Where to Look: Buying Barbie Dolls 101

Once you start a doll collection, you need places to buy them. ebay is OK for those that know what they want and are familiar with the ins-and-outs of buying. It's nice to be able to handle/see a doll in person though. Ideally, you would be able to do this at a doll show. I haven't been to one in ages, since I was a pre-teen, but hope to go soon. When it comes to playline and lower-level collector dolls, there are several chain stores to search:

Wal-Mart: they carry mostly playline dolls and a few Pink Label collector. Prices are OK, selection is mediocre.

Target: playline, Pink Label & Black Label dolls. They tend to have a pretty good selection. Also, there are target-exclusive dolls from several brands. If you catch it, they also have great clearance & regular sales!

Toys R Us: They carry the same types as target and also have exclusives. The selection is usually really good. I've been able to find a lot of Black Label dolls that I wanted. Prices are a bit steep, unless you catch a sale or coupon. Clearance sales can be good, depending on when you look. I was able to purchase many Basics Line Dolls & Accessory Packs for under $20.

Big Lots, Ross, Outlet & Overstock Stores:  You'll be surprised what you might find here. Discontinued dolls that are more expensive on ebay are a good bet. Dolls may or may not be a good value. It's worth checking-in often.

Barbie Collector & Mattel Shop Online: Shipping costs can make them more expensive. However, the collector site has exclusives & dolls that aren't easily found in stores. A good place to see what is available or get something you really want before its gone or HTF. The collector site has a great showcase of past & present dolls, a wonderful resource. Silkstones, Gold & Platinum Labels etc are also available. Mattel shop has mostly pink label and playline dolls. They do carry some black label dolls too. If you can't find it in the store, you'll usually be able to order here.

Amazon.com: It's good for buying new dolls before they sell-out and become available only from secondary sellers. Oftentimes, they are cheaper or the same price as in stores but with free shipping & no tax (for some). For older dolls, it's hit-or-miss and pricing can be higher than ebay. It's also hard to search for what you want.

eBay: You can find it all on here--at various prices and conditions. The one thing you usually won't find elsewhere are nude dolls, loose outfits and accessories sold separately. You need to know the item you're after and make sure to read descriptions & ask questions. There are wonderful sellers, ones that are OK and some that are less-than-stellar. Things have been improving a lot in terms of ebay rules & policies, which makes the process more reliable. I buy & sell related to my hobby; it's a lot of work and can be rewarding or frustrating. I've been: disappointed, pleasantly surprised and able to find what I wanted at a reasonable price, including HTF. Overall, it's been a good source for me.

Feel free to add any other suggestions in the comments!

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