February 22, 2011
Money is always tight around my house. My husband and I are both teachers, and we have to watch our money.
Our children, however, are less enthusiastic about our budgeting efforts. Take, for example, our eight year old, Olivia. She is an outdoorsy kind of girl who had rather run a 5K than read a book. (Not even kidding here-- I think she gets it from my husband.) Reading is something that she has not been as interested in. I, on the other hand, think reading is about the most important thing ever. My older daughter has always read. She read Junie B. Jones in Kindergarten, American Girls in first grade and Harry Potter in second. So I bought Olivia some American Girls books. She was sort of interested. She was much more interested in the catalogs full of dolls, though.
So, for Christmas, I bought her a real American Girl doll. I liked the way Samantha looked with her pretty dark hair, and I thought the storyline looked pretty good, so I started searching Ebay for a Samantha. If you spend a lot of time on Ebay looking at American Girl dolls, you find some things out. Some dolls are retired. That means that the company no longer produces them. Those can be really expensive. Guess what? Samantha was retired. Strike one.
Condition is important, though, in these dolls. Collectors favor dolls with strings at the back of their necks, instead of clips. This shows that a doll was manufactured before a certain date, and was manufactured in Germany rather than Asia. Dolls that can stand on their own are favored as well, because if they cannot stand, then they are in need of some repair inside the body (known as "re-stringing"). Of course, surface blemishes are taken into account. Marks, scratches, etc can hurt the value of a doll.
Accessories also make a difference in the value of a doll. An American Girl doll in her "meet" outfit, if it is complete, fetches a significantly higher price than a naked one, or one in a generic dress. (Genuine American Girl dresses are usually listed separately, as they have their own collectors.) Original boxes, of course, can send a price through the roof.
Bidding on Ebay takes patience. A lot of patience. When I started bidding, I either didn't go high enough, or I watched in amazement as prices skyrocketed. Then I saw something odd. Naked dolls didn't fare too poorly at auction, and complete ones were pricey. But the dolls that had part of their kit seemed to sell for less. I watched some more and bid on a Samantha that had her "meet" dress, but the wrong shoes and no tights. Her hair was a mess, but she had a hardback book. So I went looking elsewhere on Ebay and found shoes and tights. All in all, I spent less than $70, plus some time. While this is not a tremendous savings off the the $110 retail cost, it is a huge savings off of the cost of a "mint" condition Samantha. I probably also would have saved money if I had been shopping in the summer instead of October, which is coming up on Christmas. I also would have saved money if I had been content with a doll that is still being produced. In addition, if I were willing to restring the doll (and good instructions are out there) the cost would be even lower.
I guess the moral to this story is this: How much is a box worth? How much does and eight year old care about "mint" condition? Think about what you actually care about and make those aspects happen.