Vinyl Dolls

Vinyl Vintage Barbie in Suburban Shopper
Vinyl Vintage Barbie in Suburban Shopper. Denise Van Patten

Vinyl Dolls - Sn Introduction to Vinyl Dolls:

Vinyl was really the material that doll manufacturers were searching for for since the inception of the doll industry. It was unbreakable, soft and pleasing to a child's touch, and inexpensive to manufacture. Also, vinyl dolls could have rooted hair instead of wigged, which greatly enhanced play value of dolls, making doll's hair sturdy and easy to comb and brush.

What is Vinyl?:

According to the dictionary, vinyl is "any of various compounds containing the vinyl radical, typically highly reactive, easily polymerized, and used as basic materials for plastics." It was an innovation for its time and revolutionized many consumer products, including dolls.

Dates of Production of Vinyl Dolls:

Vinyl dolls were first produced in the mid 1950s. At that time, nearly all dolls were made of hard plastic. Hard plastic was an innovation in its own right because it was unbreakable, but the dolls were very hard to the touch, they still required wigs and they were also prone to splitting at the seams. So, almost immediately, companies including Madame Alexander and Ideal made the jump to vinyl for nearly all play dolls. Vinyl is still the preferred material to make play dolls today.

Sizes and Characteristics of Vinyl Dolls:

Vinyl dolls are made in every size imaginable.

Most have set or sleep eyes, jointing at the neck, shoulders and hips, and, as mentioned, wigged hair. The vast majority are soft vinyls, although hard vinyls have also come into vogue for collector dolls in the past few years.

Companies That Produced Vinyl Dolls:

Nearly every major doll company in the past 50 years has produced vinyl dolls, including Mattel, Ideal, Madame Alexander, Effanbee, and many others.

Play and Collectible Vinyl Dolls:

Many collector dolls today are mad of a hard vinyl that mimics the hard plastics of the 1940s and 1950s, but without many of the problems of those hard plastics. Dolls that have been made in hard vinyl include many Tonner dolls, Madame Alexander dolls, and even the Silkstone Barbie dolls.

Stability of Vinyl Dolls:

The long terms stability of vinyl dolls is unknown. Many early vinyl dolls have discolored with age, and others, like some of the early-1960s Ponytail Barbie dolls have even leached plasticizer, giving the dolls a greasy look. that said, many vinyl dolls produced in the 1960s have not noticeably deteriorated today. It is unclear whether or not vinyl dolls will stand the test of time and be available to generations for collecting 100 years in the future, as bisque dolls have.

Secondary Market Prices for Vinyl Dolls:

With such a broad category of dolls it is hard to make any generalizations. Clearly, there are a few stand-outs in pricing for vinyl dolls, including the #1 Barbie doll which regularly sells for thousands of dollars. Generally, however, most vinyl dolls were mass market toys, and they were produced in prodigious quantities. Therefore, for play dolls from the late 1950s through 1970s, only pristine mint examples, preferably in their original packaging, bring the highest prices.

If you have a dirty, played with and naked vinyl doll with its hair cut from any era, most likely it is worthless unless it is very rare like the #1 Barbie. Even a very rare vinyl doll in such poor condition would be sold at a substantial discount off of its "mint in box" price.

For modern collector dolls, the market has not fully developed yet since not enough time has passed. However, many of these dolls trade at healthy prices on eBay and between collectors.