Collecting Vintage Antique Victorian Paper Dolls

Guidelines for collecting and preserving vintage and antique Victorian paper dolls.

Some fall in love with the look of Victorian paper dolls. The depiction of an elegant gown sweeping back to a high bustle or a wide brimmed hat perched on the head of a sweet-faced child makes them long for a past century. They remind others of the paper dolls they played with as children. Antique and vintage Victorian paper dolls are lovely and highly collectible, and with a little information and a willingness to search, one can embark upon an enjoyable hobby.

The first known paper dolls made their appearance in Europe in the 1700s. These early dolls were produced before color printing was available, so people were hired to paint the dolls by hand. The first American paper doll, "The History and Adventures of Little Henry," was made in 1812. The dolls usually included the figure of a person and a set of clothing, though animal paper dolls were also produced. During the Victorian era, 1839 - 1901, paper dolls were popular toys, and the advent of color printing made them more affordable. Not only did paper doll manufacturers create them, but they could also be found in advertisements, newspapers and women's and children's magazines.

The age of these dolls and the fact that they are made from paper or cardboard makes them difficult to find in good shape. Another option is to collect vintage Victorian paper dolls, which were made after the Victorian era but represent the Victorian style of dress. Whichever type of paper doll is under consideration, when purchasing a doll the collector should keep the following points in mind:

1. The condition of the doll effects value. A bright, clean doll with little wear is more valuable than a faded doll with tears, mildew stains and creases.

2. Dolls that have not been cut out of the book or sheet are more desirable to collectors than cut ones.

3. If the full set of clothing for the doll is included, the doll is more valuable.

4. Age and availability are important issues. An older, hard to find doll in good condition is worth more than a doll in abundant supply.

Before buying a Victorian paper doll, the collector should research the fair market value. Check out a few price guides from the library and browse online paper doll sources to become familiar with the prices these dolls fetch.

Victorian paper dolls can be found in a variety of places, if one is willing to search! When ready to buy, try the following locations:

1. Online - Check out auction websites for antique and vintage paper dolls. Also check for online antique and doll dealer sites.

2. Antique stores and malls - A single proprietor usually operates an antique store. Antique malls rent space to a variety of dealers who own booths. With so many individuals with different sources for stock and diverse tastes and interests, browsing an antique mall can feel like a treasure hunt. Some malls have stricter guidelines for permitted stock, while at others one can find anything from Duncan Phyfe china closets to neon beer signs. It's a good idea to ask the person at the front desk if she can direct you to any paper dolls in the building, but also take a good look around since she may not be aware of the fantastic collection of paper dolls hiding behind the green chair shaped like a stiletto-heeled shoe.

3. Garage sales and estate sales - Check your local newspaper for garage sales and estate sales, both good sources for paper dolls.

Paper collectibles need special care because they are so easily damaged. Once the collection is started, proper storage will keep it looking its best.

1. A cool, dry environment is best for paper dolls. Paper dolls shouldn't be stored in damp basements, since humidity can cause mold and mildew to form on the doll and should be avoided. Likewise, do not store dolls near a heat source, such as a register or fireplace, since hot air can cause the doll to become dry and brittle.

2. Light can cause fading, especially daylight and fluorescent light. If you choose to display part of your collection, try to keep it away from these types of light.

3. It is best to use archival storage supplies, which can be found at many arts & crafts supply stores, or online.

Though not always easy to find, Victorian paper dolls are beautiful and affordable, and the persistent individual will be rewarded with a lovely collection.

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