Late 2014, I asked if there was any interest in me writing a post on the basics of Ball Jointed Dolls, aka BJDs. There was. And finally, many months later, I’ve found time to write this long awaited post. First, a quick disclaimer. Like all genre’s of collecting, BJD collecting is a very subjective thing. Some people look at it as one thing, others another. My idea of what constitutes a BJD may differ from how others define the niche.
It is said that the modern BJD trend started back in 1998 when doll designer Akihiro Enku sculpted a large scale 57cm ball jointed doll for his wife. The president of Volks, a company known for customizable 1/6 scale dolls and resin model kits, saw Enku’s work. By 1999, Volks released the first series of Super Dollfies. The hobby has grown widely since then, with many other BJD manufacturers opening shop around the world.
What characteristics make up a BJD? There are four major things BJD’s usually have in common. First, they are jointed with ball and socket joints. Alongside that, BJD’s are stung together. Ball and socket joints aren’t exclusive to BJD’s, non BJD’s like Madame Alexanders and Sasha dolls are strung in a similar fashion, but for a doll to be considered within the BJD realm, it needs to have these sorts of joints.
Second, all BJDs are customizable. True, any doll is customizable at heart, but BJDs come ready for you to make them your own! BJDs are designed with head caps that allow you to open up the back of their head and change out their eyes. They also are designed to wear removable wigs, so you can change their look any time you’d like. On top of that, many BJDs come with blank faces, so you can put your artistic skills to work and give your doll a 100% unique face up.
Third, BJDs are usually cast in resin. Now, here’s where I divert slightly from some collectors. If a doll is customizable and built with ball joints and string, I don’t care if it’s resin. In my mind it’s a BJD. For example, Hujoo’s are strung, have ball joints and are 100% customizable. Yet, some would discount them and say they aren’t ‘real’ BJDs because they’re made of ABS and not resin. I don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking. It is true, though, that 90% of what people consider as BJDs are cast in resin.
Fourth, BJDs are commonly hand crafted in Asian countries. Most major BJD companies are based in Japan, Korea and China. This is becoming less and less true as time goes on, with the emergence of amazing designers like Kaye Wiggs and other doll artists.
Some will say that a doll has to be designed with an ‘Asian aesthetic’ to be defined as a BJD, but I don’t agree with this, either. Who’s to say what an ‘Asian aesthetic’ even looks like. Japanese animation great Osamu Tezuka (Astroboy, Kimba: The White Lion), for example, said the large eyes on his iconic characters were influenced by western favorites Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop, along with other Disney creations. My point? We’ve been mixing cultural aesthetics for quite some time now; I don’t see how we can use that to judge whether something falls into the BJD niche.
Now that we’ve talked about the characteristics that define what is considered a BJD, let’s talk about the different classifications. BJD collectors will throw out a lot of different terms. The three most common pertain to size. BJDs can range in sizes from super tiny to insanely large.
The largest BJDs fall under the term SD. While SD is universal throughout the hobby and used for all brands, it originally started way back in the early days and is a shortened version of Super Dollfie. SD dolls typically stand 60 or 70cm tall. You will often hear these referred to as 1/3 scaled dolls.
One size down falls MSD dolls. MSD is another generically used Volks term which stands for Mini Super Dollfie. This mid range doll is usually around 40cm. MSD dolls are most commonly referred to as 1/4 scale dolls. Within this size range, you’ll find many variations on the body type. For example, I own a very mature Doll In Mind Fantastia, with hips and a bust, that is on a very different body than my Luts Aru, who was created to look more childlike.
The last size range has the most diverse lot of dolls– tinies! Tinies are 30cm or smaller. These dolls are also sometimes labeled 1/6 scale. Like MSDs, they come in a variety of body types. A tiny can be a 27cm Bobobie March, designed to be a youthful Elf to an 11cm Puki, a small toddler/baby bjd.
Besides these size classifications, you’ll also hear two more terms tossed around. The first one is Anthro. Anthro’s are animal and human hybrids, like the Junky Spot/Hujoo Freyr and Fraya‘s I’ve reviewed in the past.
YO-SD is another term used by collectors. YO-SD dolls fall in the tiny category due to their size, which is usually around 26cm. YO-SD is taken again from the Volks line of dolls that size. I wasn’t quite sure what drew YO-SD dolls apart from the other tinies of that size until I purchased an Island Doll Artemis. The main difference, from what I gather, is the thick body type of YO-SD dolls. I personally love the feel of YO-SD’s because the dolls feel so much more substantial than skinny tinies.
