down a rabbit hole when searching pictures on Pinterest as they are sourced from all over the place and often tracking down information about the photos is very hard.

Books and Magazines

Sadly there are not many doll magazines being printed these days. I used to get Barbie Bazaar and Australian Dolls and Bears regularly and sometimes at doll shows or markets I would buy older copies of magazines like Doll Digest or Doll Reader. Places like this can still be good to find old magazines.

I have a small library of doll books that I often turn to when I’m trying to ID dolls. There are numerous books about Barbie of course. The vintage and mod eras are very well documented and there are books that cover the decades of the seventies, eighties and nineties. I haven’t seen many books that cover the Fashion Fever or Fashionista dolls as yet. I’d certainly buy one that showed all the Fashion Fever dolls, outfits and accessories. I have books about British dolls which are a particular interest of mine. Many of my books are out of print now but can still sometimes be found on the second-hand market.

Naomi’s Barbie books
A page on Estrela Barbies from Brazil

Other Resources

If you are trying to research a company you may have a harder time as many of the doll makers of the past have disappeared into oblivion. An existing manufacturer may have a website with some history of the company but otherwise, you can try old newspaper and magazine articles which you may find online or at the library. Things like advertisements and trade papers can be useful too.

Whatever you are trying to learn about ask questions, send emails, read blogs and forums. Contact the authors of books and articles. There is no telling what a persistent researcher may turn up.

13 comments

  1. Bonjour
    Je suis une collectionneuse francaise et j’ai découvert votre blog à l’occasion d’une recherche sur les poupees Pedigree pour une réunion du club auquel j’appartiens ( son site internet : poupees d’hier et d’aujourd’hui . Depuis , je le consulte assez régulièrement , avec plaisir . Cela me permet , en plus , de rafraîchir mes souvenirs scolaires d’apprentissage de la langue anglaise .
    Chez vous , c’est déjà l’année 2020 ,ici c’est 2019 un ciel gris et un temps frais . Je vous présente mes vœux de bonne année

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    • Thank you for your good wishes. I hope that you have enjoyed reading our posts and found them helpful. I hope to write more about Pedigree and their parent company Lines Brothers in the future.

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  2. I definitely agree with you about Pintrest! I have searched to ID a doll and finally found a photo of the exact one I have..only to find it’s from Pintrest and there’s no information about what the doll is, or where the picture came from. On searching for information online, I think it’s important to know how to search to get good results. Use what information you already have to it’s best advantage:describe whatever markings the dolls has and do a search for that. If you know the maker,search for dolls made by that company.nailing down the year,or at least era if you can. If a doll has a unique feature, try searching for that. (Always remember to include the word ‘doll’ in your search, or you could get anything!) Use hair colour,type of material the doll is made of,description of the clothes as long as you know for sure they’re original. Sometimes it takes a lot of different searches that lead you from one piece of information to another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quite right Tam, learning how to search properly is very helpful. I like to use doll marks, or whatever other information is on the doll as a starting point but sometimes I’ll do a wider search using dates. If I am not sure of the exact year I am looking for I use * for the last number. If I am really stuck I’ll start with an image search and work backwards.

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  3. I recently bought some older books on dolls, which contained useful info for identification. When I research online, I try a search in different languages in Google, and sometimes in other search engines as well. Sometimes I find what I need. It’s always so great when the information on a certain doll is found, I have a few unidentified dolls and always hope to find out something about them one day. 🙂

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    • Using different search engines is a good idea. I do it occasionally too. I hadn’t thought of researching in different languages but as there are online translators that is a pretty good idea. Some dolls we’ll probably never identify, cheap dolls made in Hong Kong in the sixties are so numerous that it’s almost impossible to identify them all but that doesn’t stop us from trying. As I said I believe that if we all share what we have learned we can find out a lot more.

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  4. Happy New Year everyone! I’m not on social media myself, I tend to use blogs like this one, websites and books. I have the white version of Naomi’s books, The Collectible Barbie Doll. I would love the Tammy book you have but it is very difficult (and expensive) to find and I also have Colette Mansell’s book, The History of Sindy. It was your blog which identified my English Tammy. I thought I’d been sold a clone but then I saw pictures of your childhood Tammy and she is identical to mine.

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    • Funny you should say that Angie because I would love the Colette Mans ell Sindy book but it is HTF and costs an arm and a leg. I bought my Tammy one many years ago luckily when it was cheaper and postage from the USA was no so bad as now. I always thought that those Hong Kong Tammy’s like we have must have been made specifically for the British/European market as all the Tammy’s I’ve seen as an adult have a completely different skintone and high colour. As I had owned mine since I was about eight years old I knew she hadn’t faded. I thought all Tammy’s looked like that till I got the book.

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  5. I look to see what dolls are being sold on Etsy, eBay and other auction sites as the sellers sometimes have a good description. Sometimes they make mistakes but I’ve been lucky to get some info that can at least help my search. On the doll clubs why does one have to be approved????Isn’t one good enough???No collectors with clone dolls allowed!!!! They sound snooty nosed.

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    • There are a lot of groups and while some are very speciific others are not. I think that they like to check new members to avoid spammers getting in who will fill the site up with advertising or nasty posts. I’ve occasionally seen the odd one get through that has ads for sex toys and things. They are probably also trying to screen out those spam bot things. By making people who want to join answer questions they can find out if they are a human being firstly and secondly if they are actually interested in what the group discusses or just using it to push their own barrow.

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  6. I’m always checking EBay, websites and books to research dolls too. Sometimes the books have slightly incorrect information, as do websites but generally are a good source of information. I got my Colette Mansell book as a Mother’s day present, it was quite a few years ago now. Another good one is Frances Baird’s book about British teenage dolls of the 1970s, I have that one as well. It has lots of good colour pictures. It’s always great to visit your site, I love reading all your posts and talking to like minded people all over the world. Keep the posts coming.

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