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    

17" Abg Dolly Madison Painted Eye Parian Original Body Clothes Parts German14" Rare Royal Copenhagen Flesh Tinged China Head Doll Handmade Clothes ShoesAntique 1860-70s Miniature Antique China Head Doll - 4" - Dollhouse DollFixer Lot 5 Antique German China Head Dolls Hertwig Parts No Reserve! Tiny & BigAntique German 8.5" Brunette China Head Hands & Feet Doll Cloth Body Rare Hair Antique German Kling & Co #189 Magalina 28" China Head Doll Made In Germany Antique China Head - ChildAntique China Head DollAntique Civil War Flattop China Doll-german-1860's-all-original Clothes And BodyAntique Doll Rag Doll Body Porcelain Head Extra Clothes 1890s Victorian DollsAntique Doll China Head; Bye Lo Baby Doll Cloth Body, Eyes Open CloseAntique/vintage China Head Doll 11"Antique 1800s Greiner Style German China Head Doll Unusual Hairdo Smiling LadyDoll House Miniature Porcelain Little Girl Doll 4" Glass EyesLarge Antique German Porcelain Doll Head #10 - 6 1/2" TallAntique China Head - ChildDoll House Miniature Porcelain Molded Gray Hair Lady Doll Antique Bisque Head & Leather Doll Germany? Glass EyesAntique German, French ??? China Head Doll Without Head Broken Foot - Dress!Pair 2 Antique China Head Low Brow Black Blonde Hair DollsAntique 24" China Head And Cloth Doll Dressed In Victorian Dress +slip Beautiful Antique Ballerina Germany Porcelain Or China Half Doll#1092, Completely Original Blond Flat Top China 1860's 13.5 “#d1112, 20.5 Inch German 1880's Blond China Doll Gorgeous OutfitAntique Vintage China Head Doll 18" 13"antique China Doll Turned Head Jointed Cloth Body Germany#d1109, 1860's 1870's Flat Top German China Doll Original BodyBeautiful Antique China Type Parian Doll Rare Decorative Shoulder Plate Three Little China Head Dolls Doll House Dolls GermanyAntique Miniature China Doll Head With Reproduction Body Kit 1 3/4" BlondeAntique 19c German China Head Doll W Brooch With Cameo Brooch Orig ClothingLarge Antique Child China Head5" Antique German Porcelain China Half Pincushion Lady Doll Molded Jewelry Nude China Head Doll, Early Hairstyle, For Repair Antique Porcelain Head Doll With Original Clothing C.1800's - Repair/parts As-isLovely Dress For China Or Parian DollAntique Goebel Powder Puff Half Doll W/ Swansdown Puff Pin Cushion Lot Of 219th Antique 1800 China Head Doll Part Glazed Porcelain High Brow Dollmaker OldUncommon Large Antique 19c Giant China Head Doll 30" Original ClothingAntique Doll DressChina Head..nursery Rhyme Body...very Old....Vintage Miniature China Doll/doll House20" Lowbrow China Doll Handstitched Victorian Dress,slip & Bloomers Fancy BootsRare Early Pair Frozen Charlotte Doll Antique Porcelain 2.5" #5 Unfinished Backs"honey And Her Bee" Cupid Porcelain DollsAntique German 17" Cloth Body Doll Porcelain Head, Legs & Hands 24" Antique High Brow China Head Doll In Red Cotton DressChina Head Boy Doll Pre War Japan Molded Hair Part Repair Make Craft Vintage ArtAntique German China Head Doll All Original Small SizeVintage 1920's Era Porcelain DollVintage China Shoulder 8 1/2" Doll W/ China Limbs Marked Germany2 China Heads Only - 1 Pet Name "ethel"Antique Vintage China Head Doll 21" Heirloom China Boy Doll 4 Inches JointedVintage China Half Doll With Colorful Fan And Arm Away-japan Antique China Head Doll 1860s Miniature 10" Germany6" Blonde China Made In JapanGerman Porcelain Half Doll Pin Cushion - 3.25" TallGorgeous Antique Porcelain Doll Real Hair Coth Body Original ClothingVtg Half Doll Purple Hat Red Bows Pincushion 2 1/2" Porcelain Antique