But, what do these terms mean? Are they even important? This guide will define these terms as well as others, and is designed to help you figure out what to look for when searching for a collectible American Girl doll. Specifically, this guide will teach you ways to estimate the relative age of the dolls and will provide you with questions to ask in order to increase your chances of getting a doll in collectible condition. The first three American Girl dolls were released in Fall of by Pleasant Company, which was founded by its namesake, educator Pleasant T.
It is not difficult to find published information on the history of the company and how Ms. Rowland generated her initial ideas, so this guide will instead focus on the specifics of differentiating the older, collectible dolls. Why are these dolls so collectible? Aside from being well made and very appealing, the collectibility of these dolls is probably most related to the fact that in Pleasant Company was sold to Mattel, Inc.
Many collectors believe that there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the dolls and some of the doll accessories since Ms. Rowland's retirement from the board in Like anything that is no longer made or available, the items produced by Pleasant Company rather than Mattel , tend to be more collectible. These items are commonly referred to as "pre-Mattel" sometimes abbreviated as PM. The stock of American Girl items did not change overnight in when Mattel purchased Pleasant Company.
However, as items in stock were gradually depleted, new stock was tagged "American Girl" rather than "Pleasant Company". In some cases, certain accessories were discontinued altogether. To make things more confusing, there are some notable differences within the historical dolls that were produced by Pleasant Company prior to These differences are beyond the scope of this guide and will be covered in a separate guide.
BUT, how can you know where and when a specific doll was made? Since both of these circumstances are somewhat rare but can and do happen on e-bay , there are other things to look for to help estimate the age of the historical dolls.
For more detailed information on signed dolls, please see my guide entitled Signed American Girl dolls Pleasant T. Rowland with Accompanying Certificate of Authenticity A. As a result, original paper hangtags for the older dolls indicate that a doll was made in West Germany, Germany or USA. Although Hungary does not appear on the hangtags as a country of production, some of the dolls do come in clothing that is tagged "made in Hungary" and dated in the early 's.
At some unknown point in the 's, manufacturing of the dolls began in China. Some of the doll boxes beginning in the mid s also have a sticker on them that say things such as: Pinpointing a country of origin for a specific American Girl doll is very difficult. An original hangtag may identify where the doll was made but it still does not indicate the year in which the doll was made. Dates on Clothing Tags Each historical doll is sold in a signature outfit referred to as the "meet outfit".
Meet outfits made before often have tags listing a year and country of production. Many people rely on this information to determine when and where a doll was made. This is not an accurate way of aging the doll for at least two reasons. First, unless you are the original owner of the doll, you cannot know whether or not the dress is original to the doll.
Dolls made from through the early s wear clothing tagged in this way. No meet dresses bear tags dated through despite the fact that dolls were still manufactured in each of those years. So, just because a doll is wearing a dress tagged , it does not mean that the doll was made in The clothing tag issue gets further confusing when researching the Felicity doll and examining her original meet dress, the rose garden gown.
Felicity was not introduced until , however there are no meet dresses tagged The earliest tagged Felicity meet dresses indicate that they were made in West Germany in It is believed that the first Felicity dolls released in wore the tagged rose garden dresses.
This same issue arises with the fifth historical doll released in , Addy Walker. Although most of her meet dresses are tagged , there are some that are tagged Rumors have floated that test lots were conducted on both of these dolls in However, there is no proof that any such test lot existed. It is more likely that the same tags used for the meet dresses of the first three historical dolls, were used for these dolls as well. I have recently discussed this issue with a former Pleasant Company employee who worked at Pleasant Company in the early 's in an upper position which reported directly to Pleasant Rowland.
This employee confirmed that there were no Felicity test lots in All of the dolls made from until sometime in had untagged white muslin bodies also called "white body". The change to tan fabric occurred because of the lower neckline fashions worn by Felicity. As a result, if a doll has a tan cloth body, it cannot have been made any earlier than even though it may have come in a meet dress tagged If a doll has a white muslin body however, you can be sure that it was made sometime between and Body Tags Dolls made in the late 's have a tag sewn to the side of the cloth body which states: The majority of dolls made before do NOT have a body tag.
These tags are a bit of a mystery. The dolls on which these tags appear all have tan bodies so they cannot possibly have been made in only white body dolls were made in the s. No white body dolls have body tags. It appears then, that similar to the dress meet tags, body tags are not a good indicator of a specific year of production. However, they do help indicate whether a doll is pre or post Mattel.
Dolls with body tags that say "made in China for American Girl" are not pre-Mattel dolls whereas dolls with body tags that say "made for Pleasant Company" are pre-Mattel dolls.
Neckstamps There is some belief that a better way to determine an approximate age of the doll is by examining the neck stamp. This is the copyright stamp on the back of the neck of all American Girl dolls. Up until the neck stamp said " c Pleasant Company. When examining the neck stamps, many differences can be seen in the fonts and lettering used on the older dolls. The older dolls have more uneven lettering that has a less typeset look.
In some cases the letters are arched. In some cases the copyright symbol is above the lettering and in other cases it falls before the lettering. While there is no way to attach a certain neck stamp to a specific factory or year of production each factory went through many molds during any given year , there is a general progression of the neck stamps over time. The neck stamps on dolls sold from through the early s have the more uneven lettering - sometimes arched, sometimes large, sometimes small.
In the mid s the neck stamp became more uniform but the word Pleasant was often not lined up perfectly with the word Company. The Pleasant Company neckstamp continues to appear on the dolls even after Mattel purchased the company in For instance, you could buy a Kaya doll today that has a Pleasant Company stamp on her neck, BUT she wasn't introduced until and has a side tag on her body that says American Girl. It is impossible to buy a pre Mattel Kaya because she didn't exist prior to Artist Mark In addition to the neck stamp, many dolls also have an additional mark which is found at the hairline toward the doll's right ear looks a bit like.
This is called the artist mark or designer mark and is actually the mark of the designer of the original head mold. The presence of this mark is very random as it can be found on some old dolls made in West Germany, brand new dolls made in China, and signed dolls. However, it is also absent on some old dolls, signed dolls and new dolls. Despite a lot of attention that is given to it, this mark does nothing to help in the aging of a doll or in the determination of the country in which it was produced.
Eyelashes, Neckstrings and More In general there are certain characteristics of the older dolls that have changed over time. Older dolls often have longer, softer eyelashes that are lighter in color. The neck stringsthe strings that attach the head to the body, are sometimes flat or longer than more recent neck strings.
Some of the characters have variations in hair color e. The vinyl used for the older doll heads and limbs is a bit softer and more pliable. In many cases the doll face molds seem to have fuller cheeks. Often these differences can be very subtle and difficult to pinpoint unless holding the doll in person or seeing an older doll along side a newer doll.
It is not unheard of for individual dolls to sell at auction for hundreds of dollars. Pristine signed dolls have been sold for much more. Of course, you can also get wonderful deals on the very same types of dolls. Doll descriptions are subjective. To improve your chances of getting the doll you want in good condition, ask the following types of questions: Is the doll's cloth body white or tan?
Are there any holes in the cloth? Has the doll's hair been cut? Are any of the eyelashes missing? Can the doll stand unassisted? Does the doll have "silver eye" a defect in one or both of the eyes in which the pupils can become tiny or the colored portion of the eye separates and discolors to a bright silver color?
Has the neck string been cut? You may want to ask if the seller knows if the doll was sent to the hospital for a new head. While it is always nice to get something new, keep in mind that by replacing the old head with a new one, the doll is no longer considered an older, pre-Mattel doll.
Does the doll have an "x" mark on it's rump?