|Peak's Woods Sky, as imagined by Val Zeitler|
A.k.a. the one that got away
First, when you say the word expensive, what exactly do you mean? Well, a resin ball-jointed doll can range in price from $75 to over $1000, and even more, depending on edition size, whether it's a basic doll or full-set, and so forth. Primarily, here are some factors of what influences price.
In the BJD world, the production of the ball-jointed doll is an arduous process. The heads and bodies of the dolls are first sculpted by artists, usually in clay, and cast into molds. Each piece of the body must be engineered carefully to include a canal for the elastic, so the doll can stand on its own.
Polyurethane resin is a toxic substance, which is liquid when poured into those molds--each part separately, and by hand--and then left to harden. (Resin bubbles easily, and it takes experts to pour it and mix it perfectly.) After each piece is removed from the mold, and seam lines are scraped, sanded, and often polished. The molds must be cleaned after each use. The dolls are strung by hand.
If there is a face-up, the face is painted and sealed, gloss accents are applied to the eyes and lips. Eyelashes are attached. Eyes are set. Then the heads are attached, and the dolls must be securely packaged for overseas travel.
For an absolutely fascinating and detailed description on what it takes to make a BJD, check out this interview with artist Kaye Wiggs with BJDmagazine.
Dolls manufactured in China usually cost a little less than dolls manufactured in Korea or Japan. Labor is generally less expensive. Especially in today's market, you'll be able to find dolls with the same quality as dolls poured in Japan and Korea.
You only need to look at companies like Resin Soul and sister company Bobobie for some examples of quality resin. In my experience, the doll comes to you already sanded, and prices are really good. However, production times can vary widely, so I'd recommend going through a dealer, such as Denver Doll Emporium or Junkyspot for these dolls. Often, dealers stock these inexpensive dolls, which range from $75 to $220.
Another item to consider is the edition size of the doll. Are you looking at a basic BJD or a limited edition (either a monthly doll, full-set, doll party exclusive, etc.)? The full-set or limited edition doll will add a significant cost to your doll. Of course, as your doll will be more limited in production, the doll may indeed hold its value. A basic doll is usually more affordable, and you can style your doll the way you like, in a true one-of-a-kind look.
I tend to try to plan ahead as much as possible. If you enjoy collecting from a particular company, you can look at their previous year's releases. Or it's possible to contact them at the beginning of the year and ask about upcoming editions, so you can plan your budget. (They may not give away details, but you might be able to plan ahead.) You can use layaway if needed and budget ahead of time.
If you're a fan of tan or colored resin, you may be disappointed. It's usually more difficult to match colored resin than it is to use white or pink skin tones. Some companies charge $10-15 extra for colored resin. Others may charge up to $30 for dark resin.
You can always add the face-up later, rather than purchasing a company face-up. This may save $50-80, depending on the company. I often find that when trying to saving money on a doll, however, I would rather have the company face-up, or even spend extra on an artist face-up, as this tends to really make the doll.
BJDs as works of art
Keeping in mind how much of the doll is handmade, being able to obtain one for just $75 is a pretty sweet bargain, in my opinion. It may be out of your current budget, but we are living in a Buy-It-Now culture. It won't kill you to save up for your dream doll. Trust me, that doll will probably come to your home eventually anyway. Why not save up for a little while, even if it takes more than a year, for the doll of your dreams?
To me, when you can support a smaller company, one-of-a-kind artists who do face-ups or create clothing or outfits, just for you, you're contributing not just to the economy but also to the world of art. It's worth it!