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    

Rare Large Side Part Hair Man Antique China Head Doll Wearing Great OutfitAntique Fashion Clothes Brown Glass Clambroth Buttons German French China DollRare Large Antique Fancy Hair China Head Doll W/ Rare Feathered BangsAntique Fashion Clothes Clambroth Glass Velvet Buttons German French China Doll Sweet!!! Antique?/vintage Repro? Large China Head With/new Body/needs Dressed!!!Early Rare 1840's Coiled Bun German China Head Doll, Pink Tint, Original Dress Rare Tiny Dollhouse Miniature Original 1860's Alice In Wonderland Parian DollAntique True Vtg Lot Fashion Clothes Milk Glass Button German French China DollAntique Lot Fashion Clothes Ribbonwork Glass Buttons German French China DollLarge Antique Parian Doll Fancy Hair Do & Pierced Ears & Wearing Antique DressAntique China & Bisque Doll & Doll Head LotAntique China Head Doll Rare Bonnet Version All Original Clothes Dress~ Wonderful! Antique Mid 1800 Doll Body W/corset For China Or Parian Doll ~Tiny Dollhouse Miniature All Original Parian Doll, Rare Hairdo In Victorian BoxVtg. Porcelain Doll W/ Open-closed Mouth & Sleep Eyes~germanyVtg Porcelain Pin Cushion Half Dolls X6, 3 Marked Germany, 2 Arms Away+male HeadAntique 1900s China Head Doll 13" Fancy Blonde Unusual Curly Hairdo Rare GermanAntique Civil War China Head Doll ( High Forehead And Bangs !! ) Dollhouse LadyAntique German China Head Body For 7" Miniature Dollhouse Doll Blue Painted BowsSplendid! Antique Black Haired Child China Doll Circa 1880...Antique 1900s Doll Dress For 18"-20" German French Bisque China Head Doll BlueVery Nice Antique/vintage 2 Piece Outfit, China, Ff, Parian ???even Wax?Antique Early 1860's China Head Doll GermanyAntique Small China Head Doll Pre Civil War Circa 1844 Original Clothing W/storyRare Tiny All Original Dollhouse 1860's Biedermeier Bald Wigged China Head DollAntique 1850 China Head Doll Wood Body Abg German Miniature Dollhouse Vtg RetroAntique Sonnenberg Germany Porcelain Head Doll/composition Wood .02025 Sps. 21" 9" Antique China DollAntique Porcelain Frozen Charlotte - Large Bathing Doll Gold Shoes 5.5"Vtg Porcelain Pin Cushion Half Dolls X6, 4 Marked Germany, 1 Arms Away,+1 Matte Vintage Antique German? Boy Doll Small 4" China Porcelain Head Arms Legs Velvet5-3/4” Antique China Head W/deeply Sloped Shoulders, 1860Antique German Easter Egg Presentation Spun Cotton Bunny Chicks China Doll RareAntique German Miniature Dollhouse China Head Doll Unglazed Original ClothingNice Lot Of Antique Doll Underclothing For French German Or China DollsAntique German China No.2 Doll Head Only Molded Bonnet Bow Blond Curls Blue EyesSmall Antique Pink Porcelain Doll GermanyAntique Pet Name China Head Doll 1905 Marion Nanking Alphabet Body Black Hair !Adorable Vintage Flapper Era Half Doll FigureVintage 10" German China Head Doll World Flag Fabric Body Repair Or Parts ~ Wonderful! Antique Early 1900's China Doll Lower Legs ~Vintage Or Antique China Porcelain Kewpie Type Doll With German Type FaceAntique & Reproduction Lot Of China Head Dolls & Bodies Parts Or RepairAntique Miniature Frozen Charlie Or Charlotte Porcelain Doll C1890C1920s German? China Flapper Half Doll Clothes/vanity Brush Unused W/box2 ~ Antique Dolls Heads ~ Hand Painted Porcelain ~ C1905 ~ Good ConditionVintage German Porcelain Half Doll/pin Cushion Blonde Woman W/ Blue Headband AaAntique 15" Blonde China Head Doll Porcelain Limbs Old Underclothes + Silk DressAntique German China Head And Shoulders Doll Rescue MeAntique 12 Inch Frozen Charlie China Doll Bathing DollArt Deco Porcelain Flapper Half Doll Pin Cushion Legs Germany Fasold StauchAntique Vintage Cloth And Composition Minerva Doll. Xl, China Head Style, Unique2" Antique China Shoulder Head Marked # 4Porcelain Vtg Art Deco Half-doll Pincushion German(?) 1910-30's W/roses & SkirtAntique German China Head Doll Low Brow 12 Inches Tall 9" Antique German Dressed China Shoulder Head Doll Marked " 0 "