Buying dolls on the secondary market--What you need to know.

by Alison Rasmussen


New doll collectors often can be overwhelmed when looking for grail dolls for their budding collections. When do you buy a doll from the secondary market? How do you avoid getting a doll reeking of smoke or one in less-than-mint condition? How do you know you're getting the best deal? This article is designed to help.

First, do your research. For this example, I'll use Fierce Subject Kyori, a Fashion Royalty doll. Start by finding out everything you can about the doll (retail price, date of manufacture, original photo). I usually will go to the manufacturer's website for these details, but sometimes, the doll is too old to be listed there. Here are a few alternative sites:
  • Fashion Royalty Reference List (this great site is sorted by category, year and includes some photos, also). According to this list, Fierce Subject is a 2005 doll, retailed at $129.99. She was a limited edition of 1000, so she shouldn't be that hard to find.
  • DollFaces.Net (if you don't need the photos, or have a slower connection, this is a great site). This person (Wendy) is also a collector, and she's great to deal with--she has great prices, also.
  • For Tonner Dolls, check out Carol's list on Dreamcastle's website. This list is as complete as you can get--sorted by doll, outfit, a search engine, facial sculpts, body types, etc.
Next, decide how much you'll willing to spend. I suggest you don't go over this amount. Doll collections can get out of control fairly quickly with grail dolls when you go over budget. Don't worry if you lose your first chance to buy your grail doll--she will come up again. Keep in mind that if you're willing to settle for a doll in less-than-mint condition, you can often get away with spending less money. A doll who has been played with will often go for less than one who has never been removed from her box. If you aren't sensitive to smoke smells, you may need to pay less, also. Do you need the doll's outfit, or are you willing to buy the doll nude?
Third, see if you can find the doll from a retailer. Run the doll through Google, just to see if she might still be for sale at some local retailers. Often, some doll retailers still have stock on hand. I did this for my sample doll, and I was able to find her for $30 over retail at a Canadian retailer, but this was the only listing I saw from Google from a retailer.
Next, look on the secondary market. Before I shop on Ebay, I look in several other places:
Before you buy anything from anyone, you must do the responsible thing and check the seller's feedback. You can find this listed in the new Doll Community Feedback Forum here, as well as the seller's Ebay ID. Even if there is only one negative feedback listed, you're taking a risk with your money, and you should be wary of spending your hard-earned dolly dollars with that seller, though there are two sides to every story. In my opinion, a seller should have a return policy--and should be willing to accept the return of a doll if the buyer is unhappy with its condition (minus the shipping fees), if the buyer feels the doll is not represented in the way the seller said it was.
Also, you should feel free to shop for your doll on Ebay. However, keep in mind that while many sellers list their dolls for reasonable prices on Ebay, they charge an additional $20 for shipping. Buyer beware! I prefer to go the other route these days--it seems it's much more straightforward than going through Ebay.
Be sure to remain courteous to the seller, and that you follow through on your sales. Pay promptly. Do not make a request for your grail doll until you have the funds in your account to pay for the doll. That's just annoying. Keep communication lines open and flowing. Use the lay-away option with dealers who offer it, but don't ask an individual to make an exception for you. It's not a good business practice. Don't forget to leave positive feedback when the transaction is over--and let the seller know you're happy. (Do the same with a doll dealer as well--they work very hard to stay in business these days.)
Hope this article was helpful to you. Leave me a comment if you have anything else to add!