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    

Antique China DollAntique 1860's China Shoulderhead 14" Flat Top Head Doll~cloth Body Needs TlcUnusual Antique German China Doll With Long Curls & Bangs And Cloth Body*cinderella* 26" Antique Kling China Lady Doll In Sweeping Ball Gown!Beautiful Volkstedt Lady Lace Dancer Figurine, Porcelain Dresden, Germany.Antique China Bisque DollThree Antique Dolls Porcelain And PlasticAntique China Head Stuffed Body Leather Hands Doll 16in As-found*exemplary* All Original 14" Bonnet Head Doll By Hertwig~green Hat+gold Cross~Petite 8.5" Antique Unused Cloth Doll Body For China Shoulder Head Bisque LimbsLarge Hobbyist Antique Doll Porcelain Head Composite Body Jointed JumeauAntique Doll Porcelain Head RevaloAntique 1214 #5 German Bisque China Head Old Doll Sawdust Body Sweet Face 16"30 Damaged Frozen Charlottes, 1890-1920Antique Blonde China Head Legs Hands Stuffed Body Doll 22 In As-found29" Vintage Vernon Seeley Doll Aft Simon Halbig Ball Jointed Porcelain Head YqzLarge Antique German China Head Doll With Bisque Arms And Legs Antique 8 Inch China Head / Bisque Head Doll, Straw Stuffed Old Estate FindAn Antique 7 1/2" China Head Doll With Hoop Skirt7 Vtg Antique German China Head Doll Lot Porcelain & Other?China Doll, 18" German China Head Doll, Blue Eyes With A Blue Hair Bow36 Damaged Frozen Charlotte Heads, 1890-192020 Damaged Bisquit Procellain Heads, 1890-1920China Doll, 24" Flat Top German China Head Doll, Blue EyesNr Antique Pink Stripe Silk Bonnet Cape 9" Early French Bebe Fashion China Doll5 Glass Parfume (herbes) Flacons, Hasenthal/thuringia12" Antique Pet Name Edith China Head Doll Jdk Kestner Cork Stuffed Body As IsLovely Lace Dancer, With Fan Porcelain Figurine, Dresden, Volkstedt, Germany.Charming Small Antique Original Civil War Era Flat Top German China Head Doll33 Damaged Frozen Charlotte Doll Parts, 1890-1920Antique German China Turned Head Doll 13" Unusual Rare Black Striped Body~ Pretty! Antique German China Head Doll "dorothy" .... Head Only ~Antique China Doll Flat Top Jenny Lind Blue Eyed China Arms Legs Sawdust BodyAntique & Unusual China Shoulderhead 8" Doll W/inset Red Gem Necklace~needs Body18” Antique Blonde China Head Doll Wearing Red Print Dress & HatLot Of 33 Antique Porcelain Doll Heads/1duck/broken/german German Antique 7" China Head Doll With Black Molded Hair And Blue EyesLovely Tlc Blonde Antique China Head~marked 189~bell W/ K In It, For Repair China Head Doll 16" Incised Germany With Clothing~ Pretty! Antique German China Head Doll As Is ..... Vintage Body ~Antique Snowbaby Doll, Porcelain Face, Damaged But Cute, GermanAntique China Doll Blonde Hair Light Blue Eyes Late 1880s To 1900s Antique Porcelain Girl Doll Yellow Dress 5 1/4"Antique Compo Porcelain Germany DollAntique 1800s German China Head Doll Cloth Body 10" Tall Antique China Shoulderhead Boy Doll~damaged Neck~face Line~velvet Outfit~unusualAntique Porcelain Half Doll Whisk Broom --1920's Elegant Lady --made In Japan