- Written by Dr. Lori Verderame Dr. Lori Verderame
If you don’t think the millennial generation is saving objects, collecting vintage pieces, or displaying antiques, maybe you should think again.
I have been evaluating the collections of 20- and 30-year-old collectors for a long time. They are seasoned collectors who know a lot about the market for a special, historic collectible called American Girl Dolls.
American Girl Dolls were produced by the Pleasant Company — prior to the company’s acquisition by Mattel, Inc. — and came onto the scene in 1986. The first three dolls captured the background of historical figures in the forms of 9-year-old girls living at specific times in American history.
The first dolls produced from 1986 to 1991 were character dolls Molly McIntire, Kirsten Larson, and Samantha Parkington. These three original American Girl Dolls are valuable collectibles and attract both adult and youth audiences today.
The dolls are robustly traded online, at American Girl Doll events, and on social media. The dolls’ collectors are very active on Instagram, showing off their varied customization of the figural dolls, fashion outfits, and books.
The values for American Girl Dolls vary based on several factors, including condition of the doll body, hair, outfits, and accessories, as well as the type of doll and the popularity of the doll’s character and story.
Some of the doll characters were featured in television and full-length feature movies, making those particular American Girl Doll characters better known and thus, more valuable than other dolls.
Also, some dolls have since been discontinued, making those particular dolls somewhat rare and typically pricier and more desirable with collectors.
To recognize the American Girl Dolls, collectors have to learn the background of each doll. Arguably the most valuable of the dolls include the originals: Molly, Kirsten, and Samantha.
The Molly McIntire doll represents a 9-year-old girl living during World War II, circa 1941-45. Like all American Girl Dolls, Molly has books and accessories based on her story, including eyeglasses, skirt, blouse, sweater, socks, and shoes.
Molly, like other American Girl Dolls, has additional accessories, called “Meet accessories,” including a purse, a wartime steel penny from 1943, and a picture of her father inside of a locket. A fine-condition example of the Molly McIntire doll is valued in a range between $1,000 and $10,000.
Molly is the topic of a line of American Girl Doll books, and the character was featured in the American Girl television movie entitled Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, which debuted in 2006.
Another American Girl Doll of the original three dolls, Kirsten Larson, is a Swedish immigrant living in the 1850s as member of a pioneer family in the Minnesota territory. Kirsten has traditional period boots and braided hair looped and tied with ribbons.
Based on the related book, Meet Kirsten Larson, the character comes with a wooden spoon and a heart-shaped amber necklace typical of the girl’s native Scandinavia homeland. In very good condition, Kirsten dolls are actively traded online.
The Samantha Parkington doll was in production from 1986-1991. Samantha was an orphan who lived in the late 19th/early 20th century. Her accessories, which impact the doll’s value, include a Victorian dress, stockings and shoes, and a large hair bow.
When collecting American Girl Dolls, look for historical figure dolls in original condition with styled hair, original outfits, and character accessories, when available. If you think your favorite millennial isn’t into collecting, then ask them if they have an American Girl Doll from childhood. Odds are, they do.
Dr. Lori Verderame is an author and award-winning TV personality who appears on History channel’s The Curse of Oak Island. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Visit DrLoriV.com or call (888) 431-1010.