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Everything from their background stories and names to marketing campaigns cater to an all-American audience. Yet, the American Girl Dolls we love and cherish aren’t actually made in America. They get shipped from the other side of the world.
American Girl dolls are currently made in China and then shipped all around the world.
American Girl Dolls were made in Germany and assembled in Wisconsin from 1986 to 1998. The production line then moved to China after Mattel Inc. bought the copyrights from the founding firm, The Pleasant Company.
Read on to take a closer look at the mysterious manufacturing process and why American Girl Dolls are so expensive. To see the most popular American Girl dolls just click here.
Where Are American Girl Dolls Made: USA vs. China
No, American Girl Dolls are not made in the USA, nor were they ever manufactured here.
As the story goes, the founder Pleasant Rowland did not know how to manufacture dolls or what design to choose. That’s why she surveyed the market to look for inspiration.
After hopping from one shop to another, she stumbled upon a discarded doll collecting dust on the second day of her search.
She fell in love with the doll’s quintessential looks at first sight. She discovered that the doll had come from Gotz Puppenfabrik, Rodental, West Germany.
A few phone calls later, Rowland went to Germany to sort out the design and manufacturing process of her brainchild. She collaborated with German doll makers to manufacture the 18-inch dolls and Chinese companies to create adorable accessories.
You’re probably wondering if anything from American Girl comes from American manufacturing factories.
Turns out that Pleasant Rowland kept the heart of her brand close to her in Madison, Wisconsin…the stories and dreams of every original American Girl.
The Pleasant Company assembles, packages and dispatches the dolls along with companion books, which are published in Wisconsin.
Why Are American Girl Dolls Made in China?
The era of German-made American Girl dolls ended in 1998 when Mattel. Inc took over the franchise. The Barbie-famed corporation terminated its contract with the Europeans and transferred the manufacturing rights to China.
According to rumors, they did this to secure a cost-effective deal with their Chinese collaborators. Plus, with the American Girl doll accessories already having creators in the Asian market, outsourcing the whole manufacturing process from China did not make much difference.
In a way, it enabled the team to streamline operations through better coordination. That’s because they started dealing with one co-creator instead of two.
Why Are American Girl Dolls So Expensive?
Unless you’re happy with second-hand American Girl Dolls, you know these beauties can cost a fortune. Many people aware of the dolls’ Chinese roots wonder why they are so expensive.
The secret lies in the traditional one-of-a-kind doll-making process. American Girl dolls might come from across the ocean, but their designing process remains quintessentially American.
The designers and makers in Wisconsin strive to create unique doll face molds and stories to mirror the true American experience.
Moreover, these dolls feature:
● Premium-quality hair wigs
● Smooth vinyl skin
● Soft, cushioned bodies
● Handpainted sleep eyes that open and shut
In short, every detail in the design requires precision and craftsmanship. American Girl doll manufacturers strive for perfection and ensure there are no compromises in the quality of their star product lines.
Alternatively, the hype around American Girl dolls also contributes to the hefty price tag.
Where Is the American Girl Doll Hospital?
If the dolls are made outside of the US, where do dolls go for replacement and repairs? Owners of used and damaged American Girl dolls don’t have to worry.
Your prized possessions remain in the US when you send them for a little pick-me-up.
You can find the American Girl Doll Hospital address on the official site with must-follow rules for the delivery. These include sending naked dolls to prevent clothes and accessories from getting misplaced.
Once you’ve removed their accessories, you can pack, label, and send off your dolls with the registration form and payment.
Besides this, you can schedule spa dates with your American Girl dolls at the nearest flagship store. Most wellness centers feature miniature doll-sized chairs, accessories, and styling equipment. Your doll can get her hair done by professionals here while you hang out in the store.
How to Recognize Original American Girl Dolls?
Switching doll makers from Germany to China resulted in some manufacturing changes. If you’re interested in purchasing American Girl Dolls from the pre-Mattel days, you can look for some tell-tale signs of the preceding manufacturers.
Here’s a checklist to follow:
● Your OG doll will have the Pleasant Co trademark imprinted on the back of the doll’s head.
● Chubbier (i.e., filled out faces) and limbs with a vinyl body that’s softer than the Mattel descendants.
● White-washed skins and pale complexions with less rosy cheeks and lips
● No hidden stars on their skin
Lastly, your pre-Mattel dolls might not fit in the modern clothes available in the market today. That’s because Mattel-made American Girl dolls have leaner bodies to meet aesthetic requirements.
Original American Girl dolls can be worth a million bucks if you find discontinued models, own limited editions, or other rare collectible items. That’s why you should always check your doll’s market value before you give it to your younger cousin, auction it online, or sell it in a yard sale.
Made in China or not, American Girl dolls are a significant part of our consumer culture. Many parents consider ownership of American Girl Dolls as a rite of passage for younger children.
This plastic playmate keeps young owners entertained while spreading awareness about diversity, inclusivity, and history. Having access to a series of cool accessories and companion books makes playtime more immersive.
In the end, these special characteristics elevate the American Girl doll experience, and no foreign manufacturer can take that element away.
Did knowing where American Girl dolls are made surprise you?