To Keep Boxed or to Debox; That Is the Question!


My blog today is about doll boxes.  While in the beginning stages of my collecting obsession, I found a term used that I didn’t know – NRFB.  For you new collectors, the term means Never Removed From Box.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would have such a thing.  A doll – that was not removed from the box and played with or displayed.  Then as my collecting progressed, I realized that having the original box seemed to make the doll more valuable; especially vintage dolls.  Having the box almost doubled the value of the doll.  I started paying more attention the the ads in collector magazines and newspapers (there was no EBAY back then) and I began only looking at dolls advertised with their boxes.  I collected a few in their box dolls, but I liked to put the dolls in a cabinet and the boxes definitely got in the way.  Can’t display them with the box; not enough room.  Store them? Now I need a bigger box to put the boxes in to store.   So, now,  what to do.  Collect dolls with boxes so that if I ever resold them, they would be worth more.  But, if they have their boxes, I’m paying more in the first place.  And then I had an AH HA moment.  My decision was to debox and not buy dolls with boxes anymore!  Yes, I admit it, I am a DEBOXER!  I don’t buy vintage dolls with boxes, and when I buy a new doll, I don’t keep the box – I recycle it immediately.  It made me realize that I shouldn’t be buying dolls with the idea of reselling them.  I decided to collect what I love and not to worry what they are packaged in.  As a collector/dollaholic you will have to make up your own mind on what to do about boxes.  So – do you debox?

Next week, I will share some information on  how doll collections are displayed!



Here is a Tiny Kitty in her original boxed state

The same Tiny Kitty in my collection - lounging on her favorite chaise - box in the recycle bin

About Nancy

Executive Assistant at the Tonner Doll Company. Personal assistant to Robert Tonner for the last 19 years. Company Event Planner/Coordinator and Archivist.

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Written by Nancy. Posted in Confessions of a Dollaholic, Miss Nancy

Published on July 26, 2011 with 36 Comments

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There are currently 36 Comments on To Keep Boxed or to Debox; That Is the Question!. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. I keep the boxes, not for resale,but for the dolls safety, whien I decide to switch around what I have on display am in love with at the moment. But again, I am fortunate to have the room. Also, the early MA boxes are rather easy to fold down, so those are yes, in boxes, folded down with neck braces and tissue. And also, just in case for any reason I have to sell any, I would prefer to get the greatest value. But I am very fortunate to have a space to store the boxes

    • Good point Beth. My issue has always been “not enough room”. At one point, my husband, who is SO patient with me, said we needed an extra house just for the dolls!
      And folding down the boxes is a good idea too.
      thanks for the input!

      miss nancy

  2. Thanks for giving me a good laugh this afternoon. Wonderful post! I rarely keep dolls in their boxes since I want to enjoy them completely. However, I must admit that I have a wonderfully patient husband, too, since our storage unit has far too many doll boxes living there.

    I, too, like Beth’s idea of collapsing the boxes until needed!


    • thanks Kathy
      and you know, I remember some friends that confessed they were box collectors – and that they had storage units with boxes from the unboxed dolls… and Beth is right,sometimes it comes down to have the room needed.
      miss nancy

  3. I too used to collect the dolls and keep them in the boxes. But after a while the boxes got in the way of storage. And the temptation to touch those beautiful dolls was overwhelming. It brought out the little girl in me. I had to touch them. And since I am collecting them for me then why not enjoy them. If I decide to resell and don’t have the box then at least it was worth it to enjoy them while I had them. Now, if I buy a doll I don’t even want the box. I tell the seller if it is easier to ship it without the original box then do that..Cathy

    • that’s a good point, Cathy. It’s probably lots cheaper to ship without the boxes. And after all, our company motto is “Believe in the Power of Play!”
      miss nancy

  4. Great post, Miss Nancy! The only dolls I keep in their boxes are my Holiday Barbie dolls; the boxes are part of the whole package and display, and those dolls are never deboxed. Of course, my lovely Tonner dolls–like the Cami girls–are immediately deboxed. Cami boxes are the only boxes I keep. I am obsessed with that girl to the extreme, and cannot even toss out her boxes! When I bout my house last fall, though, the boxes meant I could return the Cami dolls to their boxes for transport–albeit a few blocks–to their new home. I am not otherwise a keeper. I want to enjoy my beautiful dolls! I don’t want to worry about resale value–as if I would resale a Cami doll anyway! LOL Yes, it is all about the pleasure and play! Thanks for another great post!

