Doll Hospital

Day 127

Let’s play a game.

Can you guess where you might be able to regularly hear the following mother to daughter snippets of conversation?

“Don’t forget your doll’s salon appointment is in 10 minutes”

“Oh, look they are retiring this, we should buy two tiny resin sandwich platters, in case your doll  has a party.”

“Do you want to get your dolls ears pierced?”

“Make a decision so we can get out of this place, we have been in here two hours”.

If you guessed, The American Girl Doll Store, ding, ding, ding, you WIN! (the last comment was mine)

For those of you that aren’t the parents of young girls, American Girl is a line of dolls designed for girls that each represents a specific time in history.  They each have a series of books based on their life.  The dolls are nontraditional in that they are actual little girls (around 10) rather than the typical BABY dolls or va-va-va-boom adult Barbie-type dolls.

These dolls are not inexpensive. They are roughly $100 each.  Even used, they seem to hold their value, selling for around $80-90 on Ebay.


Interesting Tidbit

American Girl dolls are actually manufactured in China (this according to the internet buzz, and The View TV show, all very reliable sources, I’m sure.)  I guess they were originally manufactured by the Pleasant Toy Company in Middleton, WI, but in 1998 Mattel bought them out and, well, the rest is overseas manufacturing history…although maybe since they were born in China, they hold duel citizenship.

But still, I think it’s a little deceitful to call them American Girl Dolls.  Maybe Mattel figured they’d lose market share if they changed the name to Chinese-American Girl Dolls.

We’ve been in one of those AG stores roughly four times and each visit cost hundreds of dollars (with the exception of the visit during The Simple Year, in which it cost Grandma that much, I cannot claim any responsibility for that visit)  When you walk in these stores, it is hard to believe there is any kind of economic downturn as it is teeming with wild eyed grandmothers and daughters flinging their credit cards at the cashiers.

The girls have an older cousin who actually WORKED at the store in Chicago.  To my children, she was a ROCK STAR.

This same cousin, generously gave my kids her old AG Dolls and AG Doll accessories.  Many of the clothes she gave them were made by my grandmother in the early 90’s which makes me nostalgic and teary.  The dolls, which were great, did bear the scars of having been well loved by a creative type.  She used them as a sort of artistic canvas and had given them fabulous haircuts..


Who hasn’t played “beauty shop” with their dolls?

They were fine, just the way they were.  But, American Girl has a “fix it” option,  The Doll Hospital.   I’ll be honest,  I would be spectacularly annoyed at the digression from sweet quasi-educational toys to this behemoth  vortex of conspicuous consumption.  But, since they actually stand by their product for the long haul and have a repair set up instead of expecting you to “trade up”, I am going to cut them some slack.  I’m sure those executives at Mattel are relieved.

Checking into The Doll Hospital

I downloaded the appropriate forms and had to check the appropriate box with which services our dolls required.

  • $54 for a new head : Yeah, it says that right on the order form–new head, but apparently you have to give them the old head as well, you can’t just send them a decapitated doll. That is specified, which makes me wonder how many times people tried that before they had to actually document the “no headless doll” rule.
  • $28 for new eyes

They also do things like replace limbs , apparently mauling by the family pet is not uncommon. Each doll sent in also gets an additional touch up.

So, we packed Kirsten and Katie and sent them away.


Each doll wrapped for  modesty in her own repair form


Three weeks, later here is how they returned.

A little nip, a little tuck and they look perfect, complete with new hospital gowns and bands on their wrists.

It cost $54 for me to get the old dolls overhauled.  I expected it to be more, but they deemed that some of the repairs were the responsibility of AG?  It was so worth the time and effort. I have the satisfaction of knowing these were the pre-Mattel era dolls and manufactured completely lead free in the Good Ole U, S of A.  Plus they were previously loved by our cousin and that makes them even more special.  We’ll call it an heirloom and perhaps one day my girls will have a younger relative that will be sending their dolls to the hospital.