One of the biggest issues new BJD collectors face is choosing their first doll. Let’s face it. BJDs are expensive and for those new to the hobby, it’s hard to judge what might be ‘worth it’. Like with any collection, finding the perfect BJD to splurge on takes time and research. Some big questions you should ask yourself are:
- What size BJD are you looking for? This is a great question to ask first because it cuts out two thirds of your options. If you know you want an SD (1/3 scale) doll and you won’t be happy with anything less, don’t muddy your research with tinies or MSDs.
- What gender are you looking for? One fun fact about BJDs is that they’re anatomically correct. If you purchase a male, you’re getting a proper male body with all his parts intact. This is another great question to ask because once you decide a gender, you can narrow down your search even more.
- Do you have a character in mind already for your future BJD? If you’re modeling your BJD after a character or ‘vibe’, take that into consideration when looking at face sculpts. Does your character need large round, anime like eyes or smaller, glaring eyes? The openness of an eye can change your character alone in many, many ways.
- To face up or not to face up, that is the question. Full disclosure, none of my resin BJD’s arrived at my house with a blank face. They all have factory face ups and I am more than happy with them. However, you can save yourself a little money if you order a blank face up. Prior to ordering your BJD, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to undertake doing a face up on your future dolly.
- How much do you want to spend? This is a huge question. Some people will say that this question doesn’t actually matter, but we don’t all live in a world where that is true. As I mentioned earlier, BJDs are expensive. My first BJD was a Bobobie March. She’s just under 28cm and cost me a little over $100.00 from The Junky Spot. This was a good purchase for me, because it allowed me to try out the doll type out without spending hundreds of dollars. Think realistically about what you can spend on a BJD before ordering a doll. That being said, don’t just buy a doll because it’s cheap, do it because it’s something you love!
- Do I want it now or can I wait? Some sites, like The Junky Spot, only sell dolls they have in hand, ready to ship, while others take pre-orders. Dolls you pre-order can take months to get to you. The wait can feel like forever. Trust me, I know. I personally prefer to only order dolls that are ready to ship. It limits my choices a little, but honestly, I am totally fine with that. I’d much rather have my doll within two weeks than 5+ months. But what about you?
- Do you want your doll to arrive as a full set or naked? Most of the dolls I’ve purchased have arrived naked. Full Sets, dolls that come with all the dressings (eyes, wig, outfit, etc), are very tempting, but can be very pricey. I’ve always chosen to outfit my BJD’s myself. It’s important to keep this in mind, though, because buying the base doll is not the end of the journey. You then need to find clothing, wigs, eyes (in some cases), shoes, etc to really create/finish your doll.
In the end, the most important thing to know about ordering your first BJD is this: Make sure your future dolly is something you love. If you love it, then you won’t face a checkbook of regret later.
How do you take care of your BJDs, you ask? A lot of non BJD collectors are surprised at how substantial these resin dolls feel. Before owning one myself, I assumed they were super fragile, like porcelain. That’s not exactly the case. Will they break if you drop them just right? Of course, but they are surprisingly durable. While BJD’s tend to balance well, I would use a stand if you’re displaying them in a standing position. I decided to take a different route with mine— they sit on my shelf. I’ve never had any trouble with them in that position.
One great rule of thumb is this: Just like you don’t feed a gremlin after midnight, don’t leave your BJD in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Display your BJD in a portion of your room or shelf that isn’t directly across from a window. Exposure to sunlight for long periods of time will make the resin yellow quicker than it should. Some collectors will go all out and store their BJD’s in a dark place when they’re not using them, like their doll box or closet. I’m more lax about that. (They’re going to yellow anyways over time, right?) My BJD’s are displayed on a shelf that isn’t directly in line with my window. That way, they’re protected and I can still enjoy looking at them.
You will also most likely find that your BJD will need restringing from time to time. That’s nothing to be afraid of. Keep a cool head, find a YouTube tutorial, purchase some string and you’re set.
Another handy item to have on hand is a Mr Clean Magic Eraser. I made the mistake of wearing a fresh coat of nail polish when I was messing around with one of my BJD’s and later noticed I had left a mark on her leg. After a few swipes of the magic eraser, she looked brand new again.
