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Ask anyone who collects vintage dolls, and they will no doubt be able to show you entire bookshelves full of reference books. Books are important to doll collectors for two reasons. First, the books usually contain important information about the doll companies; and second, the best doll books are resplendent with dozens of color photographs to help you identify your dolls.

Not all doll reference books are created equally, however. Photo and printing quality varies between books -- especially vintage doll books, which (despite their age) can be excellent resources. Generally, the books that you will find most helpful will be those that provide plenty of pictures and information about identifying characteristics.

Below are some doll book titles that every vintage doll collector should own.

Small Dolls of the 40s and 50s, by Carol Stover

This wonderfully detailed book is a must-have for anyone who collects small dolls. The book has chapters on each of the popular toddler dolls and small fashion dolls: Vogue Ginny, Cosmopolitan Ginger, Nancy Ann Muffie, Madame Alexander Alexander-Kins, and more. The book also includes information for identifying unmarked dolls and clothing.

Collector s Encyclopedia of Vogue Dolls, by Judith Izen and Carol Stover

Ginny dolls are wildly popular with collectors. This entire book is devoted to describing and photographing the various outfits and changes in the dolls over the years, from the 1940s all of the way to the modern-day Ginny doll.

The World of Alexander-Kins, by Patricia Smith

Madame Alexander s eight-inch toddler doll, known as Wendy or Alexander-Kins, easily rivaled Ginny in its variety of outfits. Patricia Smith s book offers hundreds of pictures of the different dolls available over the years, as well as a discussion of the changes that took place in the construction of the dolls.

Madame Alexander Collector s Dolls, by Patricia Smith

Although this early doll reference book contains mostly black-and-white photographs, it still offers one of the most comprehensive pictorial references of Madame Alexander dolls. The book is organized by year, documenting the way the dolls and outfits changed year-to-year. Although the book is currently out of print, it can be found by searching sites that sell used books, such as eBay, Half -dot- com, and Amazon -dot- com.

Madame Alexander Collector s Dolls: Second Series, by Patricia Smith

Like the previously mentioned book, Patricia Smith s Second Series contains mostly black-and-white photographs. However, the additional pictures and information make this book a valuable companion to the first book. This reference book is organized alphabetically, making it easier to find pictures of the doll you are looking for. Like its predecessor, however, this particular book is out of print, making it hard to find.

Madame Alexander 2007 Collector s Dolls Price Guide, by Linda Crowsey

Crowsey s doll values guide is a must-have for any serious Madame Alexander collector. The book is released each year with updated values. The book is also illustrated with photographs of Madame Alexander dolls; although there are fewer pictures than the other reference books listed here, they are exchanged for new photographs in each edition, making it worthwhile to buy a new copy every year.

American Character Dolls, By Judith Izen

Reference books are plentiful for more well known dolls, but it can be difficult to find information on lesser-known companies. That s why this book on American Character is so special. The book offers a chapter on each of the company s different dolls, complete with many detailed color photos.

Revlon Dolls and Their Look-Alikes, by Kathy Barna

Believe it or not, Barbie was nothing terribly original. There were a host of fashion dolls available for as long as ten years before Barbie s debut, and these pre-Barbie fashion dolls are especially sought-after by collectors. Barna s reference book provides some of the best photographs I ve seen of pre-Barbie fashion dolls. The book focuses primarily on Miss Revlon and Little Miss Revlon, but also includes several chapters on competitors dolls of the era.