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.
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!