So now you know a little more about what BJD’s are and what you might need to consider when purchasing one for your doll collection. Below are some links to my favorite BJD hotspots on the web.
The Junky Spot: 90% of my BJD’s have come from The Junky Spot. The fact that they only list products that are ready to ship is what makes this one of my favorite places to shop on the web. I’ve had nothing, but success ordering dolls from The Junky Spot.
Denver Doll Emporium: Denver Dolls is a nice site, because they offer dolls from lines The Junky Spot doesn’t. Of course, that comes with a caveat– not everything is ready to ship out. In many cases, you have to pre-order products from Denver Dolls. They do offer a nice variety of BJD accessories, including all the essentials (wigs, outfits, shoes, etc).
Mint On Card: I personally have never ordered from this Michigan based store, but I have virtually window shopped a lot! It seems they mostly deal in pre-orders, or that’s how it’s been every time I’ve visited. What I like about Mint On Card is that it offers a whole different selection of BJD brands to ‘ohh and aww’ over.
Den of Angels: Den of Angels is one of the largest BJD forums on the web. It’s a fantastic resource for those looking for owner images of dolls or for information on loads of different BJD manufacturers. It’s Marketplace forum is great and is the reason I have a Luts Aru in my collection. (Yay for group orders!) The downside of Den of Angels is that the moderators are very strict about what can be discussed on the forum. They’re one of those forums that only allows resin dolls and have a very specific list of what dolls fall into their idea of BJD’s. That being said, if you play by the rules, it’s a very handy resource.
Dairyland BJD: Dairyland is a regional BJD forum for the midwest area. The people are friendly and the atmosphere is a little less tense than DOA. It’s a fun, chill kind of forum.
Chitown Dollz: This is another midwest forum. I was an active member for a while. Just like Dairyland, the people at Chitown are very welcoming. It’s a nice little forum to share your dolls on.
bjd_wtf: This isn’t a forum, but a very informative blog that has a ton of information on the BJD hobby.
Bobobie and Resin Soul: These two brands make great starter BJD’s. The prices are very affordable for the quality. My first BJD was a Bobobie March and my moms was a Bobobie Sprite. Over the years, their skin has changed to a more yellow tone and the resin is a little more glossy than other BJD brands, but you know what? They’re still very pretty, displayable dolls. You can find these easily at The Junky Spot.
Luts: I dreamed of owning a Luts for years before I actually did. My Luts Kid Delf Aru was purchased through a group order over at Den of Angels. After looking high and low for an US distributor for Luts, it was either a)find a group order or b)spend a crazy amount of money on shipping her straight from the company. As luck would have it, there was an open group order. After a bit of waiting and a late night drop off in the middle of the Gameworks parking lot, she was finally in my hands. It was all very exciting. Long story short, if you are going to wait for a BJD, Luts are definitely worth waiting for. They are beautiful, high quality BJDs.
Island Doll: Island Dolls are priced very well. You can get an MSD doll for the mid $200.00’s and an SD doll for the mid $300.00’s. Much less expensive than some of the other brands around. On top of that, I must say, I love their sculpts and the resin seems great to me! I own an Island Doll Artemis. She’s a 1/6 scale doll that has a YO-SD kind of feel to her. I am very happy with her. She’s a very solid BJD. Denver Dolls is a distributor of this line.
Hujoo: I love Hujoo’s. The Hujoo company hit the ground in 2005 and has been innovating ever since. I’ve been a fan of the line since Christmas 2009, when my brother gifted me with one. Ever since then, I’ve followed the company. They continue to surprise me with their releases.
The above are just a slim selection of BJD manufacturers. BJD Collectasy has a really great list featuring many others. I recommend clicking through the links and window shopping! If you see a doll you know you must have, add them to a wishlist and remember, sometimes BJD releases are very limited. If you find yourself falling in love with a limited doll, start saving. I know what it feels like to regret not buying a beautiful BJD before it disappears from the site. It doesn’t feel good. (Oh, LeekeWorld Gee-Yu, I miss you! Maybe one day you’ll join my BJD family?)
All collectors should have at least one BJD in their collection. They’re such fun to pose and photograph, not to mention they look great on a doll shelf. Hopefully, this post will help you, too, add a BJD to your dolly clan one day.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comment area. Is there something you’d like me to go into more detail on? Let me know! International readers, do you have a go-to forum or online store you order from? Leave it in the comments for other readers (since my suggestions are mostly US based). And finally, what BJD are you looking to purchase in the future? What was the first BJD you added to your collection? Share your thoughts below!!!
