Friday, February 15, 2013

American Girl Doll Versus Generic - Is It Worth It?

So it seems like every Christmas, the discussion begins... "My daughter wants a doll. Should I splurge and get an American Girl doll, or just get the generic one?" Here is our experience...

I'll start by saying that this was never about having the "American Girl" brand. I never had an American Girl doll, and I don't care at all about that brand as some sort of a kiddie status symbol, nor does my daughter.

When my oldest was 4, she asked for an American Girl doll. She had recently started playing with her older cousin, who had a generic Target one, but we didn't know if the doll phase would last. She's a responsible kid, so we knew she'd take care of it, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something that would just sit on the shelf.

So that first year, when she turned 5, we got her the Our Generation doll (from Target). She named her doll Sunny. Sunny was played with constantly, loved, and adored. She was more than getting our money's worth out of her. Two things to note: within a year, the material was coming apart at the neck, and the hair was incredibly tangled and ratty.

When she was coming up to her 6th birthday, she asked for the American Girl BRAND doll. Her cousin had gotten one by this time, and my daughter was in love with its smooth hair, and the ability to play the online game. I told her that I would buy her one for her birthday, but that would be her ONLY present from us. She gave it some thought and decided to just stick with Sunny.

That Christmas, Sunny got a makeover. We did the Doll Hair Detangler, and I sewed her up at the neck. Sunny looked pretty good, but as her birthday approached, my daughter again began wishing for an American Girl doll. I again offered her the same deal. She could have one, but it would be her only gift. For her 7th birthday, she agreed.

I was happy to do it, at that point. It had been over two years that her favorite pastime was playing dolls, and we knew she would take good care of it. Plus, we were making a trip to California and had the opportunity to go to the American Girl doll store to pick one out herself.

Ahhhhh.... the magic.....

 She named her new doll Charlotte....

 And we enjoyed a trip to the American Girl restaurant as well.
She doesn't regret getting Charlotte for one minute. The most important thing to her is the hair. It never gets snarly or tangled, and remains easy to brush out and style.  She also LOVES the online game that comes along with the My American Girl dolls. I love that Charlotte and Sunny are the same size, so Charlotte can use all the stuff we already had - we either make or buy generic for all the clothes and accessories. For my daughter, it was never about the brand name, it was always about having a doll like her cousin's that had "the good hair."

So, is it worth it? If your daughter is young, or you're on a limited budget, I would start with a generic one. Kids' interests change, and I would want to make sure it's something they were going to stay interested in. Also, aside from the hair, the generic ones are fine. My daughter made lots of good memories with her Sunny doll. If the money isn't a concern, or if your daughter is older, and you're confident that she'll love the doll and get lots of use out of it, and/or she will be very into styling the hair, I would definitely go with the American Girl brand. For my daughter, who plays with hers a LOT, the American Girl doll brand has proven to be far more durable. And really, it's pretty comparable in price to a lot of other big-ticket gifts, so I think in 2013, $100 isn't that much to pay for something your child will treasure and play with constantly. So I guess my final vote is: worth it!

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Erinbeth Crabtree said...

I completely agree with you. My daughter was "hand me downed" an American Girl doll. She also had a Madame Alexander doll from Avon. The difference in quality between the two was very noticeable. 5 years and two more American Girl dolls later. I still stand by the American Girl doll brand. They are quit pricey but as a big ticket Santa Gift ( which doll number two was) they are about average. Doll number three was purchased by my daughter after 8 months of saving every penny she had. I think she appreciates that doll the most and it taught her a lot of patience and money smarts to have to save and wait for her.
If you are not sure if your daughter will get $100 dollars worth of enjoyment out of the doll start with a generic. However, if your daughter is going lug that doll every where pay the extra you and she will be much happier in the end.

Michele Alger said...

This was so completely helpful! Glad I ran into this post. This has been a question for years and I never knew how to find out without getting the two different dolls myself. So far, the Target brand has been fine. Thank you!

Loretta Boronat said...

I totally agree with your point. It’s not about the brand, but the quality. Aside from that, another factor is the need of your child. Not all toys and dolls are good for children. Some dolls that are not made with good quality materials, and may even pose a threat to your child’s wellness. It's good to know that you are concerned with the quality as much as how good it looks. Have a nice day!

Loretta Boronat @ My Sibling Dolls

Michigan mom said...

My daughter has and loves both Our Generation and American Girl dolls. I got her the OG doll first. She loved it, but the leg came out of socket within the first 3 weeks of play. The doll was unrepairable and that devastated my daughter. The hair of the OG dolls is also problematic. It is dry and tangles and matts easily. My daughter is very careful with her dolls and it still tangles. If your child is responsible, an American Girl doll is a much nicer doll
. The hair is beautiful and easy to maintain, and if there is a mishap and limbs need to be tightened or attached they can easily be repaired.

thearmyofone said...

Just stumbled on this post and wanted to put my 2 cents in. One thing I always loved about AG was their good books and the role models the dolls portray. Postive, strong, friendly, smart, caring girls who do hard things and make good choices. The historical books also teach about history and what it was like to live during their era which is cool. Even if you do settle for a generic, make sure and read the AG books--all of them. They are fabulous. Full of knowledge and helpful suggestions for all kinds of life situations!! The self-help ones have always been just the right thing at a different times in my daughters life and have helped a lot.

Unknown said...

This post was timely! I just had this conversation with my 7 year old. She has many Our Generation dolls and has loved them. However, she wants an American Girl doll so badly because the hair is always a problem with the OG dolls. So ratty. She also wants a doll that looks just like her. After brushing handfuls of hair out of one of her OG dolls today, I am giving in. Finally, an American Girl doll is coming for Christmas! Yikes! She's going to freak!

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Unknown said...

My daughter has multiple OG dolls and hasn't had these issues. But they were purchased in 2017, maybe there was a change in manufacturing?