A Guide to PC & AG Differences

For those who aren’t experts at American Girl Dolls, it may be confusing to understand the difference between the earlier Pleasant Company brand of American Girl Dolls and today’s brand of American Girl Dolls.

To better understand, we need a little history lesson. American Girl started producing the first AG dolls in 1986. There were 3 historical dolls: Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly. They were manufactured in West Germany and had white bodies.

In the early 90’s the doll bodies were changed to be tan, to match the color of the doll arms and allow for outfits with lower necklines. At some point, the production center was shifted to China.

In 1998 the entire American Girl enterprise was sold to Mattel (the makers of Barbie). Once the original creator retires from the board in 2000, substantial changes start happening to the American Girl Doll line. In 2004 Pleasant Company was officially renamed as American Girl, and items are now produced tagged as “American Girl” instead of “Pleasant Company.”

There are some occasional exceptions to this rule. For example, the Logan doll released in 2017 is stamped Pleasant Company.

Hair:

Early Model Dolls: The earliest white body dolls and those produced soon after the change to tan had the most silky, soft hair imaginable. Unfortunately, the integrity of the sewing on the wigs has degraded over time, frequently resulting in hair loss. These dolls have very slightly lighter color of hair their their later counterparts.

Early Model Samantha

Mid-Model Dolls: The dolls made in the ‘90s and early 2000s have slightly less soft hair than their predecessors. It holds up well to brushing and generally last a long time,  only needing replacement from bad haircuts. Most of the Just Like You dolls in this period came with straight hair and blunt bangs.

Mid Model Samantha

Late Model Dolls: Continuing the trend, the hair of the late model dolls is slightly less soft, and often less thick. It does not hold up quite as well to brushing and styling, becoming frizzy more quickly and therefore leading to more frequent rewiggings. Curly and wavy hair are now more commonly produced, along with parts on the side or center of the head.

Late Model Samantha

Eyelashes:

Early Model Dolls: The earliest white body dolls and those produced soon after the change to tan had gorgeous long, individual eyelashes that gave the dolls a very feminine appearance. They were all black in color. Unfortunately, the individual lashes were prone to breakage.

Early Individual Lashes

Mid-Model Dolls: The dolls made in the ‘90s and early 2000s had incredibly soft, thick lashes which generally matched the hair color of the doll. Early mid-model dolls have longer and curved lashes, late mid-model dolls have short straight lashes. Some dolls in this period are prone to getting “Silver Eye,” a condition where the sticker of the eye pulls away from the plastic shell, giving it a silvery appearance. American Girl will replace the doll’s eyes for free if you mail her in to the American Girl Doll hospital. They’ll even do a basic cleaning, possibly a restringing, and free return shipping. See our Guide to the Doll Hospital for Old AG Dolls, though.

Mid-Model – Soft Thick Lashes

Late Model Dolls: There is a significant reduction in the quality of AG doll eyelashes. They are all now one color – black – regardless of hair color and are hard as a rock.

Late Model Black Lashes

Vinyl & Molds:

Early & Mid Model Dolls: These pre-Mattel dolls have slightly thicker, fuller molds. Their faces are slightly rounder, their limbs slightly larger. You might notice that current AG doll clothes and shoes may be a tight fit on these dolls. If you end up needing a replacement arm or leg, you will need to find a pre-Mattel match, otherwise the new limb will not match the color and shape of the old ones. Their vinyl is much softer to touch – an almost powdery feel – and easier to compress (aka squishier). They resist damage to the surface of the vinyl, meaning that they are far less likely to incur shiny streaks when they hit or are dragged along another surface. The dolls dolls are marked Pleasant Company on the back of their necks and often have the artist’s mark behind one ear.

Newer Doll (Left) v. Older Doll (Right)
Newer Doll (Left) v. Older Doll (Right)
Shiny Streaks

Late Model Dolls: The vinyl on these dolls are thicker, making them harder and less squishy. They are particularly prone to shiny marks along the skin. Indeed, just dressing and undressing a doll she got a shiny mark on her nose and cheek from rubbing against a table cloth. The limbs are slightly thinner than older dolls. For several years – even after the handover to Mattel and re-branding the line American Girl – late model dolls were still marked Pleasant Company on the back of the neck. Most dolls roughly from 2000 to today have American Girl LLC. American Girl’s newest boy doll Logan is marked Pleasant Company, however.

American Girl LLC Stamp
Pleasant Company Stamp

The Body:

Early & Mid- Model Dolls: The earliest dolls have white muslin bodies and long, flat neck strings. Mid-Model dolls have tan bodies that closely match the color of their vinyl limbs, and long round neck strings. The dolls have a broader chest and less stuffing, making them soft and huggable. They may have no body tag, or have a small one that reads Pleasant Company.

Early Model Doll – White Body
Mid-Model Josefina with thicker body
Late Model Josefina – Thinner body with tag

Late Model Dolls: Later model AG dolls have much more stuffing in them, making their bodies much harder. They have a narrower chest, making them appear less child-like in stature than earlier dolls. The color of the bodies do not match the color of the limbs as closely as Mid-Model dolls. They have shorter, thinner neck strings – or after 2016, no neck strings at all. Some – but not all – dolls have an extra “V” of fabric at the back of the neck to make restringing the neck strings easier. They may have small or extremely long body tags, depending upon how recently they were made.

Early Doll – flat neck strings
Transition period doll – tan body but flat neck strings
Mid- Model Doll – Bigger Round Neck Strings
Late-Model Doll – Thin Round Neck Strings, possibly a “V” at neck line.
New Dolls – No Neck Strings

The Inner Workings

Early & Mid-Model Dolls: These dolls have the original high-quality individual joints that make AG dolls so popular. The off-white elastic cord that holds the arms and legs to the body is quite thick and secured with one or more short, thick metal fasteners. Thanks to the squishiness of the vinyl, these dolls are much easier to restring. The tension cups inside vary in color and opacity, but the bowl of the cup is smooth without an additional ridge.

Mid-Model – 2 Fasteners
Late Model – 1 Fastener
Modern Doll – Knot

Late Model Dolls: The elastic cord is bright white and the elastic is a little less thick, often leading to loose limbs requiring restringing. This is particularly prevalent in the legs, who have more weight than the arms and therefore put more pull on the cord. In what we can only guess is a cost-cutting measure, the newest of the new dolls are not secured with metal fasteners, but instead, just a knot in the cord. We’ve noticed that this can lead to some defects, where the knot is pulled into the tension cup. For those dolls who do still have metal fasteners, they are less thick than earlier dolls. Because the vinyl is harder and the holes in the limbs less stretchy, it is slightly more difficult to restring them.

Defective knot is half-inside the tension cup

The Final Verdict:

After comparing the dolls, you can probably see why early and mid-model dolls are considered to be superior to late-model dolls. The most noticeable advantages are the soft matching eyebrows, soft huggable body, and streak-resistant vinyl of the older dolls. Many collectors perceive that the quality of AG dolls continue to decrease while their prices increase. Just think – about two years ago, they were $105 instead of $115.
However, the benefits of newer dolls are more customization: freckles, earrings, side part wigs, and curly wigs. With a new doll, you get the whole new-doll experience, complete with a box, story, and pretty new outfit.

Many first-time doll owners are hesitant to get a used doll, but thanks to the unique individual elastic joints system and replaceable wig, AG dolls have a lifespan of decades. In fact, if you buy a used doll, you can often re-sell it years later for the same price or at a profit. A new doll, however, will quickly decrease in value.

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