I believe my daughter started her American Girl doll collection at about six years old. She was always given an American Girl doll on her birthday and we always let her choose which doll she would like. The doll in the photo is Samantha, my daughter's very first American Girl.
Most of the girls in our neighborhood also owned these dolls, so there would be American Girl birthday parties, sleepovers, and even Girl Scout Meetings.
At $87, these dolls were, and still are, costly. The price of the doll, plus the accessories, and furniture is quite high. It's easy to get caught up in the frenzy.
Mail order catalog shopping was the only method of purchasing these dolls before the opening of the American Girl Stores and online shopping. The arrival of each new catalog was met with great excitement, especially around Christmas. Not only were the girls talking about these dolls and their accessories, so were us moms!
Most of the dolls' accessories were well made and quite irresistable. Some girls like to focus on collecting many dolls and other girls are content with a couple dolls and accumulating many of the accessories that go with each doll.
The dolls also come with books relating to their lives. Some of the dolls have historical backgrounds, which makes accessorizing them both fun and educational. There are also modern dolls representing girls of today.
American Girl dolls are 18" tall, which is a nice play size. American Girls have vinyl heads, arms, and legs, with a firmly stuffed muslin torso. Their heads, arms, and legs, move so they can easily be dressed. They wear glued down synthetic wigs. Their eyes are open and close with soft eyelashes. Their mouths are painted on. They are pretty dolls.
Some complaints about the doll - they are too expensive. Not all families can afford to drop $90 on a doll. Their hair tends to eventually frizz up, even if it never gets wet, which should not happen for that price. The hair on some of the dolls is very difficult to brush. There is so much of it and some wigs tangle easily. The repair charges for decapitated heads and broken limbs is excessive. They should stand behind their work and not charge such high prices for the hospital stays. It seems like they are trying to discourage you from repairing and encourage you to buy a new doll. That said, we have never had to send any of our dolls to the doll hospital.
I would recommend these dolls if your daughter intensely desires one, especially if all her friends are getting them. If not, there are plenty of attractive, more affordable dolls out there.