1. Doll Buying Guide
Doll Best Sellers
See more Doll

How to buy dolls

how to buy dolls

A doll buying guide

Although dolls have been around for years, they are still a favorite in the toy boxes and imaginations of children around the world. Today there is also a significant market for designer dolls, which are treated as high-quality collector's items. With the variety of dolls to choose from, understanding the doll features and styles you are looking for will help you figure out how to buy dolls.

>> Who is the doll for?

designer dolls

If you are buying a doll for a child, think about the age of the child. Very young children will enjoy a soft, cuddly doll, rather than a vinyl toy more suited for make-believe play. Some dolls have small parts that are intended for older children with fine motor skills and who are less likely to swallow small objects.

Continue to think about the child who you are buying the doll for as you figure out how to buy dolls. Boys may be more likely to play with male dolls. Dolls of different ethnicities are available from many doll brands, which can provide an opportunity for the child to learn about different cultures. Children may want a friend for their doll to "interact" with, so buying different types of dolls can make your child's playtime more fun.

If you are buying a doll for a collector, there is a wide variety of dolls to choose from, especially considering that many types of dolls are vintage or one-of-a-kind. Because these designer dolls are generally more valued over time, aesthetics are an important consideration. Collectors may have preferred themes for their collections, so understanding these parameters will help you determine how to buy dolls for collectors.

>> Selecting kids' dolls

doll brands

As you figure out how to buy dolls, you'll notice that many dolls are labeled for ages three and up. This narrows your choice for very young children to soft dolls, the best type of doll for a child under three years old. These are more a cuddly companion than a customizable toy, as children this young may not have the cognitive ability to indulge in make-believe play. As a child gets older, he or she may hold on to this early childhood companion, so a durable and machine-washable doll is recommended for younger children. Make sure that any pieces that could fall off are not small enough to be swallowed.

As the recommended age gets older, doll designs become more complex, and the types of dolls available increases. Baby dolls are a common choice for children, who can simulate taking care of a young child. These dolls come in varying levels of complexity, from basic soft baby dolls to realistic, interactive, anatomically correct dolls.

Other common choices are fashion dolls. These are probably the most marketed and the most popular, and they are manufactured by many top doll brands. The main draw of these dolls is their clothes and accessories and the various themes available. Often made of vinyl, these dolls are durable enough to withstand frequent play, as well as varied, so that nearly any child over the age of three can find a doll to identify with.

Closely related to these fashion dolls are styling dolls, sometimes referred to as styling heads. Although not a doll in the traditional sense, these toys are made for children to practice hair styling. Styling heads have fake hair that a child can style.

>> Choose a collectible doll

unique dolls

Buying a doll for a collector requires more in-depth knowledge of dolls, because more factors have to be considered due to the detail-oriented nature of the hobby.


The first factor to consider is the age of the doll itself. Vintage dolls are a popular choice with many collectors; a unique doll will grow in value over the years. Age increases the chance of a doll being damaged, so vintage dolls in good condition are even more valuable. As expensive and finely crafted as these dolls may be, modern-day artist-produced dolls can match them in quality and value. Unlike children's dolls, which are often mass-produced by specific doll brands, new designer dolls are one-of-a-kind, which can skyrocket their value.


Mass-produced dolls that are no longer sold may be highly valued if they are rare. Limited edition modern dolls may be valued similarly, because value is generally tied to rarity.


Although a doll's condition usually affects its desirability to a collector, if a doll is damaged, it may still be of use. Many collectors specialize in doll restoration, which, if executed properly, could help the doll regain some value lost by damage.

Collectors intent on keeping a doll's condition, and therefore value, in top form may wish to keep a new doll in its original packaging to prevent damage.


Doll collectors are also interested in the material the doll is made of. Unlike mass-produced children's dolls, which are generally vinyl or cloth, collectible dolls come in a variety of materials:

  • Porcelain dolls are expensive and delicate, and give the appearance of elegance. When the porcelain is tinted but unglazed, the dolls are known as bisque dolls.
  • Paper-mache dolls are very delicate, because they are merely paper held together by glue and water.
  • Sturdier materials include metal, which was used as a doll material in Germany and the United States at the end of the 19th century.
  • Composition dolls are made of several materials, including plaster of Paris, paper, glue and sawdust mixed together to form a stronger material.
  • Hard plastic dolls are similar to composition dolls, but generally have sharper features and a more realistic skin tone.
  • Wooden dolls are also sought after by collectors because they can serve as folk art pieces and remnants of less-industrialized cultures.
  • Vinyl and cloth dolls might be found in a collection if they are from a discontinued line or are rare enough to warrant a high value.

>> Consider the doll's accessories

Once you figure out how to buy dolls, it's time to accessorize. Accessories, both for a child and for a collector, are arguably some of the more important purchases. These range from clothes and other wardrobe items to pets, vehicles and even dollhouses. The type of doll informs the selection of accessories; for example, a baby doll wouldn't have much use for a ball gown. As such, it is important to pick accessories that complement the doll.

Fashion dolls, for example, may have elegant wear or runway outfits, while baby dolls might have simple dresses, overalls, hats and rattles. Doll brands often sell accessory packs for their dolls. These sets help you ensure that the items match the doll and may include, for example, beach clothes, formal wear, pajamas or ballet gear.

As for collectors, accessories are valued in regard to their original appearance with a specific doll. A mint condition doll with all its accessories is valued higher than a doll in equally good condition but missing its accessories.

See more buying guides

Doll Best Sellers
See more Doll
Important Walmart Disclaimer:
Used with permission. Copyright Walmart. All Rights Reserved.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor Walmart.com assumes any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein. Walmart does not sponsor, recommend or endorse any third party, product, service or information provided on this site.

The Walmart.com site includes Flash technology. To avoid interruption of software designed to aid visually-impaired people, please turn off your Flash player.