BJDs for beginners--what's the hype?

by Alison Rasmussen


For beginners, I recommend you check out the Wikipedia article on BJDs (ball-jointed dolls). But here are some of the basics.
  • First, a ball-jointed doll refers to a doll with ball-socket joints for articulation. This allows for realistic posing, for the most part. 
  • ABJD stands for Asian ball-jointed doll, as most of these dolls are currently manufactured in South Korea, China and Japan.
  • Most BJDs are cast in resin, a hard plastic, and strung together with string, which can usually be adjusted. Goodreau has started to manufacture some of these dolls in vinyl, a much less expensive process than resin, and makes a more durable doll, and the trend is catching on. You can also find BJDs cast in porcelain.
  • Some BJDs are anime inspired, and some are very realistic-looking. The dolls range from 16" to 60" tall, though some can be a mere 4" tall. You can find fashion dolls, babies, young children, adults, women and men, animals, and all sorts of figures for your collection.
  • BJDs are known and popular for their customizability. They usually have removable wigs, and heads that can open and acrylic, silicone or glass eyes that can be removed and swapped. Some dolls have additional arm and leg parts that be added to make the doll taller or shorter, flat feet or high heeled fashion feet, additional posing hands, and additional face-plates that can make the dolls look happy, serious, or sleeping.
  • Because of their casting process and their (usually) high demand and low edition sizes, these dolls are usually more expensive than your average doll. Prices range from $100 to over $1000, with an average of about $350, depending on the manufacturer. Outfits vary. 
  • Some dolls include a face-up (or painted face), and others come blank, with the owner expected to find his or her own makeup artist. Many collectors choose to customize their dolls further by obtaining blank dolls with custom face-ups for a truly one-of-a-kind (OOAK) look.
  • You can order your BJD from a doll dealer or from the doll manufacturer directly. Most dolls are made-to-order, so the wait time can be lengthy--sometimes 6-8 weeks or even longer. When you're spending so much money on a doll, it might make more sense to go through a dealer who offers a smaller 30% deposit to order a doll, and the collects the balance upon the doll's shipment--and this is something to keep in mind when placing your first BJD order. Also, your doll dealer has placed many orders with the doll company before, so already has some pull with the company, and may get better (and faster) service than a single individual.
  • The outfits available for your BJD are abundant. There are companies who exclusive create intricate outfits for dolls that sell out before their release dates (such as Doll Heart), but you can see the amazing detail that goes into these outfits. And there are individuals (such as Michele Hardy) who create outfits by hand in small edition numbers for these dolls that are truly unique and one-of-a-kind. Any design or outfit you can imagine can be created for your doll--and all you have to do is decide how much you're willing to spend.
  • There are even conventions dedicated just to BJDs, including the GoGa Doll convention in San Francisco this year. (I'd love to attend one, actually--maybe I could swing it this year!)
Many different brands of BJDs are available, and I will go into some of these in a later article. But I wanted to get started on the basics of BJDs here. Do you collect BJDs?  Do you have a favorite doll? Where did you get him or her? I'd love to hear about your doll here!