Doll collecting is a great hobby, but there are certain doll specialties growing fast in value, like Wedding dolls. Wedding dolls have been popular in the U.S. from Colonial times (1760s) down through today when Barbie's wedding gowns from the likes of Vera Wang and Bob Mackie are highly valued and highly collectible. Depending on condition, antique wedding dolls can bring thousands of dollars.
Not what you're thinking probably. The hottest, newest wedding dolls in this category belong to Barbie, natch, but there are some pricey antique wedding dolls to collect, as well. These are not the vintage cake toppers of a bride and groom you usually see in old movies or remember from wedding cakes of your youth. These wedding dolls are either limited edition Barbies in designer wedding gowns, from the likes of Bob Mackie and Vera Wang, or fine antique dolls, dating from Early American Colonial days in the late 1700s, to the China heads and the Kewpies, down to the Mid-Century, Madam Alexanders and through today and Barbie.
Recently I ran across a fabulous vintage book, The Marriage of Diamonds and Dolls by Mary E. Lewis and Dorothy Digman. I was fascinated by the charming photographs (above) and by the history of wedding dolls, including doll styles, like Parian heads and composition dolls, as well as china headed dolls. These early dolls are quite valuable and rare, and likely a good collectible investment if you have one handed-down to you or can find one at an estate sale or auction.
Author Mary Lewis' collection of some 1600 wedding dolls began when she asked a dressmaker to use some of her own wedding gown fabric to dress a doll (Lewis had no daughters, but she wanted to hand down something of her wedding gown). As a member of The National Doll and Toy Collectors Club, she discovered bride dolls were very rare. The oldest wedding doll she could find was French and dated from the 1700s. The first doll shown in the book is circa 1750, and her name is Yvonne. She wears a pale lilac wedding gown, as colored growns were more desired by brides, back then. Yvonne is a "Parian" dolls- a material perfected in France and later, in America. Parian is an unglazed bisque, a familiar base for fine antique dolls' heads. It was hand-painted. You are talking quite a lot of money for a doll of this age, in very good condition - thousands, likely.
Another interesting antique doll in Lewis' collection is Gertie, who wears, of course, a traditional blue garter. She is circa 1885. She has a petite china head and her gown is raised just slightly to show her leg. She might sell in the hundreds and up, again, depending on condition.
Pictured at top is a bridesmaid in a blue gown (circa 1860). Perhaps she would become a bride herself one day, but this beauty, with her hand-painted Parian head, is a rare and valuable doll, because she's NOT the bride. Hard to find one like this to compare in price - but I imagine these would go for several hundred dollars at the very least (with condition always a factor).
And, as we move on, one of my favorite dolls in Lewis' collection is from the 1940s. She is the Nettie Rosenstein Bride - an early Mid-Century bride doll wearing the couture gown of a high-fashion designer (considerably pre-dating Barbie's high-end fashion designers). I imagine this 1940s bride would sell for many hundreds of dollars and up, as the 1940s are very popular collectibles now. And so is vintage Nettie Rosenstein.
Finally, we come to more contemporary wedding dolls, like Madam Alexander dolls from the Mid-Century and Barbie, from 1959 to now. Madam Alexander brides bring several hundred dollars in excellent condition; Barbies, quite often more than that, especially if the vintage Bridal party is still boxed (up to $800) or an early Barbie bride, made in Japan in the 1960s. Smaller vintage 1950s Nancy Ann dolls, dressed as brides, seem to go for $25-$35 an auction - likely because there are many still available.
To sum up, Bride Dolls, over the past 200 years, have retained their values and grown (just like the cost of weddings, ironically).
If you would like to start a doll collection or add to one, here's a chance to dive into a growing collecting niche: Wedding Dolls. As more people go without "benefit of marriage" these days, these dolls become even more collectible.
Here comes the Bride!
Photo from The Marriage of Diamonds and Dolls