Despite their fragile nature, antique china dolls are treasured by serious doll collectors and children alike. These classic playthings made from glazed white porcelain were initially popularized in Europe during the 1700s.

Porcelain was invented in ancient China, made from a hard, white clay known for its fineness and strength. This ceramic material proved so useful, particularly for dinnerware, it spread across the world, nicknamed after its country of origin. When it comes to dolls, antique figures made from glazed porcelain are referred to as china, while unglazed designs are called bisque. Contemporary dolls made out of the material for the collector market are generally referred to as porcelain dolls, leaving the word china for the vintage and antique pieces.

In Europe, china was first made around 1710 at the Meissen factory near Dresden, Germany, for household objects and figurines. Eventually, major deposits of clay throughout the Thuringia region would make Germany a center for porcelain production. However, most porcelain manufacturers only produced doll parts as a small segment of their business.

By the 19th century, porcelain had become the favored material for doll heads, and starting in the 1830s, high-quality china dolls hit the market. Most of these were made in central Europe, and often the assembly work was done by individual families, which is why many antique china dolls are not marked.

German-made china dolls usually have black molded hair and blue eyes. The oldest have high foreheads and hair parted in the middle, smoothed down into rows of curls or ringlets around their ears. These dolls also had sloping shoulders, suitable for the low-cut gowns in fashion at the time.

Between 1850 and 1870, dolls crowned with the extravagant hairstyles worn by Parisians were all the rage. After 1870, the molded hair was replaced with wigs, which were thought to be more natural in appearance. In the 1880s and 1890s, these dolls tended to feature bushy hair with bangs covering the forehead, smug-seeming features that appear almost too small for their faces, and stocky necks.

As a material for a child’s toy, china was never ideal; it was easily chipped or shattered if the doll was thrown to the floor. Thus, by the early 20th century, new composition materials and, eventually, plastics largely replaced porcelain for most dolls.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Art Deco German Flapper Figurine Figural Dresser Box Half Doll RelatedVintage Antique 4" Victorian China Head DollAntique Wooden & Willow Ware / Queenswear Doll Leather Shoes & Hands~ Pretty!! Antique Larger China Head Doll Head... As Found ~ Art Deco Fasold Stauch Stunning 3.6” Half Doll Holding Polichinelle/punchRare 1860's China Head With Fancy Hairstyle ~ Gorgeous!!! Antique Pink Cast Sophia Smith China Head Doll Head...head Only ~Beautiful Antique China Doll Head In Good Condition +++ ExtrasVintage Pincushion Porcelain Half Doll Lady~ Pretty!! Antique 1800's China Doll Head... Head Only As Found ~Antique China Head Doll 15" Flat Top Porcelain Hands & Lovely Legs/shoes W/standVintage Pincushion Porcelain Half Doll LadyA Maryland Doll Collector's Photo Album Antique French Kestner China MilnersTiny 4",china Head Doll,antique,,vintage,doll,clothing,antique Lace,so PrettyVintage Pincushion Porcelain Half Doll LadyVintage Pincushion Porcelain Half Doll LadyAntique China Head Doll W/ Straw Stuffed Body & Bisque Porcelain Arms LegsVintage Pincushion Porcelain Half Doll LadyAntique Vintage Large China Head DollChina Doll Miniature Antique Frozen Charlotte Penny DollVintage German China Head Incised Number " 5 " Antique Low Brow Doll Part Found In Basement -antique China DollVintage Antique Small French Porcelain Doll DamagedAntique China Head Doll~11.5"~marked 4 Germany~~ Beautiful Face!! Antique Abg #1000 Large China Doll Head...as Is ~China Doll Marked Germany Agnes 18.0 Inches TallParian China Doll Butterfly Hairstyle Hat Hair Original Clothes VintageAntique Porcelain Doll Germany ?Assorted China/bisque Arms & Legs For Antique Dollhouse DollsAntique German Frozen Charlotte Original Clothes On China Doll Vtg Dress Slip + Antique German Blonde China Doll HeadPorcelain-- Doll Head Only-- Shoulder Plate--4 InchesAntique Porcelain Pin Cushion Doll - Woman In Enameled Vest - Ernst??~ For Restore!! Antique Beautiful China Doll Head....head Only ~Lot Of Four Antique Tiny Frozen Charlotte DollsVintage German China Or Bisque Doll Replacement Legs Feet Black Button BootsAntique China Doll Head With Cloth BodyTiny Porcelain Half Doll~made Of PorcelainTiny Porcelain Half Doll~made Of Porcelain