27 Responses to Doll Hospital

  1. Your comment can ALWAYS be overheard when we venture into that place!!! It is an unbelievable store/salon…One of Molly’s dolls got her hair done for like $20, and it lasted about a week…til Molly decided to take it down! Hubby—not real happy! But I’m glad to hear the “hospital” trip wasn’t totally outrageous.

  2. I can just imagine how happy the dolls are with their re-do…..but don’t you wonder what part of them is happy, it can’t be their old heads which are gone! I am glad that AG thinks what ever happens to the dolls when you shut them up in a rubbermaid tote for 10 years is their responsibility..

  3. I entered an AG store once with my then 16 year old daughter. I immediately started shaking and sweating. The overwhelming PINK nearly made me swoon. And this is from someone who had a bedroom wallpapered in 70’s pink and green flowers while growing up. My daughter still teases me about my panic to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Of course, once you enter a door, you cannot get out said door as you will be trampled by the DOLLS and their pre-teen owners. Scary, scary place!

  4. New to reading your blog – becoming minimalist sent me over here. Anyway, the AG Hospital was a godsend in my family – and was amazing to work with. My 10-year old has been loving a Bitty Baby for 7 years – and I have been sewing up the seams and otherwise trying to keep this baby alive for almost as long. Finally, there was no fabric left to sew together. She found the hospital option and we sent the baby off to get a new body.

    After the baby arrived, we got a call from the hospital – in the last 7 years, the plastic dyelots had changed and the arms & legs of the new bodies would not match the head. Unfortunately, I had convinced my daughter that the baby would come back with the same head & personality – so even though AG offered a new head at no charge so it would match the arms & legs, my daughter said no. A couple days later – new baby, or rather, old baby with new body — and a happy daughter.

  5. Pingback: 8 Companies That Make Quality Products That Last | The Simple Year

    • American Girl dolls were manufactured by the Gotz Doll Company in both Germany and in New York. You can still find them. They actually have wrist hang tags that state they were made in the US. The Gotz Doll subsidiary in Baldwinsville, NY closed down 2004, and if memory serves correctly, they stopped manufacturing the American Girl Dolls in the early 1990s. The dolls either had no side body tag or the 1986 side body tag.

  6. I lucked out in that my daughter had outgrown dolls before we discovered them. She did read several of the books. It was neat that she and a doll had the same name but it didn’t get her interested. *whew*

  7. Also, AG didn’t charge you $28 for the silver eye thing problem because a lot of people were starting to have that problem with their old and very well used dolls. AG said it was their problem because I think they didn’t use a long lasting material. I don’t know for sure though.

  8. “I have the satisfaction of knowing these were the pre-Mattel era dolls and manufactured completely lead free in the Good Ole U, S of A.”

    I’m confused – aside from the fact that, as someone else said, the original heads were probably not made in the USA, they replaced the heads with new heads that were made in China. If the stains on the bodies are gone, then they either replaced the limbs with new China-made limbs or just replaced the entire dolls. Either way, they’re no longer “pre-Mattel” dolls and the majority of their bodies were now most likely made in China.

    Also, if I was inclined to be concerned, I would be more concerned about phthalates in the old “pre-Mattel” body parts than I would be in any tiny amounts of lead contained in the paint.

    (I won’t comment on the implication that products made outside the US are “unsafe” and that all products made in the US ARE “safe”, or that all US-made products can be assumed to have been made without lead.)

  9. We had a friend come by and add adult makeup to my daughter’s doll along with polishing the finger and toes. I was able to remove the Polish but the face is stained. Can that be removed or will I have to have her head replaced?

    • About stains: You can use good old acne medication with benzoyl peroxide to remove stains on the vinyl. Generic is fine…just needs to be the old white stuff. Don’t use extra strength either, as it can bleach the vinyl. Dab it on and let it sit. Keep repeating the process until the stain is gone. This method works best for ball point pens. Also, very fine sand paper works well for small stains and scratches (very smooth, gray finishing sand paper).

  10. Can I purchase the replacement of just one arm?.. Grace tried to give herself an Eiffel tower tattoo. LOL. It didn’t work out too well. Dolls should know they aren’t tattoo artists! no in all seriousness it is just her right arm. Any idea how much one arm costs?

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