The American Girl Doll Hospital:
Our Experiences & Silver Eye

We’ve always fixed our own dolls, with the exception of AG Doll eyes, since they are so delicate. We know that eye swapping has become very popular, but it’s a practice we are opposed to. American Girl Dolls have “sleep eyes” which open and close based upon weights in the eye. It is very easy to mess up the balance or mis-position the eyes, leading to eyes that are slow to open and close, completely static, or sunken.

We ended up sending 3 of our dolls to the AG Doll Hospital since we acquired 3 dolls with Silver Eye. Silver Eye is the condition where the sicker of the eye pulls away from the plastic dome, making the iris look silver.

This is considered to be a defect by the AG Doll company, and they will replace the eyes for free.  Use the contact link on the Doll Hospital page to let them know you have a silver eyed doll, and they will tell you they can’t promise to replace it for free, but if they examine it and find that the defect was their fault, it will be paid for.

After filling out one form for each doll and shoving them all into a box, we had to pay for postage to Middleton, WI. Thanks to our merchant shipping discount and location nearby, it was under $6 for postage. For most people, though, the cost will run from $10-$15, or even more if you choose Priority Mail shipping and insurance.

We didn’t hear anything from the doll hospital for approximately 4 weeks. We knew from the tracking number that it had arrived, but didn’t receive any communication from them. Finally we received an email from them about a month in that our dolls had arrived at the Doll Hospital, and it was rather uninformative. Strangely enough, about three days later they were returned back to us, fixed, via UPS. We can only conclude that they sent the arrival message when they departed the hospital, since we were fully expecting another few weeks before getting them back after that email.

Since they concluded that the silver eye was a defect they were responsible for, they paid for the return shipping and replaced the eyes for free. They normally charge $7.95 return shipping for each doll (a total of about $25 for us). Fortunately, given the silver eye, they paid for the return shipping and returned our check.

We were prepared for getting the Mattel version of the doll eyes, as we knew from our experience in the doll market that they replace the eyes with what they have in stock, they didn’t stockpile the same eyes produced ten to twenty five years ago. AG dolls produced in the ‘90s and early 2000s had soft eyelashes that matched their hair color, and the early 1980s dolls had beautiful long black individual eyelashes. These were gone, and replaced with the modern all-black, rock-hard Mattel eyelashes. This fact deters many collectors from sending their dolls in for new heads or eyes. It was disappointing to see the eyelashes, but the dolls absolutely needed new eyes. Dolls with silver eye have a much, much lower resale value.

Soft brown Pleasant Company lashes

Hard black American Girl lashes.

To give the AG Doll Hospital credit, they really went all out.  We expected a stripped-down version given the fact that they were being repaired for free. But no, we got the whole doll hospital experience. The dolls were shipped back with a hospital gown, hospital bracelet, white socks, a cute get well card, and a doctor’s certificate indicating that the doll had been checked over by a doll doctor and declared well again. They even were shipped back in individual white doll boxes with an American Girl Doll Hospital Band-Aid sticker on the front.  Their skin was cleaned, and their hair braided and combed, which was nice.

The strange part was how they handled the rest of the dolls. Although 2 of the 3 had been recently restrung (recently as in within the past week), they for some reason decided to restring them again themselves… with inappropriately thin cord. Using too thin of cord means that even though the cord is pulled tight, the weight of the limbs can still drag them down, making the limbs loose and difficult to stay in one position. To put it bluntly, their legs were floppy! We ended up having to restring the two dolls again, which was incredibly frustrating. This wasn’t just us being perfectionists. It was literally that the legs would not stay in a 45 degree position and kept sliding down to the floor (aka they failed the Restringing Test).

Moreover, they for some reason only restrung 3 of the 4 joints on one of those dolls, and we’re not sure why they didn’t restring the third doll at all. The two that were restrung came back with new neck strings, too. Also bizarre was that they used metal fasteners to restring the dolls, even though new dolls now come with knots in the string to hold it tight instead of metal fasteners. The fasteners were thin and small and not very tightly compressed, which would likely have led to them popping off down the line somewhere.  It was very shoddy work.

While we certainly didn’t expect the dolls to be restrung when going to the doll hospital for a free eye swap, and that was very kind of the AG company to do it, their complementary restringing ended up being very annoying because they did it so poorly and erratically, resulting in more work for us.

The 45 Degree Angle Restringing Test

The upside was that the process only cost us about $6 out of pocket for new eyes on 3 dolls. They did a good job of cleaning and brushing the dolls. We appreciated the new necks strings, and the new boxes and doll hospital outfit was great!

The downside was that they came back with the lower-quality Mattel eyelashes. It took forever – about 5 weeks – from start to finish. There was little communication during the process, and it was clearly inaccurate. They had attempted to restring some of/some parts of the dolls, but did a poor job of it leading to floppy legs that had to be restrung (again!). The cost was prohibitive. For the average person, it would have cost $10-15 dollars for shipping for silver eyed dolls. For the average person without silver eye (perhaps someone who attempted an eye swap?), it would have cost a whopping  $45.95 to $50.95 for shipping both ways and the eye replacement, PLUS tax, plus additional if you paid for insurance or rush shipping.  Wow.

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