Götz (Americanized to “Goetz,” although sometimes misspelled Gotz) was the original company that produced the American Girl Dolls back when they were first created. This was the Pleasant Company era in the late 80s and early 90s when the dolls had white or tan bodies, flat neck strings, and were marked “Made in Germany.”
Although Götz has not produced American Girl Dolls in many years, their modern dolls are quite similar and have the same individually strung joints. Götz remains a highly respected doll manufacturer. If American Girl is the Cadillac of play dolls in America, Götz is a BMW. Recently, Pottery Barn Kids has been importing them.
We thought it would be very interesting to compare a Götz Pottery Barn Kids doll to a modern American Girl doll to see how far each of these companies have come, and which is better. We have a Just Like You American Girl Doll from 2010 and a 2016 Penelope Goetz doll purchased through Pottery Barn.
The Vinyl Limbs
Both dolls have blonde hair and stand 18” high, with a cloth body and vinyl limbs. The molds for their arms and legs are pretty much identical. Penelope’s vinyl is pinker, and her body more tan, than the American Girl doll. However, the “skin color” for the dolls for each collection vary even within each manufacturer.
The Cloth Body
The Goetz body is just slightly skinnier than the American Girl, but they could probably share most clothes. Neither one has sewn-in underwear (American Girl indicated in February 2017 that they would produce many of their dolls with sewn-in, non-removable underwear and began production. After a backlash, American Girl retracted their decision and has decided to stick with removable underwear.). Although the American Girl doll pictured has neck strings, American Girl dolls today are produced without them. This means that new dolls of both brands have zip ties instead of neck strings.
The Götz doll has slightly fuller cheeks and a bit different of a facial mold than the American Girl doll (who has the classic face mold). The Götz Penelope doll has a face mold very similar to Kaya/Logan’s with those fuller cheeks and closed mouth. This American Girl has her teeth showing, while the this Götz does not. Both have sleep eyes with hard black eyelashes, although the Götz doll has a pretty pattern on the iris. Please note that the American Girl shown is about 10 years old and her makeup has come off – otherwise their makeup would be almost identical. The nose and ears are very similar on both dolls. Götz has a slightly longer neck (giving it that extra .5 inch of height), which I feel is more life-like than the stubby AG neck.
Götz uses the same individually string joint method as American Girl does today, with an elastic band running through two tension cups (one in the limb and one in the body) to hold the arms and legs tight. Götz is a step up from American Girl in this regard because the joints have a small zip tie through them to keep the knot from slipping through the tension cup (we’ve run into this problem with American Girl doll joints before). Both are filled with white polyester stuffing.
Götz is different from American Girl in that their Pottery Barn Kids line has rooted hair instead of wigged hair like American Girl. There isn’t too much of a difference between a doll with wigged hair versus rooted; one is not naturally more superior to the other (although some people have a strong preference). Each has its pros and cons. Rooted hair has tiny plugs that can be seen along the hairline and part, but can be easier to brush that wigged hair, and you can’t see any wefts (especially when parted for pigtails). Wigged hair may look a bit more lifelike without having the plugs, but then you can see the wefts of where the hair has been sewn into the wig (especially when there are pigtails). You can easily cut the hair off of any rooted hair doll and replace it with a wig, so it is easy to move to a wigged doll.
A better indicator of hair quality is not whether it is wigged or rooted, but the thickness and silkiness of the hair. The Götz doll wins hands down as far as thickness. It is easily 2x as thick as the American Girl Doll’s wig. Although the American Girl Doll has much thinner hair, it is slightly silkier than the Götz doll’s.
Götz does a great job with the meet outfit for their dolls. Each doll comes home with a multi-piece outfit, each piece having been made with close attention to detail. Penelope, for instance, comes with riding pants with sewn-in faux leather, riding boots with a ton of buckles, a two-fabric riding jacket (suede and polyester), a white undershirt, a white necktie, and a black suede riding helmet (seven pieces).
New Just Like You doll like the American Girl doll shown come with a purple meet dress, underwear, and plain blue flats (four pieces). The pieces are much simpler, and there are fewer of them.
A more fair comparison, though, would be to an American Girl contemporary doll like Tenney. Tenny comes with a t-shirt, jean vest, faux leather printed skirt, ankle boots, and a bracelet (six pieces). All of these items show close attention to detail, unlike the Just Like You dolls’. Essentially, contemporary American Girl dolls and Götz Pottery Barn Kids dolls have a comparable number and quality of clothing pieces that come with the dolls.
Goetz has about 8 dolls available at any given time through Pottery Barn Kids, but they retire and introduce new characters fairly frequently. They offer both male and female dolls. Their dolls have an age range of 3+, which seems a little young. American Girl has something like 60 different dolls to choose from at any given time, all but one of them being girl dolls. They are for children age 8+, but their service reps will encourage parents to buy them for children as young as 4. Both companies offer a wide variety of doll clothes, furniture, and accessories.
American Girl Dolls are priced retail for $115, but you pay taxes both online and in store, making all of their dolls cost around $124. Unless you pick one up in store, you are looking at shipping charges of at least $10. Pottery Barn Kids Götz dolls range from $99-$129. They charge tax of around $3-$5, and shipping is free. Total, you are looking at around $103-$135. Both companies will occasionally reduce prices during sales and promotions.
The Final Verdict
For all intents and purposes, the dolls are the same below the head. With zip ties, vinyl limbs, cloth body, and inner workings they are pretty much the same doll. The major differences are in the head.
Personally, I like the Götz doll’s eyes better, I think they have a pretty choice of colors and I really like the patterned iris. I also like how thick the Götz doll’s hair is. Thicker hair means more durable hair, it will stand up to play for longer – and then you can easily swap out the rooted hair for a wig instead of re-rooting. The rooted hair works well for styling, as well.
As for the face mold, it is a personal choice. I’m a sucker for smiling dolls. I think it is a little creepy that you can see two buck teeth on the American Girl Dolls, but I like their smiles better than the Götz dolls’ smaller (but closed-mouth) smiles.
Götz dolls exceeded our expectations; they are surprisingly comparable to American Girl Dolls. Both companies produce a high quality product well ahead of any other doll manufacturer on the market. Given their relative equality, we think the more superior doll will depend upon personal taste and needs (for example, a child who likes to play stylist may be better fit with a Götz doll). American Girl has a certain cachet among young girls in the US, but I think Götz is doing a good job gaining in popularity.