Forgotten Dolls

an encyclopedia of dolls and doll collecting

Modern ball jointed dolls

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modern ball jointed dolls

Modern ball-jointed dolls (termed 'BJD') are full-articulated resin dolls designed and cast by artists and small companies (generally only a few employees who hand-pour each doll when casting). These dolls are strung with heavy-gauge elastic for increased pose-ability.

The first modern ball-jointed doll was the Super Dollfie by Volks of Japan, whose original motto was "We Seek Creativity". These dolls were created in 1998, based on the structure of antique French and German fashion dolls. The ball-jointed structure of the bodies allows for tremendous pose-ability with articulation -- generally at neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. This type of doll is designed to be customized; wigs and eyes can be changed, the body can be modified by both changing out parts or by additive or subtractive modifications, and default paint can be removed and redone.

The size of a modern ball jointed doll ranges in height from under 10 cm to in excess of 80cm. Skin tones vary by company but can include fantasy colours in addition to typical human skin tones.

The changing face of the hobby

The hobby of collecting modern resin ball-jointed dolls has changed somewhat to be closer to that of the fashion doll collecting hobby in which "never removed from box" (NRFB) and "never modified" are necessary for a high resale value if one chooses to sell a doll. Many dolls are available only as a limited edition, with collectors disinclined to change the appearance of these limited dolls.

If you do not have a fullset limited doll which was never breathed-on the wrong way that you wish to sell, you should not expect the doll to have held its value for even a short time. If the doll is older and shows any wear at all including yellowing (which is normal for resin dolls), the value will be far below the original purchase price. The days of new prices for a gently used doll are long gone.

Where to buy a modern ball jointed doll

If you are looking for your very first ball jointed doll, you should first decide if there is a particular company or even a particular model you would like to own. Buy the doll you love rather than worrying about the price.

Tip: Do not fall prey to the idea of settling for a cheap doll when you are first getting started. Many of the recommended “starter dolls” have structural issues such that I would never recommend them to someone with no experience.

I suggest shopping around until you have a short wishlist of those dolls that catch your eye. You can always save up money for a while if you fall for an expensive doll.

New currently-available limited and standard release dolls can be purchased directly from the company of your choice. If you decide on an older or discontinued doll, your best bet is to try the secondary market (typically a forum centered on this type of doll), and wait until you find the doll you are looking for. If you don't find the doll within a reasonable time, you can post a "WTB" (Want To Buy) with the model, condition, and the price you can pay.

About recasts

Many ball jointed dolls have been recast. This means a copy of the doll has been made without permission of that doll's creator. This is done either by taking a mold of the original doll or by digital scan. Even if recast for personal use, this is a violation of the original creator's rights. Respectable ball jointed doll community forums will not allow recasts in any capacity.

This has led to paranoia among doll artists who now feel obligated to document every step of their design process rather than face the accusation of producing a recast. This is perhaps not unwarranted, given the current state of the ball jointed doll community.

Many companies do have authorized retailers whose shop will be clearly marked as such. If a shop does not show an official designation, ask the company about that shop before buying anything.

How to identify a recast

Recast dolls may or may not be identified as such by both sellers of recasts and by their subsequent owners. Tip-offs to whether a doll may be a recast include:

Warning: The shoddy quality of recasts such as Forever Dolls was easy to spot in the early years of the hobby. Of late however, recasters even provide faked paperwork and boxes to try to pass their recasts off as the genuine article.

If the price seems too good for a brand-new ball jointed doll, it probably is.

Note: While there is a secondary market for 'gently used' modern ball jointed dolls, do ask for more photos of any sale that seems "off". Do your research before buying anything.

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