Bisque dolls had their heyday from the mid-1800s through the early 1930s, and their popularity came about because the bisque porcelain used to make them bore a nice resemblance to human skin. If you find a bisque doll from the 1930s or earlier it’s an antique. If it’s from, say, the 1970s, it’s a “reproduction” and probably not as valuable because it’s not as old.
What determines the value of a bisque doll? Obviously, its age is a major factor– the older, the better– especially if it’s in “great shape.” You can tell if it’s older when it looks dirty– the older porcelain has fine tiny “pores” that collect dirt over the years. Also, look for wear on the cheeks, hands or feet. Painted features of antique bisque dolls include feathered eyebrows, blushed cheeks and natural looking lips. Note: there shouldn’t be any fingernail polish on an antique doll’s fingers or toenails.
Older dolls may have discolored and/or stiff bodies. If you can check the stuffing, and you find sawdust or horse hair, then it’s quite the antique. Newer dolls used cotton bodies filled with polyester fiberfill.
Bisque dolls that fetch top dollar include ones with glass eyes that move rather than stay stationary. Also, the bisque is typically examined with a light test performed on the doll head looking for any cracks. If there’s a crack in the bisque, that cuts the doll’s value in half! Cracks, chips and hairline fractures are not good.
The condition of the body of a doll helps determine its value, too. Does it have its original patina or has it been repainted or restored? Is the body all-original to the doll? Dolls that have been reassembled over time and/or contain mismatched parts aren’t as valuable as ones left in pristine, original condition.
Finally, the value of a bisque doll is also determined by its clothes. The condition and style of the doll’s clothing can either add or subtract to its value. While it can be unusual to find a doll dressed in its original clothing, if you’re able to find one that’s wearing what you’d consider appropriate clothing then that’s a good thing. She should have a trousseau and her clothes should not be ill-fitting.
If you’re looking for antique bisque dolls, check out the selection at Gigi’s Dolls.