Questions for the Doll Doctor Answered – part 2 – My Life as a Doll Doctor






Bisque Head, Ball Joints, Green Spots, Barbie, Re-rooting

First…let me thank all my readers for sending in such great questions! I will answer a few on each blog….so please feel free to continue to write [email me at with the Subject “Questions for the Doll Doctor” or use the form at the bottom of this post]. I did receive a few questions on the doll body pictures from my last blog answering questions. So for Mary and the others who fell in love with the articulated body from the last blog and were wondering where to get one…here you go! That body belongs to the new version of Evangeline Ghastly sold through Wilde Imagination and of course here at The Tonner Company Store. The early Evangeline Ghastly dolls were on a jointed strung body…and the newest body upgrade is the super-duper “fun to pose” one I pictured a few weeks ago. I warn you….once you get one of these in your hands…you won’t be able to put her down.  Now on to more questions for the doc!

Janet asks: “My antique German doll from the 1920’s needs new eyes that open and close–is this possible?” 

Yes Janet, the German bisque head dolls that have sleep-eyes had blown glass eyes set on a wired mechanism that had a lead weight suspended from it to make the eyes sleep. This was set inside the head (at the temple area) with plaster –which allowed enough time to keep moving the eyes open and closed while the plaster set. This creates a groove that the eyes rest in so they can indeed sleep…but without falling out-of-place.

Mara asks: “I have one of those old bisque head dolls circa 1900- but the body is in pieces. They look like wood sections and there are balls for the joints. Is it possible for someone who is not a doll doctor to fix it?”

Hi Mara, and thanks for asking. Yes…it is possible, but if you are inexperienced–I would not recommend doing this yourself. Your doll is probably a bisque headed ball-jointed compo body antique ..and as such may be quite valuable. Most of the value is in the head….and if not careful when re-stringing….you can cause breaks, chips or hairlines. The most common accident when restringing these is to string too tightly. If you look inside the head…you will see a wooden neck button with a hook. All of the pressure when attaching the head is inevitably at that wooden neck button. Many of the chips splits and cracks formed at the neck are due to pulling too tightly and creating a big problem. Other than the face–the worst place to have damage on a bisque head doll would be that most vulnerable neck area. If really careful…most can probably re-string one of these gorgeous antiques without damage…but is it worth the risk if you are not experienced…probably not! (hey….you can always send her to me so not to worry!)  On another topic

Shannon asks: “I want to remove green spotting on my vintage Barbies…can I do this myself?”

Shannon, you did not mention where these green spots were, so I am guessing they are on the ears? Many, many vinyl dolls suffer from green ear due to the high concentration of certain metals in the doll earrings. They oxidize into this weird crusty green crud around the piercing. This can be safely removed with the Twin Pines Products called “Remove-Zit” and Formula 911. You must follow the manufactures directions exactly and always test first. If spots are on the face–do not use the Remove-zit as it will remove face paint. Also…remember if you put those earrings back in…unless you coat them with clear nail polish–they will continue to oxidize and turn those lobes green. Shannon asked a second question which I think many a collector has asked us over the years:

“I want to re-root my Tyler’s hair. What is the best and safest method of doing this without damaging the head?” 

OK Shannon….I took parts of this directly from my doll care 101 page! Now for all you head swappers out there…(and you know who you are), we do not recommend swapping heads if you are inexperienced in this practice. Since you are going to eventually try it anyway, I will give you some insight on this increasing common practice among collectors of our fashion dolls. The first thing to remember when doing a head transplant without a license is that there is some risk involved. The most common side effect is a broken neck button. This can be deadly—but avoidable. You will be using your blow dryer or heating pad to warm up the neck opening completely. I always recommend the heating pad as the chance for damage with the blow dryer is much higher. Please protect the beautiful saran hair first, as direct intense heat will cause Tyler to have a permanent case of the “brittle frizzies”. Most head swappers wrap the hair with a small washcloth. Direct the warm air towards the base of the head where the neck opening is. It usually takes a few minutes of warming to make the vinyl pliable enough to slip off the neck button without causing damage. If using the preferred heating pad method–just wrap around her head and leave on medium heat about 15 minutes. Once you feel the head is warm enough…gently pull up while turning head slightly to one side. If you feel resistance-Stop! To try to forcefully remove the head will cause the neck button to snap off, and can also cause cracks in the neck itself. If resistance is felt, just continue to warm up the head with your hair dryer or heating pad for another few minutes. Now that you have successfully removed the head, you must remember to completely warm up the neck opening of the replacement head. Follow the same procedure, except this time, when the head is fully warm, push down at an angle while twisting the head onto the button. Again, if resistance is felt-Stop! Go back to re-warming the neck opening for a few more minutes. Always keep the dryer at least 4 to 5 inches from the area you are heating. Even a hairdryer held too close to the vinyl for long periods of time, can cause a distortion to the vinyl….not to mention burning the crap out of your hand! Once again–the heating pad method may take a few more minutes…but it is the safest and my preferred method.  As you now are probably aware, head swapping can be a life threatening procedure. This is the reason it is not recommended and should always be left to a professional Doll Doc like myself. Well…back to the O.R. for me–plenty of interesting dolls just waiting for me!

Send me your doll questions:

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7 responses to “Questions for the Doll Doctor Answered – part 2 – My Life as a Doll Doctor

  1. hi iv got my mates German Antique Composition Ball Joint Bisque Doll Body ,its almost the same as you have pictured , could you advise if its worth fixing , and how much , the doll has one fingure missing and the neck button is missing and no wig/hair, i could make a fingure and neck parts myself or would this not be a good idear ,hope you can help many thanks 8)

    1. Hello D. Baldwin,
      Oh my goodness–YES! These antique bisque head dolls are nearly always worth fixing. It would not take much to get a neck button with hook and a wig to get her back to her former self. Remember…most of the value of these dolls is in the head…so a few missing fingers will not detract from value. If the head is free of chips, cracks, hairlines etc…go for it! Sorry I did not catch this question earlier..
      The Doc

  2. I have been given two of the old jointed dolls. They have teeth! I have a friend interested in possibly buying them from me but I have no clue as to their worth. One has been restored some years ago.
    I will give you the information on their heads. I would like you to write me back if you could and I can send you pictures. Please help if you can!

    g Madden, Germany, 11., J.D.K., 214.

    1159, Germany, some numbers I cannot make out and the number 6 below.

    I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks!!!! God bless.
    Angela Bosworth

    1. Hi Angela,
      so sorry these comments do not come to my inbox…but I can tell you the best way to get a value for your dolls. Get all info you can including height in inches along with makers and mold marks from back of head. Enter this info in this format….** inch tall JDK 214 and put that in the search box of EBay under the Dolls–Antique–German–Bisque category. The JDK is the initials for Kestner. Now search the dolls that share the same mold number, height and condition as yours. That is a good starting place. Condition is everything when pricing bisque head dolls, and most of the value is in the head…so that should be perfect!
      I hope this helps!
      My direct email is

  3. I have Linda Webb Baby Emily So Truly Real (22″) whose arm has fallen off. I need to order the plastic joint set as I believe I can fix it myself but do not know what size to order. The disc in the body is intact, but the disc on the arm cracked and .shattered so is hard to measure. (I am a 90 year old grandmother who purchased this doll for 4 year old Anna when our own Baby Emily was on the way. Now our Emily is 4, and this doll is “supposed to live with me to keep me company. “) She does a great job keeping me company, and my two granddaughters just love her and smother her with hugs and kisses when they visit. I offered to buy a new doll, but they wouldn’t hear of it, so I must get her fixed. Please help Thank you.

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