So what is it with these American Girl Dolls that has adults salivating at the mere mention of them going on sale? At a recent sale of ours in Montclair we had about 6 American Girl Dolls for sale and about 50 customers waiting in line to buy them. Sadly, for the other 48 customers the first two customers snatched up everything including the extra clothing so there was nothing left for them to buy.
I had no idea there was such a hot market for the AG dolls. So I started thinking what makes these dolls, as opposed to other dolls, so popular? Is it because these dolls have great play value? Is it because they are tall enough to be the size of a real baby? Is it because the doll accessories for these dolls are amazing? Yes, yes and yes to all of the above. The accessories for these dolls are too die for -- here is just a brief list of a few of the available accessories: Tea Tin Lunchbox for Samantha, an entire set of Nature Paraphernalia including a mini flower press and magnifying glass, for the Addy doll there is a puppet show or a gardening set, a pioneer school lunch, or a fishing set with mini bait for Kirsten, plus doll furniture is available for each doll, and let's not mention the great wardrobe each doll gets.
Moms and daughters alike discuss in detail about the different costumes they will make for their "babies". Many patterns are available to make outfits for the 18" play dolls and there are also many web sites who offer additional, handmade clothing for the American Girls and other 18" dolls (including Magic Attic, Heidi Ott, Gotz, and others).
To accentuate the cultish following of this doll the American Girl company produces a monthly magazine title "American Girl Magazine" with articles on the dolls and their owners.
So where do these dolls come from?
These 18" dolls went on sale in 1986 by the Pleasant Company. The dolls were created to emulate 9-11 year old girls of a variety of ethnicities. The dolls are sold with books that are from the viewpoint of the girls.
Originally the stories focused on various periods of American history, but were expanded in 1995 to include characters and stories from present day life. A variety of related clothing and accessories also became available. In 1998, the Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel.
Finally, another reason to love the AG dolls is that they are educational. There are six books about each doll full of historical information. Everything about the dolls, from their wardrobe to their furniture, is historically accurate.
The dolls are also sturdy, and, although not cheap, the dolls are less expensive than many high-end dolls from manufacturers such as Madame Alexander. For instance, Josefina with her basic outfit and paperback book costs $82. Additional books, outfits, costumes and furniture can then be slowly added. Or, for the big splurge, "collections" of dolls plus various outfits, accessories and furniture organized around the historical stories can be purchased for several hundred dollars.
These dolls are here to stay and I can only believe that they will continue to rise in value, especially the first generation of them.
Jill (aka Big Mama)
Buying at an estate sale is not very hard, but I suggest you go to a few just to get the feel and vibe of how sales are run. You need to learn about pricing and about style. What is your personal taste? Do you like modern, mid-century modern, antique, french country, shabby chic, Italian, Swedish, Moroccan - you name it all these different styles of furniture can be found right in your own neck of the woods.
I always tell my customers not to judge a book by it's cover - look inside. Some of my customers with the tiniest of homes have the most glorious collections of dolls or of rare books. Some of my customers are sitting on hot, pricey furniture pieces and artwork of which they had just piled up in a spare bedroom. So just go in no matter what the house looks on the outside
Some of the less expensive items you can buy at an estate sale are games, kitchenware, toy's, clothes and low end furniture. Items like designer furniture, chandeliers, sterling silver are the more pricier items to buy at an estate sale. Even with the higher price you will still get a HUGE discount off retail prices. You can buy a designer couch for less than half of what the stores are selling the exact same couch for. You can also buy a dining table for as low as $400 and it's all wood, has style and comes with chairs. At a retail store this same table would go for double or triple or worse be made of cheap materials and you end up having to replace in anyway in less than 5 years.
The best way to shop at a sale is come prepared. Have your cash with you and have an idea of what you are looking for and how much you want to spend. Bargaining is fun and once you do it a few times you'll get good at it. Be fair though, remember the estate sellers job is too get the best price for the item for their client.
Another recommendation for shopping at estate sales is to get on the mailing list of any estate sale company of whom you enjoy their sales. I know we give our "fans' a special hour of shopping before we open the doors to the public.
You never know what you'll find at an estate sale - just go - don't be shy - look around and ask questions of the staff if you need something answered.
Owner of Bargain Hunter Mama Estate Sales
Happy Holiday's to all of you. It's been an incredible year and we want to thank you for being such devoted Bargain Hunter Mama fans. We've had an incredible year -- we not only quadrupled our number of estate sales we run from the prior year, but we launched a newsletter and now have an online shop.
Our goal is for our company to be the go to place where you can find the unique and the special - items you can't find anywhere else. If there is something you'd like to purchase or are on the hunt for let us know and we'll find it for you.
Don't forget we are having a 25% OFF ALL items on the website from 12/15/12-12/31/12. ....