    • Sheilah
      It’s funny that you mentioned Holiday Barbies, because in my mind at least, I think that Barbies had a lot to do with keeping the box vs. deboxing way back when. And it’s definitely easier to transport dolls in their boxes.
      miss nancy

      • Oh yes, the infamous “NRFB/MIB” Barbie dolls–I even remember a very funny episode of the cartoon “Dexter’s Laboratory” that was built on the NRFB/MIB fanaticism! It sure was quite the sight to see some not-so-vintage dolls sell for several thousand dollars–because they were NRFB/MIB! Oh my!

  5. i had a ridiculous amount of empty tonner & fashion royalty boxes…
    i fill my car 1 1/2 times to take them to recycling.
    i’m not going to sell any of my dolls so it’s needless to keep them
    since they become a fire hazard…

    the only tonner dolls i have NRFB are the 3 really beautiful & special ones because i have physically run out of space to display them properly.

    • So glad that you recycle the cardboard :-) In my house, everything possible gets recycled – it’s become another obsession of mine :-)

      miss nancy

  6. I always de-box, too. I am a longtime collector of the Star Wars and Star Trek action figures (the 3-6 inch kind) and thought, back in the 1990s, if I kept them MOC (Mint On Card, which is the action figure equivalent of NRFB) I would be able to easily fund my retirement. Alas, I was not the only one with this idea, and have a big box of MOC action figures that are not worth what I paid for them, due to market saturation.

    What is the point of buying a doll if you are not going to remove it from the box? It is hard to tell, at the time of purchase, if you are going to reap untold riches keeping something NRFB. There are better ways to build wealth.

    Like many other doll collectors, there is something of a kid in me – if I have a doll, I want to touch it and interact with it. I wanna play!!

    Finally, I buy most of my Tonners nude, either from fellow collectors who are downsizing, or from eBay. I use my dolls as stand ins for characters in stories I write, so I like to acquire, somehow or another, clothing that would be similar to what my characters are wearing. It probably also helps that I do not have the room in my apartment to keep dolls in their boxes, anyway.

    • You are so right about the Star Wars figures. The same thing happened to the Beanie Baby market. People kept them clean and with tag covers and in plastic boxes – then the secondary market plummeted – and people lost a lot of money. I have some Beanie Babies that i have saved for my grandchildren to eventually play with :-)

      I love the way you play with the dolls in a story. If you have photos, please share!
      miss nancy

  7. I have dolls stored in their boxes, waiting until I again have a doll space for them, I have dolls on shelves, on my sewing work table, on the side table in the living room…and I do not buy for financial investment, I buy dolls, collect dolls, sew and knit for my dolls for my enjoyment. Sure can’t enjoy them in the box..
    Child dolls are my passion, and ones I can imagine a story line/life for are far more fun. . . if it’s only valuable when it’s still sealed in a mint perfect box, it’s not coming to live at my house

    • hi Maggie Gean
      Do you Sew for your dolls? One of these days when I have time, I would love to get my mom’s old sewing machine working again and try my hand at making outfits :-)

      miss nancy

  8. I heard once that if you want to be a collector, you should collect things you love. Then it doesn’t matter if they are ever “worth” anything, because you loved having them. :) I have found that the things that people typically “collect” in the hope that they will increase in value rarely ever do. If you are saving it in a pristine box, so are millions of other people and the value does not increase because it is not rare or hard to find. I have found that the things that increase in value are the things that no one ever thinks to save!

