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    

#1199, C. M. Bergmann, Simon & Halbig German Porcelain Doll 1889 On#1195, 1860's All Original 7.5 Inch German Miniature China Doll Pink Tint#1196, 1880 Kling German China Head Pink Tint 15.5 InchAntique China Shoulder Head Boy Doll C 1860 - Original ClothesArt Deco German Porcelain Flapper Bathing Beauty Belle Circa 1920Rare Porcelain Very Large Stunning Ernst Bohne & Sons Marked Half Doll, Germany.Very Early China Head Doll Smiling Face Strange Hair Style Bun Unusual Antique China Head Doll, With Alphabet Cloth BodyAntique Early China Head Doll Shoulderplate Wavy Pulled Back Hair Braided BunVintage Antique Porcelain Marked 1920s Doll Head Blonde 5" Earrings PieceLimbach Ancient Porcelain Doll Brown Bear /german 1900 /3Antique Frozen Chalrie, Charlotte China Bath Doll - 1930s - 6"3 Antique China Head Dolls Germany Kpm Brown Bun Civil War Body Rare HairstylesAntique Miniature Porcelain Doll Figure X 2 Frozen Charlotte Cake Dolls House ~ Great ! Antique 1870's Era Body For China / Parian Or Paper Mache Doll As Is ~Art Deco Half Doll Porcelain Lamp Figurine With Rose.Lovely Galluba & Hofman Half Doll With Flowers, Porcelain Figurine.23" & 24.5" Antique China Head Gentlemen Dolls C1890--you Dress Them--perfect!Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /15Antic Old Half Doll From Dressel & KisterAntique Doll With China Head And Cloth BodyGerman Antique Porcelain Doll Heads 18 Parts /germany 1880 /2Antique Dollhouse China Head Doll 5" Porcelain Cloth Body Old VintageWonderful Small 1800s Doll Body China Papier Mache Plus Antique Rare 1880's Rare China Head Doll German Antique Art Deco Pin Cushion Half Doll W/ Legs 5801 Germany German ChinaAncient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /14Small Vintage/antique?china Head Doll~pretty~5"~germany~Beautiful Goebel Half Doll, Porcelain Figurine, Germany.Vintage Porcelain Half Doll - Powder Box, Pin Cushion - Still Has Powder - NiceAncient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /6Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /5Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /10Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /12Lot Of 4 Antique Miniature Frozen Charlotte China Dolls 1 1/4 - 1 5/8 Inch #6 #93 German White China Dolls. 1 Flat Top-1 Common Hair-1 Part Of Frozen CharlotteAncient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /11German Antique Porcelain Doll Figures 30 Parts /germany 1880 /17German Antique Porcelain Doll Heads 25 Parts /germany 1880 /18Antique China Head Doll, Germany14 Tiny Vintage Frozen Charlotte Dolls Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /13German Antique Porcelain Doll Figures 35 Parts /germany 1880 /19German Antique Porcelain Doll Figures 25 Parts /germany 1880 /1Ancient Porcelain Harlequin Dolls, Beautifully Painted /7Lovely Antique China Head Doll, Leather Hands, Rare Hair Style, Great Condition~ Wonderful! Antique/ Vintage Leather Hands For The Cloth/leather Body Doll ~Gorgeous 21" Antique Civil War Era China Doll German Kister? Buy It Now!!Lovely Sitzendorf Germany Porcelain Figurine With Letter, Half Doll.Antique Victorian China Dolls Head Only Date 1860/70s 9.5 Cms TallAntique - China Doll Heads (3) - Arms (7) - Pot - For Doll Repairs!!! - Germany German Antique Porcelain Doll Figures 35 Parts /germany 1880 /20Lot With Two Early Bisque Or China Dolls And A Pile Of ClothesAntique - China Doll - Legs - Seven Legs!!! - (7) - Brown, Black & Blue Boots!!!Antique Vintage German Frozen Charlotte China Doll In Glass Bottle OrnamentOld Cloth Eloise And Original Box By Hol-lee Doll Co. Needs Some TlcAntique Porcelain Doll Hands And LegsRare Antique German Porcelain Doll Hand Pin Cushion Sew Figural Figure SleeveAntique Chinese Dolls Set(6)porcelain Heads Miniature Silk-clothes 1900s Lovely! Bisque China Dolls