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    

7.5" Girl With Naturel Hair Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach Beautiful! 19" Antique German Bisque China Doll~glass Eyes~unusual Molded HairAntique 11.5" German High Brow China Head Doll Mb18Antique French Miniature Dollhouse Doll Porcelain Glass Eyes Jointed 3.5" Ar38Antique 7" Passion Play China Doll Germany~original ClothingWonderful! Antique German China Doll ~ Wax Over Wood ~ Cloth Body ~ Glass Eyes4.7" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 C1860 Civil War Era China Head Doll, 17" Tall And 3 1/4" Across Shoulder PerfectC1880 China Head Doll, Large 17" Tall And 3 3/4" Across Shoulder PerfectAntique Unique China Doll, 23" LongAntique 7" Passion Play China Doll Germany~original ClothingAntique German Half Doll - Beautiful Art Deco Lady Dancer By LimbachAntique 21" China Head Doll-original Clothing-germanyCute Little Porcelain Head Arms Legs Doll Nice Face Color & Detail Old Inc Stand4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 ~ As Is!! Antique 19" 1800's China Head Doll ... As Found ~Rare 1870's Antique German China Porcelain Beidemeir Doll W/ Solid Dome Head 4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 C1880 Exposed Ear China Doll Head, Large 5 1/2" Tall And 4" Across Shoulder"exotic Dancer" Vintage Porcelain Pincushion / Germany Half Doll 19th Century Antique Doll German China Shoulder Head Dolls Kestner Hertwig Co4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 Beautiful! 14" Vintage Emma Clear Repro Antique German Bisque China Doll4.3" Animal Figures Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 Antique German Gray Hair Grandmother Flat Top China Head Doll House Doll 6 1//2"Tiny Antique Rare Vhtf Countess Dagmar China Doll Head Lot Of 15 Antique Porcelain Doll Germany All Broken4.3" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 Beautiful! ~15" Antique German Bisque China Doll ~ Molded Clothes Shoulder Plate22" Antique Cloth China Head Body W/ Leather Boots And HandsPretty Little Bisque Head Porcelain Arms Legs Old Doll Nice Face Color & Detail!Beautiful Antique China Doll Made In Germany 1800's Hooped Dress Hertwig & Co.Rare Antique Photo Girl W Porcelain Doll Collection African American Servants 4" Antique Porcelain Doll Germany-limbach 1900 3 Vintage Miniature Porcelain Dolls With Vintage ClothingAntique German Frozen Charlie Doll "chimney Sweep" Dressed W/ladder - 6.5" 17" Tall Antique China Doll With Blonde Hair/blue EyesRare Antique Miniature Tiny Frozen Charlotte China Doll Lot 3 Mother Daughter Antique Armand Marseilles Dream Baby Doll 17 Inch Porcelain And ClothAntique Vintage China Head Doll Germany 10 Inches TallAntique Victorian China Head Doll 24" Long 19th Century Antique German Low Brow China Head Doll 9" Ready To DressAntique German Frozen Charlie Doll "chimney Sweep" Dressed W/ladder - 5-1/4" Designer Guild "georgina" Porcelain Doll By Patrica Loveless 577/2000 1998 EucVery Large 15" Vintage Frozen Charlie China Doll - NrVintage Cloth Body For China, Parian, Papier Mache Or Other Early ShoulderheadPair Antique German China Doll Heads Kling Highland Mary & Low Brow Doll HouseSmall Antique Folk Art Aafa Doll Bisque Nippon Head On Homemade Cloth Body A/oLenore Lucas 28" Porcelain Bride Doll 1997 W/stand Embellished 167/1000 EucVintage Half Doll Dress Hoop Porcelain Marked Germany German Antique German China Low Brow Pet Name Ethel Doll Black Hair Blue Eyes 15"Antique German? China Doll Head 8" UnmarkedAntique Porcelain Doll Head Am Germany - DamagedChina Head Little Doll With Cloth Body 8 1/2"