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    

1031, 1850's Bald Head China Doll1025, Large Pet Name "helen" China Doll Head By Hertwig & Co. Germany1027, Small 1890's China Doll Head With Necklace GermanyAntique Art Deco Porcelain Galluba &hofmann Half Doll Pin Cushion Nude Lamp 4.25" Antique German Porcelain Half Doll Folded Hands Floral FlowersAmazing Antique German Half Doll Lady By Dressel & Kister Passau Rare Original Lg Lot Of Antique / Vintage Bisque China Head Doll Legs Arms Parts Kewpie11” Antique High Detailed Bonnet China Doll3 Vintage Dollhouse Size China Dolls W/ Original Clothing Made In GermanyAntique China Head Doll Approx Height 19"3 Lot Vintage Antique Alma Germany Porcelain Doll Clothes Estate Beautiful, Large China Head Doll~ Very Beautiful! Antique 1870's Era 26" China Doll W/orig. Boots ~Antique 20" Germany 1870 "hertel Schwab & Co." Orig China Head Doll Needs RepairPorcelain German Half Doll, QualityAntique 9"parian Bisque German China Head Doll Exposed Ear Blonde Hair Blue EyesHuge Dollhouse Lot Perfume Bottles Glass Crystal Brass Canisters Porcelain,ooak!Lot Of 5 Vintage Porcelain Lady Half Dolls Antique 1 3/4" White Porcelain Frozen Charlotte DollGerman Antique Porcelain Doll Heads 15 Parts /germany 1880 /10Tiny Antique / Vintage Bisque Frozen Charlotte Sun Bath Penny China Head Doll Antique German China Head / Tin Blonde Male / 1880's Doll House Miniature China 16n 1/2" China Head Doll ,germany 1885 Body Is New !!2 Lovely Antique Jackets For Your Antique DollsAntique 4" Flat Top China Head Doll Cloth Body Lace Dress Glass Dome GermanyAntique Art Deco Porcelain Pierrot Half Doll Male For Power Puff BoxAntique German Blonde China Head Porcelain Doll Orignal Outfit 'flapper' Girl Half Doll German Porcelain 1920sAntique China Shoulder Head Doll Restoration Or RepairAntique Art Deco Porcelain Pierrot Half Doll Female For Power Puff BoxTiny Antique Porcelain China Doll Frozen Charlotte 3"Antique German China Head Doll In Shadow Box Doll House Doll Antique Or Vintage Chinahead Four Inches TallAntique Vintage German Sky Blue Hand Painted Porcelain Half Doll Perfume BottleCdv - Cute Little Girl W/ China Head Doll - Appleton, Wisconsin Antique 6 Inch China Head Doll Flat Top With Side CurlsChina Doll Pre 1930's Cloth Body 99 Cent Auction No ReserveAntique Blonde China Head Doll Made In GermanyAntique 1860's China Head On Antique Horsehair Filled Body..,.23"...damageAntique Heubach (?) Porcelain Figurine-dutch Boy And Girl-excellent Condition 7 Inch Antique Leather Doll Body For China Head Doll Very Good Condition30 X Unpainted Victorian Shoulder Plate Doll Head Age1860 Excavated Germany20" Antique China Head Doll Tlc Old Marked Germany Tlc17" Vtg Antique German Hertwig China Head Doll Pet Name Helen TlcGerman Antique Porcelain Doll Bady 50pieces /germany 1900 /8German Antique Porcelain Figures "snow Baby" /germany 1870 /9Vintage Germany Ceramic Porcelain 1/2 Half Doll Pin Cushion Art Deco Victorian ?Vintage Porcelain Half Doll/pin Cushion Doll ChildAntique German Porcelain Dachshund Dog For Mini Doll House Or AccessoryVintage Germany Ceramic Porcelain 1/2 Half Doll Pin Cushion Art Deco Victorian ?Vintage Art Deco Ceramic Porcelain 1/2 Half Doll Pin CushionVintage 1920's Porcelain Sewing Needle Pin Cushion Half DollAntique 1895 Hertwig Pet Name Bertha 7" China Head Doll Fabric Cloth Body RareLot Of 5 Pairs Of Chna, Bisque Compo Hands For Antique DollPorcelain Half Doll~little Girl Holding BallTiny 1 1/4" Antique China Replacement Leg For Doll House Doll NrAntique Porcelain DollVintage Small China Head Doll