Since the American Girl phenomenon has hit our house, I have learned a lot about buying American Girl Dolls on Ebay and Craigslist. I thought it might be useful to share some things I have learned. Things to look for and things to avoid when considering a second hand doll. As you read this, keep in mind I am not a 'serious' collector, I just like the dolls for my daughter and her friends to play with.
My first hint is to really look through the American Girl Doll website. Get familiar with the dolls and their prices. At the time of this post a new American Girl Doll from the AG website is $105.00 plus $10.95 shipping. Always keep in mind that you can get a brand new doll from American Girl for $115.95. So if you see a beautiful second hand doll for $100 plus $10 shipping it's not such a good deal. I think a non-retired AG doll should sell for no more than $70 including the shipping. My thinking is that if I am paying as much as $85 or $90 for a second hand doll plus $10 or more for shipping, I may as well pay a few bucks more for new.
There are three categories of dolls sold by American Girl. There are the Historic Dolls based on a historic time period. The Doll of the Year which are only sold for one year and then retired. and the My American Girl (or Just Like You) dolls that have different coloring and features to look like their owner.
Click here: American Girl Doll Archive
Retired Dolls. The only time it is possible you might want to pay more than the new price for a doll is if it is a "Retired" doll. This means that the doll for sale is no longer made by American Girl and has become harder to find. Do not always assume that the seller is knowledgeable about which dolls are retired and which are not. I frequently see dolls listed as retired when they are not. Be aware that many of the Just Like You dolls 'look' like the retired historic dolls. Be sure to ask if they are really the historic dolls or not. If the buyer is not sure, they may not be. So do your homework.
Here are the 5 retired historic dolls.
L-R Felicity, her friend Elizabeth, Kirsten,
Samantha, and her friend Nellie
Three out of the ten Retired Girl of the Year Dolls
L-R Kanani, Kailey and Mia. This is just 3 out of the 10 so far.
Here is a list of all the AG dolls:
Some abbreviations and their meanings:
DOTY or GOTY (doll of the year or girl of the year) There are many Doll of the year dolls. Only one is currently being made. All the others are now retired. Each year a new doll is introduced. Do some research so you can tell when a doll is retired.
NIB (new in box) This is a very fluid statement. Always be cautious of a NIB claim in the secondary market. If only new will do consider ordering a doll direct from American Girl.
MIB Mint in box, as the above be careful and ask questions.
JLY (just like you) Sometimes called "look- alikes" This is what sellers often call the "My American Girl" dolls that can be ordered with different hair and eye and skin colors to look like the little girls they belong to.
OOAK (one of a kind) This is a doll that has been repainted, or given a 'makeover" by an artist. This can also include a new wig and hair style. One artist in particular even gives the doll a french manicure. I personally do not care for this, but many people pay quite a lot for this kind of doll re-do.
EUC (excellent used condition) Again, excellent is a matter of opinion.
What to look for:
The doll should be able to stand up. Beware of ads where the doll is sitting or leaning against a wall. Look to see if the seller has mentioned the tightness of the limbs. Loose limbs can be an indication that the doll is old or needs work. Dolls can be sent to the American Girl Doll Hospital for replacement limbs and restringing, but when you add the cost of this to the purchase price you are usually not getting a good deal.
Both of these photos show tight limbs that are still pose-able.
The American Girl neck stamp. There are 2 neck stamps and both are authentic American Girl markings. Pleasant Co. and American Girl or American Girl LLC. Beware of marks high up in the hairline or partially hidden by the wig.
There should not be any serious marks or abrasions. It is common to find dolls with ink stains or nail polish or other childhood additions. Some marks are superficial and can be remedied, but many ink stains are hard or impossible to remove. Scratches and shiny spots are pretty common and expected with used dolls. If you are buying for a young child I would not let small marks of this kind bother me too much.
Eyes and Eyelashes should be intact. Some dolls have missing eyelashes or eyes that are discolored or don't close. Some AG dolls had defective eyes. This causes the eyes to turn grey or black. This is something AG will repair for free. Eyes and eyeslashes are hard to see in pictures sometimes, so ask questions if you aren't sure. The doll below has a silver eye which means she would need to go to the doll hospital for replacement eyes.
Hair should look shiny and smooth. Dolls that have received a lot of love and play may get frizzy, dried out hair. They also sometimes get haircuts. This is not necessarily a deal breaker for me. There are lots of home remedies to soften, smooth and shine doll hair, but it's hard to tell how successful it will be. If a dolls hair has been cut you have to decide if it is important to you or not.
