Making Money on Hot Collectibles: Vintage Paper Dolls - Marilyn Monroe & Barbie
If you are like me or had a mother like mine, your vintage Barbie paper dolls are long gone - consigned to the trash can decades ago. But if you get garage-sale lucky, and spot an uncut Barbie paper doll book or box, you are in the money - or will soon be, when you sell it at auction for a good price. Barbie paper dolls, uncut, including Ken and Midge, Skipper, etc., preferably from the 1970s or thereabouts, sell nicely, depending on rarity. A Malibu Barbie uncut paper doll book from 1972 recently sold on eBay for $88.99. Of course, like for most every other collectible, the market is soft right now, so if you find you are holding a desirable Barbie paper doll book or box, hold on to it until the market improves.
However, soft market or otherwise, there are some paper dolls that sell for big paper money - like the recent uncut Marilyn Monroe paper dolls, from the 1950s, that sold for $145. Also selling for a good price, Ed Byrnes (Kookie from 77 Sunset Strip) for nearly $89, Elizabeth Taylor, Ozzie and Harriet and other vintage TV celebs selling in the $40-$50 range. But this average does not apply to all vintage celebrities, even including the controversial stars like Rock Hudson and Natalie Wood, whose uncut paper failed to sell recently. That doesn't mean they won't sell at a re-listing, especially if there happens to be some recent news about the star.
Some times dolls that have been removed from a book or from box (like the bridesmaid and best man pictured at the top of the article) can sell for $5 or more,each, because a collector wants to fill in their collection or replace a bent doll with a more pristine version. Condition is everything with paper dolls (and 99% of all collectibles), and this means stiff cardboard paper dolls with bent necks and legs, paper dolls missing most of their wardrobe, and even desirable paper dolls, like Shirley Temple and Gone with the Wind collections (selling for as much as $400), will sell for less, if they are damaged in some way. Another factor involved in getting a good price for a paper doll is the artist who designed the doll; some of these antique and vintage artists are quite collectible and bring higher prices.
There are always exceptions to any rules about selling collectibles. Not all uncut, vintage paper dolls have value. I found I could not sell my Pope John II paper doll book (uncut), so I appropriately donated it. Also not selling, recently on eBay, Hee-Haw paper dolls (why not?) Supply and demand have a lot to do with valuing paper dolls - thus, the Michael Jackson commemorative paper doll set (2009) is unlikely to increase in value, given the huge number sold worldwide.
Finally, there's vintage Betsy McCall, shown above, created by McCalls in 1951 to inspire and entertain the daughters of the women who subscribed to McCalls, as well as provide incentives to buy McCalls patterns. This uncut Betsy McCall page is from 1958 and is about Betsy going out to eat at a restaurant. Vintage Betsy McCall pages can sell for $5 and up - averaging about $12 currently. If you have some vintage McCall magazines around, you may want to search them for the Betsy McCall page - selling the uncut version (removed from the magazine) by the lot can bring you a nice return on your old magazine investment. Betsy McCall was actually a late entry into the magazine paper doll niche; Good Housekeeping and The Delineator, among others, published paper dolls early in the 20th century.
Some time back, I became enamored with paper dolls, using them in mixed media art work, so I did not care if they came with a wardrobe. Today, it's a different story. If I was in collecting mode, I wouldn't touch any paper doll out of book, box or magazine. If you find a vintage paper doll, without clothing or original container, pass it by, because it will likely be hard to sell solo. Easy come, not-so-easy sell. Not in today's collectibles market, anyway.
Thanks to eBay and OPDAG, Original Paper Doll Art Guild