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”)

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    

Heavy Unusual Civil War Era 22" Antique China Doll Orig Clothes Leather BootsAntique Unusual Hairstyle 5" China Doll Head Countess Dagmar? Pierced EarsAntique Bathing Beauty German Porcelain Erotic Figurine 1920 Flapper GirlVintage Antique German Bisque Shoulder Head Doll Head & Base Only! B11Antique Circa 1800s Commercial Doll Body For China Head Or Papier Mache HeadExtreme Rare Fasold & Stauch Porcelain Bathing Beauty Nude Figurine Half DollLovely Goebel Porcelain Figurine Half Doll Teepuppe GermanyEarly German Frozen Charlie In Cabinet Size~ Beautiful Petite!!antique 1800's Blonde China Head Doll.... Head Only ~Early Antique Large China Head Doll With Leather Hands And Feet 28 In.Antique Porcelain Bisque China Doll16" Antique German China Head Doll Blonde Hair Blue Eyes Civil War Era Low BrowGerman Porcelain Pincushion Half Doll With Baby Kewpiesque Googly EyesVintage Antique German Porcelain Shoulder Head Doll Head & Base Only Stamped B3Antique Porcelain Dolls And Parts- German, Japan1880s China Head Doll 26" W Spill Curl Shoulder Head & Nice Sewn Cloth BodyAntique 21" Dressel Damaged Porcelain Head Doll Ball Jointed Body Parts / Repair1900s German China Head Doll 9" W Blonde Low Brow Shoulder Head & Cloth BodyVintage/antique Beautiful 12" China Head Doll W/ Unique Victorian Boots And ... Beautiful Antique 1860's 8" Flat Top High Brow China Head Doll All OriginalStunning 1920s Art Deco Porcelain "pierrot" Female Clown Pin Cushion Half Doll Vintage Half Doll LegsVintage Antique Bisque Shoulder Head Doll Head & Base Only! Painted Face B12Antique Glazed China Shoulder Head Doll 4 1/2" Hertwig - Marked - "pauline"1900s China Head Doll 15" W Low Brow Shoulder Head & Cloth Body & Wood StandVintage China Head DollLg. Antique German Blonde China Head Doll No.6 W/ Kid Leather Body Needs Tlc.Cute Vintage Antique 5.5" Black Painted Hair Frozen Charlotte Girl China Doll Vintage Porcelain Half Doll Pin Cushion German Antique/vintage German Porcelain Half Doll Flapper Girl Pin Cushion Vintage Antique German Porcelain Shoulder Head Doll Head & Base Only Stamped B2Antique Early 1900's? Hand Painted Porcelain? German Doll Vintage17'' 10'' 3 1/2'' Group Of Fixer Uppers Papier Mache Doll China Head Bathing BeaVintage China Doll Reproduction Of Antique 1840's Lydia Type RbrouseAntique German Frozen Charlotte Doll Tiny Porcelain Miniature DollhouseAntique Half China Doll Pin CushionAntique 22" Doll Body For China Head, Paper Mache, Wax Parian 6" Across ShoulderAntique 11" China Doll With Cloth BodyLarge 4" Tall Antique China Head Doll #3 Marked Vintage German Porcelain Half Doll, Pincushion Doll Legs With Gold High HeelsNeat Vintage Replacement Body For China Head- Made From Flour Sack PerhapsAntique Pin Cushion Half Doll Lot Of 2 Antique Germany German China Dolls For Parts Or RepairBru Jne 6 Porcelain Doll Head OnlyAntique German? Frozen Charlotte Doll Tiny Porcelain Miniature DollhousePretty Doll Long Cotton Mittens Vintage Look New W/o Package1870's 17" Black Hair China Head Doll - Needs Tlc