    I am curious though – with some people looking for pristine boxes… is there a market for the boxes? Can you buy a boxed doll and sell the box? That might be a good way for those who enjoy having the original boxes to get them, and for the “deboxers” to help fund their collection. Just a thought! :)

    • oooh Shanon
      good thought! I definitely see people selling the vintage doll boxes by themselves on EBAY. Will definitely keep that in mind in the future!

      miss nancy

    • I wish some of you would sell your boxes on ebay, I’ve been looking for empty Tonner Tyler Wentworth boxes and there is nary a one to be found! Esp. if they have the name of the doll that was in them. I have bought deboxed dolls and now want the boxes to store them.

  9. I de-box my dolls and hardly ever save the boxes (aside from a few special or vintage boxes). A lot of why I de-box has to do with the fact that a)you can fit more dolls on stands in a shelf without boxes, b)it’s so much easier to see their beauty outside of a box, c)even in a box dolls can get sticky legs, green spots, bleeding, etc, and d) it’s easier to photograph/show off dolls outside of their box!

    The biggest thing, though? I buy dolls that I want to collect, not that I want to hold on for a few years and sell for tons of money later. Honestly, if I were selling my collection, I’d prefer it to go to someone who would love it for what it is and not for its value alone.

    Anywho, there’s my two cents on the subject. :-)

    • hi Ashley
      I think your two cents is right on! :-) you can fit more dolls on a shelf without their boxes, and many a vintage Barbie has green ear and greasy skin from being left in the box
      thanks for sharing!

      miss nancy

  10. Ashley’s comment is very right re: the box causing problems. Doll boxes are made of cheap cardboard and plastics that outgas and accelerate the breakdown of the items inside; then all that lovely toxic stuff is trapped in the box, and just makes it all worse. I haven’t seen any new dolls advertised as having archival boxes, because those boxes are expensive (ask any good library), and I doubt that the doll companies want the bother, expense, and higher price pounts that would mean.

    I generally pitch packaging in general from dolls–boxes, plastics, twisty ties, etc (don’t get me started on the BFC Inc dolls’ packaging–I love the dolls but it’s stopped me from buying more of them)–UNLESS it’s super-special, like a wooden box one of my bjds came in, or can serve another purpose, like the MA Cissy boxes that are big and sturdy and could almost be doll trunks on their own.

    • Charlie
      good point about the box – when it’s part of the “display” of the doll – it would be almost necessary to keep it.

      miss nancy

  11. I save some and throw out some ..I have kept my Bob Mackie Barbie boxes and Silkstones…but have thrown out others that I have deboxed.. Some of the Barbies I have kept in the boxes ,I don’t have room at all for empty boxes… and I have been buying Tonners and Wild Imagination dolls now but I do keep those…
    I buy what I love and now its Evangeline and Ello!I don’t buy to resell really … ..

    I would like to get rid of some of the Barbies and they are in their boxes but I don’t think they are worth much!!I may donate them or something if I can’t sell them ..I need more money and room for EG! The clothes and accessories are amazing and they need to be played with and fussed with!! and displayed..I hope to make some little theme rooms for her ,when I get my art studio repainted and rearranged…

    • Hi Donna
      I agree about the Barbies. I had some I wanted to pass on also, and the problem I found is that I couldn’t even donate them – what with all the toy problems – paint etc. So I put them
      online with a “pay shipping and it’s yours”. And all my dollies went to good homes

      miss nancy

  12. I really appreciate the incite into deboxing dolls. I have thought on this problem long and hard. I have dolls in boxes and lots of dolls in storage in boxes and a lot of dolls standing around beging pretty. The ones I enjoy the most are the ones I can redress on whim. I just couldn’t figure out how much those I’m storing are really worth. Thanks for the eyeoopener!


    • Hi KT

      Glad we were able to shed some light for you. It’s topics like these that I wish I had read early on in my collecting. So i am very happy to hear it helped you :-)
      miss nancy

  13. Hi, like Beth I keep most of the boxes for the safety of the dolls. Normally I displayed the dolls in a glass cabinet for a while. I have more (a lot more) dolls than place in the cabinet so I change the dolls after a while. The other dolls I put back into the boxes. Often I put two or three dolls in one box if possible (like the MA boxes). The boxes help me to find the dolls when they are stored.

