Although the value of their porcelain doll collection isn't always at the forefront of every collector's thoughts, it's probably a rare collector who doesn't think at least occasionally: "I wonder what this doll is worth?" Determining porcelain dolls' value isn't always straightforward, though.
Porcelain dolls that were made 80 to 100 years ago or more can be quite valuable. For example, a doll made in 1916 by the French sculptor Albert Marque—one of 100 limited edition dolls dressed by the Parisian couturier Jeanne Margaine-LaCroix—was sold in 2014 by auction house Theriault's for $300,000.
This is obviously the exception, not the rule. A quick scan of the auction and buy-it-now listings on eBay finds porcelain doll values ranging from around $5 and $10 to several thousand dollars or more, but no dolls listed above $10,000.
What's my porcelain doll's value?
First, you'll need to see if you can figure out the basics of when and by whom the doll was manufactured. Most dolls will have a manufacturer's stamp on them, and a marking indicating the year they were made.
If you can't find any obvious manufacturer's markings, look for any markers on the back of the head, shoulders or upper back of the doll. Some of these are numbers from the porcelain molds used to make the doll, and you can look these up online (or potentially consult an appraiser) to help you identify your particular doll.
Next, you'll need to honestly assess the condition of your doll, as its condition is unlikely to be perfect.
Obviously, mint condition porcelain dolls are worth more than those in poor condition, but it's more unusual than you probably think to have one that's in perfect mint condition.
Take a close look at the doll. Are there chips or smudges? Does it look clean and bright, or worn and tired? Does the doll have all its hair and its original clothing, or have some pieces been replaced?
Determine whether any repairs have been made to the doll, or whether more extensive restoration work has been done. A doll that's had some work done on it generally is less valuable than a doll in original condition.
Find 'Comps' for Your Doll
Just as in real estate, agents price homes in part based on "comps," or similar homes that have sold. You'll need to find some comps to help you set your porcelain doll's value.
Unless you have reason to believe your doll is especially valuable, start on eBay: search the "sold" listings for dolls that match (or come close to matching) your doll's description. This isn't always definitive, since you may not find an exact match, but it will give you some idea of what you can expect to get for your doll.
If you think your porcelain doll may be very valuable, though, you probably don't want to start with eBay (although you may still want to look there to see what has sold). Instead, you should check with an appraiser who specializes in antique dolls.