It looks like Mattel is pulling out all the stops for their Rock ‘n Royals direct to DVD feature film and doll line. Not only are they visiting malls around the US to promote the line, but they’re also having a special concert event in Los Angeles, California. Check out the screenshots below for tour dates and locations.
Rock ‘n Royals is set to make its DVD/Blu-ray debut September 8th, 2015. You can view the trailer below.
Keep your eyes peeled for a review of one of the Rock ‘n Royals dolls. It should hit the blog soon. Until then, are you looking forward to this new Barbie movie? Let me know in the comment area.
It’s about time to post a new edition of the Skipper Highlight Reel, isn’t it? This blog post is all about the 1964 soft vinyl Skipper Wallet. It features Skipper, all decked out in her Masquerade outfit. Barbie and Ken can be seen in the top left. This particular wallet is blue, but I have seen a yellow wallet with this same design floating around the internet.
Originally, it came with a comb, nail file and mirror. I’ve rarely seen it with those pieces on the secondary market. It is common to find this with two Hollywood portraits inside the picture slots, however. The two celebrities pictured are Troy Donahue and Tuesday Weld. I’m not very familiar with these celebrities, but they must have been popular to be in this mass produced vinyl product.
My favorite aspect of this wallet has to be the graphics. Skipper made her debut in 1964, probably around the time this wallet came out. The outfit she wears is also part of the first wave of outfits released with Barbie’s little sister.
If you find something like this on eBay or at a doll show, be sure to double check that the vinyl isn’t ripped and that the snap isn’t rusted. Also, make sure the graphics are up to par. The graphics are what makes pieces like this so fun to showcase, so you want to double check that they are up to your standards.
Do you have a wallet from this Barbie and Friends era? What does it look like? What do you think of the Skipper wallet featured in this post? Share your thoughts below.
One thing I love about YouTube is how it connects people from all over the world. A while back, I approached Eric from Te2Production about doing a mystery box swap. Essentially, we would each put together a box of mystery items for the other to open on their YouTube channel.
We both received our packages this week and can finally share them with you!!! I had a blast preparing Eric’s mystery box. In it I packaged a mixture of items he had on his wishlist and totally unique items that I decided he needed in his collection.
Here are a few highlights from what Eric received from me. Besides tossing in a few items I’ve been waiting to gift to the right people, I purchased a very affordable Pinkie Cooper (yes, our local Toys R Us still has this long gone doll line), printed a super cool Sailor Moon bookend on the 3D printer and purchased some of the new Disney Descendants dolls. To see everything that made the trip from the US to France, check out his video. (Eric said he’d release some subtitles in the coming weeks, but it’s completely watchable, even with the language barrier!)
Now, what did I receive from this epic exchange of dolls and toys? Let me show you!
Believe it or not, I didn’t buy many of the Monster High Haunted dolls, even though I found them to be really neat. Inside my mystery package were two– Draculaura and Twyla! There was also another Monster High doll, this one from Freaky Fusion, Cleolei!
This was a real surprise. Isn’t this Snow White cute? I adore her! She’ll fit in just fine with my Disney Animators Collection Mini Elsa. I had on my wishlist something ‘french’. Anything french. This Eiffel Tower sign fits the bill completely. It’s totally tourist’y and I love it.
One thing I learned when I studied in Florence a long, long time ago was that the children’s magazines overseas are way cooler than the ones in the US. Maybe it’s just my local stores, but I never see any stock of magazines with toys included. Above are two paper goods packaged in my mystery box. The first one is a Monster High magazine showcasing Lagoona. It comes with lip gloss! The second item is a Panini sticker guide for Frozen.
Eric is a Sailor Moon fan, so I wasn’t surprised to find something Sailor Moon in my box. This is a cute phone fob. Currently, my phone is wearing a Digimon themed phone fob, but I’ll be switching to this Sailor Moon one soon!
Here are some of the smaller items he sent. Little Miss must be bigger abroad than it is here. I’ve never seen any accessories, like pencils or notebooks, here in the States, just the books. Also pictured is a fantastic C3P0 magnet. (For those who don’t know, I collect C3P0 merchandise. See video below.) There was also a very cute dog eraser.
