Since the old ages, dolls are created and played with. Early puppets & dolls were made from simple materials from nature like wood, clay, and fur. Dolls were often used as playthings or to resemble religious figures. Unfortunately, there are no dolls left from these ages, although they found a piece of an puppet (alabaster) with movable parts from the period of Babylon was discovered. Lots of dolls were found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2000 BC. These dolls were made of wood, with hair made of (wooden) beads or clay and painted in various designs. Wealthy Egyptian families had pottery dolls included in their tombs. People treated them as treasures. Puppets were also found in Greek and Roman children's graves. Greek and Roman girls dedicated their -usually wooden- dolls to goddesses after they were too "old" to play with them.
Most dolls found in young children's graves were very simple toys, usually made from materials as such as rags, wood, bone or clay. The more 'unique' and luxury puppets were made with wax and/or ivory. The main ideal was to make the doll as "lifelike" as possible. That goal lead to the production of dolls with movable arms, legs and removable garments, even dating back to 600 B.C.
Europe played a very important role in doll creation, following the era of the ancient dolls. These were usually wooden dolls. Simple wooden puppets from England from the16th & 17th century number less than 30 today. The Grodnertal area of Germany produced many peg wooden dolls, a type of doll that has very simple peg joints and resembles a clothespin. In the 1800s people developed alternatives to wood. Composition is a collective term for mixtures of (pulped) wood or paper that were used to make puppet heads & bodies. These mixtures were molded (under pressure), creating a durable puppets that could be mass produced. Manufacturers closely observed and guarded the recipes for these mixtures, sometimes using odd ngredients like shells from eggs or ash. Papier-mache was a very popular mixture. Not only wooden dolls, wax puppets were also popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. The German city Munich was a big manufacturing center for wax dolls, but some of the most distinctive wax dolls were created in the UK between 1850 & 1930. Wax modelers would model a doll head in clay or wax, and then use plaster to create a mold from the head. Then they poured they melted wax into the cast. The wax for the heads would be very thin, no more than 3 mm. At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the first dolls (from wax) that portrayed a baby was made in England.
When World War II ended, doll makers started to experiment with plastics. Hard plastic dolls were manufactured in the 1940s. They resembled composition dolls, but they were much more durable. Other materials used in doll manufacturing included rubber, foam rubber, and vinyl in the 1950s and 1960s. Vinyl changed doll making, allowing doll makers to root hair into the head, rather than using wigs or painting the hair. Although most dolls are now mass-manufactured using these modern materials, many modern doll makers are using the traditional materials of the past to make collectible dolls.
In South-Korea and Japan, collecting fashion dolls is on the rise, and also popular among adults.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Doll price guide: sold listings for a value indication.