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    

Exceptional Antique China Shoulder Head Conta Boehme Doll Long Curls Antique Porcelain Doll With Glass Eye And Teeth From Germany/limbach Beautiful Old Vtg Large 7.5" Tall Antique Blue Eye Blonde Parian Doll Head ChinaAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Flapper Sewing Pin Cushion VanityAntique Porcelain Doll Boy With Glass Eye From Germany/limbach Antique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Flapper Sewing Pin Cushion Vanity~ Fabulous!!antique Mid 1800's Detailed China Arms For China Doll ~Ahoy, Sailor! 22" Antique China Boy In Crisp Marine Costume & Rare Hair ModelingAntique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Nude Sewing Pin Cushion Vanity Antique Conta Boehme China Shoulder Head, 4.2 " High. 1870. Beautiful Hairtstyl Antique Porcelain Doll Boy Size 5.11 From Germany/limbach 2 Antique 19th C. Miniature 4" Porcelain Limb Doll House Dolls For RestorationAntique German Porcelain Muzzled Dog Figurine Gebruder Heubach C.1910Beautiful Vtg Large 6" Tall Antique Lots Of Curls Rosy Cheeks China Doll HeadAntique German China Shoulder Head Doll Great Face Old Body Cork Stuffed C1900Antique Porcelain Miniature German Doll - Plus Parts Antique German Porcelain Art Deco Half Doll Legs Sewing Pin Cushion VanityAntique Porcelain Doll With Baby From Germany/limbach Antique Porcelain Doll With Cat Head From Germany/limbach Antique Porcelain Doll With Bear Head From Germany/limbach Antique Wood Carved Door Of Hope Mission Doll China Baby In Swaddling Clothes11" Tall Antique China Head Doll W/side Pipe Curls Cloth Body Primitive SoulAntique China Head Doll Kid Body Original Clothing 1918Vintage 22" China Head Doll Art Deco Unusual Face Unsigned 7" Parian Dollhouse Doll Cabinet Size Professionally Dressed.3" Antique Parian Bonnet Head With Tassle & Molded Shirt, Head OnlyLarge Antique Porcelain Doll Head And Limbs Hand Painted Antique German Porcelain Kewpie Doll Figurine Taking A Wizz In The Potty! 1920Antique Porcelain Doll With Doc Head From Germany/limbach Fabulous German Porcelain Half Doll - Flapper Girl W/ Auburn Hair2.5" Rare Antique Alice Style China Head Little Girl With Brush Marks & RibbonAntique China Doll Head3" Vintage China Head, Blonde With Pierced EarsStunning Antique Porcelain-headed German-made Doll 1800s Original Clothing4.5" Parian Countess Dagmar By Artist M. Brouse Head OnlySigned China Antique Dolls Restoration Needed Chinese Beijing Opera DollsBeautiful Vtg Lrg 5.5" Antique Defined Blond Curls Ethel German China Doll HeadLovely Little Collection Of 12 Small Black China Dolls Pudding Dolls In Box 1"Antique German 1800's Blond China Head Doll With Very Unique Hair With BangsAntique China Head Doll Blonde Hair - Printed Body With International Flags 20's Porcelain Half Doll Pincushion - Arms Away Flapper Girl W/ Legs- All OrigAntique China Doll Head Exposed EarsPorcelain Blue & Yellow Bird Half Doll Powder Puff Handle20” Antique Black Hair China Shoulder Head – Nice Old DressAntique China Head 15 Inch Doll Blonde Blue Eyes Refurbished Cloth Body Stunning Antique Porcelain-headed German-made Doll 1800s Original ClothingGood Antique Armand Marseille Porcelain My Dream Baby Dolls Head. 351/ 8k15" Black Headed Common Hairdo German China Head DollVintage Matched Pair Porcelain Half Dolls Made As Boudoir Lamps, Made Germany Tiny 1.5" Antique Tiny Frozen Charlotte China Dolls Extended Arms 7 On BackAntique Porcelain Colonial Lady Pin Cushion DollPin Cushion Dolls Porcelain China 7 Of ThemFabulous Antique German Full Figure Seated Bathing Beauty Half Doll 2 " Tall Antique German China Pin Cushion Half DollAntique Vintage German China Head Doll,marked 2 Antique Made In Japan China Pin Cushion Half DollAntique Frozen Charlotte Charlie Doll 5 1/2" Vntg Antique China Pincushion Doll-marked Germany 5580-3 Inches Vintage Pin Cushion Doll And Cushion, Lady Jester2" Reproduction Parian Or Bisque Head Only, Bonnet Head Beautiful Blue Flower