Last, Eric took the time to draw this amazing picture of me! I love it! It was one of the best things in the box. Not pictured is one last thing– a Disney Store Paris reusable bag. Perfect for packing these items up while I take my time opening them!
I had a lot of fun participating in this swap. Big thanks to Eric from Te2 Production on YouTube. I hope you had as much fun as I did!
And now, for the readers, have you ever participated in a mystery swap with a friend or stranger? What was your favorite part of the process? If you’re a blogger who is interested in doing something similar with me, let me know.
Back in February, I stumbled upon a Toy Fair booth that featured some very pretty Nutcracker themed dolls, aptly named My Ballerina Dolls. I’ve been following the line ever since. Recently, I reached out to Tiffany Koepke, one of the people behind this new line. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. (For those that need a reminder of what was on display at Toy Fair, check out my post on My Ballerina Dolls and/or the video below.)
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired My Ballerina Dolls?
A: I am a professional ballerina and principal dancer with the San Diego Ballet Company. I’ve been dancing since I could walk, so it has always been a huge part of my life. From my ballet experience came the inspiration to create ballerina dolls. I wanted to share my world with children everywhere and also educate them on the stories I know from the stage.
Q: How long has this line, My Ballerina Dolls, been in the works? Are you excited that they are about to debut?
A: We have had the idea for some time and honestly never thought My Ballerina Dolls would ever come to existence! We have worked for two years perfecting the Clara Marie and Nutcracker doll. We strived to master the true look of a ballerina and create dolls that were quite ethereal. We are thrilled to have them on the market and to share them with children. And adults too!
Q: What are My Ballerina Dolls?
A: These gorgeous dolls stand tall at 22 inches. They are ball jointed and able to be posed in all the classical ballet positions. The facial features are more whimsical and fairy like than any doll I have seen. Their clothes were designed with such detail and quality that they take after a true ballet costume.
Q: What makes My Ballerina Dolls different from other dolls currently on the market?
A: They are a unique size, therefore they’re very eye catching. It is special that they can move in all the ballet positions and can be an educational tool, as well. Introducing children to french ballet terms and spelling of words is a definite bonus! Also, an illustrated book of our version of The Nutcracker is offered. Kids can listen to the storybook while holding their very own ballerina doll.
Q: I’m assuming My Ballerina Dolls are wigged. Is the wig removable or glued on? Do these dolls have a removable head cap underneath the wig to allow you to change their eyes?
A: Yes, the dolls are wigged. They are attached with a velcro piece and can easily be changed out. They do have a head cap if someone did so choose to change the eye color.
Q: I don’t see the Prince on your website yet. When should we expect to see him?
A: Not yet! We will be debuting the handsome Prince/Nutcracker in the beginning of 2016!! The anticipation will be something for us all to look forward to.
Q: Do you see these as ‘playline’ dolls or ‘collector’ dolls? What is the suggested age range on these dolls?
A: These are created as a play toy doll for children of all ages. They are so lovely in their package that they would also make wonderful collectors items; Great for all!!!
Q: You are currently focusing on the Nutcracker. Do you think you’ll be releasing dolls based on other ballets in the future? What drew you to releasing Nutcracker themed dolls as your first line?
A: Yes! We intend to go through all the classic ballet stories, so there is much more to look forward to in the future. Everybody is familiar with the Nutcracker, especially at Christmas time. We wanted to start with a story that warms the hearts of children and would be a cherished series to keep for a lifetime.
Q: What can we look forward to in the future?
A: A Party Dress with hairpiece and the book are currently available. We will be introducing two new characters from The Nutcracker every season. The costumes will only get more extravagant. In the near future, it will be possible to own every doll in the Nutcracker book. It’s very exciting!
Q: Where can collectors purchase My Ballerina Dolls and/or find out more information on the line?
A: They can be purchased on our website, www.MyBallerinaDolls.com
Now that you know a little about the line, here’s some amazing news! Use coupon code ‘Clara30’ between August 11-31, 2015 and you’ll receive 30% off and free shipping. You only have three weeks to take advantage of this, so I suggest checking out the website if you’re interested in saving a few dollars on Clara.
I’d like to thank Tiffany for taking the time to answer my questions. Now, it’s your turn to comment. What do you think of this line? Are you excited about My Ballerina Dolls? Do you plan on taking advantage of the discount code? Share your thoughts in the comment area.