Contributing to the Collector's Guide

The Collector's Guide is the heart of the Dollation! The Collector's Guide is a community-edited doll encyclopedia and virtual doll catalog. If you want to start contributing to the Dollation, the Collector's Guide is a great place to start. Note that the Collector's Guide is also referred to as the Dollipedia (short for Doll Encyclopedia) in many places.

This handbook page gives some suggestions that will make adding and editing things in the Collector's Guide go as smoothly as possible. If you haven't already, please read the Introduction & General Tips.

Add big things first

The parts of the Collector's Guide are all linked together. For instance a doll company (like Mattel) has many brands (like Barbie and Monster High). Because of this, it's easiest to add the "big things" first, like companies, that many things refer to. A particular brand of doll, like Tonner's Tyler Wentworth collection, will often have many doll characters, like Tyler, Sydney Chase, and Esmé. A particular doll product, like a dressed doll or an outfit, will often be made to be part of a particular doll character's collection. So, before you add a particular item that's in your collection, you should check to see if the company, brand, and the character are already there.

If you want to quickly find out if something has been added, the search box is your friend!

So, for example, if you want to add your vintage 8" Betsy McCall doll to the Collector's Guide, the first thing you'd check to see is if the company that produced her (American Character) has been added. If it hasn't, you can add it using the "Add company" link at the top of the Companies list. Then make sure there's a Betsy McCall brand, etc.

Ideal order to add things to the Collector's Guide:

  1. Company: a manufacturer of doll-related products
  2. Brand / Product Line: a themed collection of doll products, used for marketing the dolls
  3. Character: the fictional (or real) person represented by a doll or in a doll's story
  4. Product: an individual item you can buy, like a dressed doll or an outfit

If you're feeling like being complete, you can add the Body type for the doll (dimensions, materials, etc.) the Face mold and a Person or two for the doll artist who designed her or the founder of the company, etc.

As time goes on, it will be more rare to find companies and brands that haven't been added yet but for now there are big holes and you can be the first to plug some of them!

Once you've got your particular Betsy McCall doll added (in this example) you're ready to click the "Add to My Collection" link on the Product page to indicate that you own one. See the next handbook page for using the Collection Tracker to track your collection and to share photos (and soon videos) of your treasures.

Add as little or as much detail as you'd like

The fun thing about the Collector's Guide is it's always being added to. We've deliberately made very little information required so that you can add what you know and flesh things out later. For instance, to add a Company or a Person (like a doll artist), the only required information is a name. But for each type of thing in the Collector's Guide there are some particularly useful details. The following list has the high priority information that it is nice to track down when adding each type of thing. (These are crucial because they improve the browsing experience.)

Content types and their essential information

  1. Company
    1. Logo, so it's easy to pick the company out from the default grid view
    2. Year the company was founded, so we can classify it as Antique, Vintage or Modern
  2. Brand
    1. Logo
    2. Company that owns the brand
  3. Character
    1. Small picture for the list on the brand page
    2. Names of the main character if this is a supporting or friend character in the line
  4. Product
    1. Product Type (doll, clothing, etc.)
    2. Picture(s), ideally the original catalog pictures
    3. Year it was first produced
    4. Brand
    5. Company
    6. Character (if any)
  5. Person
    1. Picture
  6. Body type
    1. Primary material
    2. Height
  7. Face mold
    1. Close-up picture of a doll with that mold

For all content, another crucial field is Links / Sources! See the important note on copyrights.

See the links below for more tips on finding catalog pictures, including using the amazing Internet Archive "Wayback Machine", and specific tips about adding products.

How to Find Catalog Pictures

In the first three methods below to find the image on the Internet, once you have found the image, to save it to your hard drive, right click on the picture and choose "Save Image As..." from the drop-down menu. (The menu label may vary depending on which browser you use.) I usually save images to my desktop or a temporary folder so I can quickly remove them from my hard drive after I've uploaded them to the Dollation server.

Start at the Manufacturer's Website

The best source for catalog pictures to add to the Dollipedia is the manufacturer's website. This is easy for products that are still in production, but you will often find retired products still on the site too. Use a search engine string like "molly chiffarobe site:americangirl.com" to search just that site. (Bold just added for emphasis. This works in Google and Bing.)

Try the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a partial archive of old web pages. Enter the URL of the manufacturer's website (even if it is now off-line). If you know the year of the product you are looking for, this may allow you to access the original web page for the product which may or may not have the images also archived.