Nice shiny doll hair versus frizzy, dry, doll hair.
Neck strings should be intact. The neck strings are important. It is the neck strings that hold the head in place on the doll. Cut or short strings could cause problems if the doll needs repair. Be aware that for a period of time American Girl began using a tie wrap closure for the dolls. Collectors did not like this so they went back to strings.
Good neck strings. Cut strings. Tie wrap.
(just a note: There is nothing wrong with a tie-wrap neck doll. It might make it necessary to send the doll to the AG Doll hospital for any repairs)
Is there an X on the dolls bottom? Apparently the American Girl factory in Wisconsin has periodic sales for charity. Dolls are marked with an X on their bottom and sold for a reduced price. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these dolls except the X prevents people from returning them to a doll store for full price refunds. These X dolls would make fine dolls for play. Just be aware that to pay full price for one is not wise as you can get an unmarked doll for full price direct from American Girl. It is important to ask if there is an X whenever you see a NIB doll on the secondary market, especially if it is listed at full price.
Charity sale doll with x on bottom.
Is it an older doll? AG dolls were first produced by the Pleasant Co and built in Germany before it was bought out by Mattel. Collectors might be very interested in older or pre-Mattel dolls. If you are looking for a doll for a child these older dolls might not be the best choice. Look carefully at the photos of the dolls you are considering. Older dolls have less color in their faces. I don't know if this is because they were less colorfully painted to begin with or just faded over time. The first dolls made by the pleasant company had white cloth bodies. These are definitely collectors items, but not necessarily a good choice for a child. Older dolls might have loose limbs that would prevent them from standing and holding a pose. They may have dry, frizzy hair. While these dolls have value to collectors, they might not be a good choice for a doll to give a child.
Older AG dolls
Is the stuffing coming out of the neck? This is not necessarily a problem. The dolls heads are made to be removed for repairs and cleaning. If you are not squeamish about removing the dolls head and correcting this problem it might not be a serious issue.
Consider the value of everything shown. You may be looking at an ad for a doll and several other American Girl pieces in a lot. If this is the case then it might be worth your while to purchase at a higher price. Keep in mind the price of authentic AG accessories can range from $30 to over $100 in the secondary market especially if it is retired. So a nude doll should not sell for more than a doll with their original outfit on. When a doll is sold with their original AG outfits and accessories this definitely ads to a dolls overall value. You will see a lot of dolls sold nude. I am sure serious dealers strip the dolls they acquire to sell all the pieces separately. The lot below would definitely be worth $175 or more since there are 2 dolls and many outfits and accessories.
Watch out for shipping costs! A lot of sellers on the web will list something at a low price but really get you with the shipping. I consider $10 (+ or -) reasonable to ship an AG doll. If it is a lot like the above, then maybe $15 - $18. I have seen ads were shipping is $40 to ship a doll alone. Be sure and always ad up all the costs.
Is it an American Girl Doll? There are a lot of lovely soft bodied 18" dolls out there competing with American Girl Dolls. Become familiar with American Girl Doll faces so that you are not fooled. Some unscrupulous people try to sell cheaper dolls as AG at AG prices. Many of these dolls are available at department stores and toy stores for $20 or $40 new. While the dolls may be just as much fun to play with the quality is greatly inferior to the American Girl Dolls.
These are NOT American Girl Dolls. They are both Springfield dolls from Michael's
These are NOT American Girl Dolls. They are both Our Generation dolls from Target.
These are NOT American Girl Dolls. On the left is a Journey Girl on the Right is a Playwonder Doll.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!
Learn to recognize American Girl Dolls and what they look like.
It's easy to be misled if you are not aware of the difference.
Ask questions! If there is only one dressed photo of the doll you are interested in ask for more photos or more information. If the seller is unwilling to show a nude doll there might be a problem being hidden. Again, buyer beware!
Also, don't forget to check into thrift stores periodically. I found a Molly doll and paid only $14.50. She needed some surface cleaning and hair wash, but a great deal.
Another great tip for all you garage-sale junkies. If you see teen girls at a garage sale ask if they have any American Girl dolls they want to sell. You could get some great deals.
It can be overwhelming when first looking at the secondary doll market. But it is all worth it when you open that first doll that you got a great deal on! I hope this is helpful and happy shopping!
Hope this helps!
NOTE:I have had lots of people, after reading this post, ask me to give a value to a doll they wish to sell. I say the same thing to them all! Go to eBay, Craigslist or other secondary marketplace and look at comparable dolls to estimate the value of the doll you wish to sell. The value of AG dolls changes all the time. Do your research!
Hope this helps!