How to Evaluate the Quality of a One-of-a-Kind (OOAK) Doll
You’ve been checking out some one-of-a-kind (OOAK) doll listings for awhile now, and maybe you’ve even developed a few favorite artists. You’re working up to the idea of buying your first OOAK – or maybe the first one from a particular artist – but you’re not sure yet.
It’s a big investment, and you want to be sure the doll you buy lives up to your expectations.
How do you know that the doll you buy will be a quality piece of art that you can be proud to give a place of prominence in your collection for years to come?
There are no hard and fast rules for what makes a good OOAK doll. Quality is subjective, and a doll that may seem wonderful and beautiful to you may seem cheap and garish to someone else.
However, there are a few things you can consider to make sure you feel good about your choice. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
You can largely see the quality of a repaint from the photos. Unless you’re a master at Photoshop, you can’t fake talent. Dolls created by the best repaint artists pop right off the screen.
Their personalities shine right through their photos, making them hardly seem like dolls at all.
For dolls whose quality is not as obvious, there are a few ways you can evaluate the repaint.
- Do you see noticeable clumps in the paint, streaks, or patchy spots? Does the paint appear thick, dry, or crumbly?
- Has the original factory paint been removed?
A OOAK doll repaint should start on a blank canvas, from which all the original paint has been removed. If you are purchasing an enhancement, only some of the paint may have been removed. The paint should also be thin, smooth and fluid.
Some dolls start life with gorgeous hair that’s just the right color and length. Most OOAK dolls actually need a reroot, a new wig, or at the very least, a restyle.
- If a reroot was performed, can you see “puncture wounds” around the hairline or other signs that the vinyl has been damaged or torn?
- What kind of hair was used for the reroot? Some synthetic hair is soft and natural, while others feel hard and wiry.
- If a wig was used, has it been permanently attached? Is it secure enough for restyling if you choose? Does it fit snugly on the head for a natural style?
- If a restyle was given, what methods were used? Did the doll receive a boil perm? Was glue or another setting agent used that will make it difficult (or impossible) to restyle the hair if you choose?
There are no set rules for rerooting or restyling hair on a OOAK doll. For some styles, a reroot will work better, and for others, a wig is the best choice. Some styles may need to be set in place, while others will be left fluid for you to play and restyle the hair.
Determine what kind of options you want for your doll when evaluating the hair style.
Besides the repaint, the outfit that an OOAK doll wears can give it life and can tell you the most about the overall quality of the doll.
- Was the outfit hand-sewn or created on a machine? Was glue used to construct the outfit – either to join the seams, take up the hem, or close it onto the body?
- Are the stitches sewn to scale? Are the stitches large or uneven?
- What fabric is used? Are quality fabrics like real silk or wool used, or are they thin fabrics that will wear out over time?
- Is the outfit to scale? Consider the pattern on the fabric, the garment’s components, and any embellishments like lace, buttons, or zippers.
- Are all the items made by the artist, or are some components purchased? For example, is the outfit hand made, but the accessories are manufactured? Or are parts of the outfit handmade and other parts manufactured (such as a factory-made jacket with a handmade top)?
Outfits should be constructed with the same kind of care used in your own outfits. Look for quality fabrics and materials that are to scale for the doll and appropriate for the overall look being created. A dress doesn’t have to use Italian lace, but it should use laces that are to scale, look beautiful, and won’t fall apart over time.
The Total Package
Finally, consider the other items included with your OOAK doll, such as the props and accessories, the stand (if there is one), the packaging, and the certificate of authenticity.
- Is there a stand or box included with the doll? Does the design add to the overall creation, or are these items merely functional?
- Does the stand allow you to display your doll in the way you would like?
- Does the box allow you to display your doll, or is it only for storage and protection?
- Is there a certificate of authenticity that clearly documents the doll, the artist who created it, and the date?
Again, there are no rules here that define quality. If you want to display your OOAK doll, you may not even need a box. If you have your own display setup, you may not want a stand. These are all extra items that the artist may include that can help you determine whether this particular doll is right for you.
While this checklist is a good guide to help you determine the value of a OOAK doll when you are just starting your collection or are considering acquiring a doll by a new artist, it is by no means a definite list with clear answers.
Good artists break many of these rules in the course of their work, sometimes deliberately. I’ve seen fantastic outfits that could only be created by permanently affixing them to the body of the doll with glue. I’ve seen amazing hairstyles that could only have been created with setting agents like hair paste.
I have certainly broken these rules over the years that I have created – often unintentionally. I learned from my mistakes where needed, then I learned when it was appropriate to break the rules.
When considering buying a new OOAK, the key is to ask yourself all the questions and to determine if you are comfortable with the answers as they relate to the particular doll in question.