    I never buy my dolls for resell, but nevertheless I do resell them sometimes and the boxes are good and save shipper packaging. Although I have my dolls in boxes I’m definitely not a supporter of the NRFB thing. I hate stains on my dolls, therefore I undress every doll and put the outfit w/accessories in separate plastic bags. If you buy an older NRFB doll with dark or vibrant colored clothes, nobody can tell you if they have stains or not, right.

    • Thalia
      you are so right about the staining – and another issue i had in the past was fading – even though my dolls were in a room with no direct sunlight, the back of one of my Saucy Walkers with a red outfit faded badly before i noticed it – AGH! – the trials and tribulations of collecting – but i wouldn’t live without them!! lol
      miss nancy

  14. Hello there this is my first reply on your blog. I have been collecting for about 25 years and have always de boxed those dolls that I could. It’s a bit harder with dolls like Barbie and Pullip they are firmly anchored in there and you have to ruin the box to get them out. That’s another reason I love Tonner Dolls they are easy to get out and display and look at but if you want them to go to a new home they are easy to put back in. I did have a problem with my porcelain dolls from Franklin Mint, for no apparent reason over time the clothes got little spots on them and even though kept under glass there was some fading. But what’s a girl to do? We love our dolls and want to look at them!

    • Hi Kerrie
      thanks for your comment! I too get frustrated with those impossibly to open boxed dolls that are so tied in it’s almost not worth it to open them – which is a total shame.

      I wonder if the porcelain has something to do with the spots on the clothes. This could mean an investigation :-)

      miss nancy

  15. Used to keep them in the boxes, if not NRFB and still have some in case the day comes I have to or want to sell them. But some, like Ellowyne Wilde and my sole American Model I debox and keep the box. I keep most of the doll boxes. But not the clothes and accessories boxes. I just need to find affordable trunks to hold and store clothing, since trunks are easy access to change dolls’ outfits. I wait for sales usually for Wilde and Tonner outfits or try ebay if an outfit is affordable, for ensembles. Sure the original box and shipper can protect a doll from damaging light and wear, but when you have a display cabinet(I don’t), why not recycle at least the shipper boxes Tonner/Wilde, if the doll is to be displayed or played with? Just my opinion, though.

  16. I debox for sure. I collect a whole range of limited and labelled dolls for my own enjoyment. They range from Disney to barbie to Tonner and some others that I have found of celebrities (Michael Jackson, The Mad Hatter, James Dean)
    I have long known that dolls that are still in their original boxes are worth more. However, I also learnt that if they remain in the boxes, the clothing and plastic that attach them to it can deteriorate and eventually fall apart after a while. I bought an anastasia doll 2 years ago offline that was still in the box and had been made in 1997, she had a piece of plastic attached to her skirt so you could slip it over her hand to make it look like she was holding it. When she arrived I was incredibly excited and so I of course took her out of the box but the plastic on her skirt had snapped which meant I couldn’t display her holding it. This is what happens when they are in boxes. I paid $400 for her and she wasn’t mint condition even though she hadn’t been removed. I always take the dolls out of the boxes and display them in cabinets but I always keep the boxes because I think the boxes can be beautiful as well. I personally think it’s terrible to buy a doll with the intention of selling it. I like to make the most of it and display their beauty.

    • good point Isabella about the deboxing – over time, the outfits can become less than perfect and the hair flat.
      thanks for the great insight!

      miss nancy

  17. I debox most of my Tonners/WI dolls. The ones still in their boxes are dolls I bought on a whim then decided to sell or ones I don’t have stands/shelf space for yet. I do NOT debox my Barbies. Mostly because their boxes are so pretty and made to match the doll, they’re like little display cases for them. Sometimes the reason I’ll decide to buy the Barbie is because the box “makes” the doll. So I have my pretty display Barbies and my Tonners/WI dolls to play with. :)

  18. As an eBay seller in the early 90′s, before picture requirement, that was the gold standard for the thousands of action figures we needed to part with or acquire. But people have taken this way too far! I was part of the Beanie Babies rise & fall! I have freed myself of boxism! Thanks for the Monday laugh!

  19. Hi – does anyone have any 16″ Tonner doll boxes for sale? I need 3. Thank you,.

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