Do a Broad Search

Be sensitive about copyright ownership if you do this. If you find a site that has used the catalog picture unaltered you may also use it. If they have altered it in any way, such as put a watermark on it or added text to it, do not use it. You should credit the original source of the image, for instance by adding the site link to the "Links" page of the Brand page and/or listing them as a source in the Notes field of the Brand. (Don't use the Title field of the image because this is for the actual credit for the image, not the source where you found it.)

Find a PDF of a Catalog with the Product

Some manufacturers distribute their catalogs as PDFs. Smart companies, like Tonner Dolls, make an archive of past catalogs available to their collectors. To snip a portion of a PDF, the easiest way to do it is to open the PDF to the page you want and use a screen capture tool to get the part you want. The steps to do the screen capture vary so much by operating system, you should do a web search such as "Windows 7 screen capture" to get instructions. You may also have to use a photo editor to crop the resulting image if your screen capture tool doesn't let you select a region.

Scan an Old Catalog or Advertisement

This is low on the list because the quality of scanned images is often poor. For older or more obscure products, though, this may be the only way to get a catalog picture. After you've scanned the page you should crop it to show just the individual product.

Take a High Quality Picture Yourself or Obtain Permission to Use Someone Else's

This picture should be in the style of a catalog picture: sharp, good lighting, with an uncluttered background. The picture shouldn't show props that aren't part of the product (though you should show outfits on a doll even if the doll is sold separately).

If you use your own picture or someone else's, you should put the credit in the Title field of the image so future editors know this is not an "official" catalog picture. Your picture may be replaced or bumped down if an actual catalog picture is found in the future. If you do have extra props, note them in the Title field of the image, after the credit such as "Photo by Jane Doe, bunny not included".

Tips for Adding Products

Here are some basic tips on adding products.

Product Names

  • Use the manufacturer's product name. If the name changes over time, use the name at product introduction and add the name changes to the Pricing field in the Notes column (and add the date when the name was changed, if you know it.)
  • If you cut and paste the name from an on-line source, change any ’ characters to '. For instance, change "Molly’s Doll" to "Molly's Doll" (the difference is apostrophe vs. single quote). The reason is to make auto-completion work in other places when you are referring to this product (like in the Related Products field) -- keyboards have a single quote character but they don't have apostrophe, so the completion won't work. (Yes, I know that apostrophe is more correct, and looks prettier.)

Product Prices & Codes

  • Pricing often changes over time. Make the first price in the pricing table the price at introduction. Then list the pricing changes with latest last and include the year of the price change in the Notes column if you know it.
  • Product codes (SKUs) can change over time as well. Note the new codes (so they'll show up in searches) and the year of the code change if you know it.
  • Right now, all prices are in dollars. Use the notes field if these are non-US dollars (for instance, Canadian or Australian). If the product is only sold in a different currency (e.g. Yen, British pounds, German Marks) add the approximate price in US dollars using a currency converter and indicate the actual currency in the Notes column, e.g., "Converted from British Pounds".

Products with Variations

Sometimes a product changes either subtly or dramatically over the course of its production. An example of a subtle change is the fabric or trim of a clothing item may be changed. An example of a dramatic change is the outfit a dressed doll comes in may change. When do you consider a change to be an entirely new product? The general advice is to follow the lead of the manufacturer. If they leave the product name and code (also known as SKU) the same, consider it the same product and note the variation in the Pricing / Variations field. Otherwise, make it a new product.

Some collecting communities may choose to create separate products for some major changes (usually because owning both versions is common / desirable and they want to be able to track them separately in their Collection Tracker.) This is fine as long as it is consistent. For instance, if a starter outfit change is considered a new doll product it has to be handled that way for all dolls of that brand.

Products that Are Combined or Split Over Time

Sometimes a company will offer two products separately, such as an outfit and the coordinating shoes, then later combine them into one product. Other times they will split out pieces from a product into a separate product, such as making an outfit available separately from the accessories that used to be bundled with it. 

If you're adding the combined/split product to the Collector's Guide for the first time (so nobody has it in their Collection Tracker), add them as separate products and then add a product of type Bundle for combined version. If there is a combined product that exists already, change it to a Bundle and then add the newly separated products.

It gets tricky when when sets are combined but pieces of the original sets are left out. Then it's generally best to consider the combined set a new product.