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Plenty of ‘80s and ‘90s kids would agree: American Girl dolls were (and are) the best.
They had elaborate outfits for every occasion, they came with adorable, miniature accessories and each doll had an exciting and historically accurate backstory. Flipping through the American Girl catalogue, at one point the only place to buy the dolls, was basically heaven.
Some ‘90s toys have plummeted in value since the height of their craze (see: most Beanie Babies), but American Girl dolls are an exception. Many of the older models can still fetch hundreds or even thousands of dollars on eBay, depending on the type and condition.
Take Samantha Parkington, one of the original dolls released in 1986, along with Kirsten Larson and Molly McIntire.
One Samantha doll with her original outfit and accessories recently sold on eBay for $400.
The classic, 18-inch American Girl dolls were made by the Pleasant Company until Mattel bought the company in 1998. Dolls made by the Pleasant Company in the pre-Mattel years often command high values, says antiques appraiser Dr. Lori Verderame.
“An original Samantha doll made by the Pleasant Company commands $4,000 in excellent condition with outfits and ‘meet’ accessories,” Verderame told TODAY Home via email. (‘Meet’ accessories are the ones that came with the doll when purchased.)
However, Mattel-made dolls can also command high values. It really depends on the doll and factors including age, the accessories included, and the condition of the doll’s hair and other parts, Verderame says.
Packaging is also important, says vintage lifestyle expert Bob Richter.
“Some of the discontinued dolls from the ‘90s can sell for thousands of dollars,” Richter told TODAY Home in an email. “That said, original packaging and condition are everything. What might sell for over $2,000 if it’s in good condition with original packaging might only sell for $100 if it’s in fair condition without packaging.”
“The cool thing is that many of the young women who collected these dolls were pretty serious about it and they likely save the packaging, so there might actually be a lot of cash in the attic or basement,” Richter said.
There has been an increasing demand for American Girl dolls recently, Verderame says. Interest in the dolls often mirrors people’s overall interest in different historical eras, since each doll has a historically accurate backstory.
“In the last two years there has been a rise in collectible values for American girl dolls,” Verderame told TODAY. “American girl dolls reference particular eras in history and that drives the market. Collectors also look for dolls that parallel their own history, look like themselves, and are character dolls that come from the same lineage or location like Kirsten (from Scandinavia) or Molly (World War II).”
Nostalgia may also be driving the demand, Richter says. After all, the kids who played with the original American Girl dolls are in their 20s and 30s now, and for many, the dolls spark special childhood memories.
(Millennials) have a very deep interest in things that have emotional value,” Richter said. “These American Girl Dolls have both emotional value and financial value … So they are the perfect thing for millennials to be on the lookout for (at) flea markets and yard sales.”
Basically, there are probably plenty of people who would love to buy your old American Girl dolls. But the question is, can you bear to part with them?