Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve my beloved American Girl dolls. My first was Felicity, a historical doll representing English colonial America. Her freckles looked like mine, I read every single corresponding book, and I LOVED her. Next, I got Addy, followed by Kirsten, before I finally got the then-newly released dolls you can customize to look just like you (yes, I was lucky to have so many.) I was completely enamored with everything American Girl, and they played a part in every gift-receiving occasion I had growing up, right through about sixth grade.
Later when I was pregnant and found out I was having a girl, American Girl dolls were one of the things I couldn’t wait to share with her. Now that she’s 5, she’s at the prime age to get a doll of her own.
But, as a shopping and commerce writer, I also became aware of a secondary, more affordable doll option—the Our Generation Doll collection exclusively available at Target.
Chances are, you’ve seen them too, and maybe have even struggled to tell the two apart, like I have. (Though, I’ve strolled by the display countless times and never really took a close look until about a year or so ago.)
To my daughter’s benefit, I was recently able to get both dolls and do a proper comparison for a friendly face-off between the two competing brands. Here’s an honest review from one mom—me!
Honest Review: American Girl vs. Our Generation Dolls
History of the Two Brands
American Girl dolls first hit the market back in 1986 created by Pleasant T. Rowland of Pleasant Company. Initially, each 18-inch heirloom quality doll represented a historical fiction character throughout American history and came with books that told their story. It was a mix of education, history, and play. The brand has grown exponentially, having been purchased by Mattel in 1998. American Girl is still releasing new historical dolls, including twins from the 1990s earlier this year, and their annual “Girl of the Year” dolls, Truly Me dolls, and fully customizable dolls are available for purchase online or in-person at one of their retail experiences.
Our Generation dolls came on the scene in 1998 by Battat, a Canadian company that now exclusively partners with Target, with a variety of dolls and accessories available in Target stores and online.
Cost Comparison: American Girl vs. Our Generation Dolls
It’s no secret that American Girl dolls are more expensive than their competitors, with pre-designed 18-inch dolls starting around $115 and rising from there. At Target, Our Generation Dolls (also 18 inches) begin around $26—nearly 75 percent cheaper.
American Girl also has the option to customize your own with their Create Your Own offering, which begins at $220. Our Generation doesn’t offer this fully customizable option, but does have a diverse range of dolls currently available.
Because Our Generation dolls are available at Target, you can often score them on sale or falling within a promotional code or discount, whereas American Girl does run promotions, just less often.
It’s also worth mentioning that American Girl dolls are considered collector’s items and, at times, can increase in resale value. Our Generation dolls aren’t quite there yet—but you never know!
Doll Quality: American Girl vs. Our Generation
On the surface, I’m not able to tell the difference between the two dolls. They are both the same height, have relatively similar facial features and hair lengths, and even their accessories are somewhat similar. The difference can be felt, though.
In my opinion, the Our Generation dolls’ hair can be described as basic, somewhat dry doll hair whereas the American Girl counterparts’ hair feels a bit more thick, a bit more luxe, and a bit more shiny. (Again, this only matters if you care about these things but one of my favorite things to do as a kid was practice braiding on my dolls, so I happen to think hair is important!)
I also think the body parts of the American Girl dolls have a bit more flexibility and pose-ability than Our Generation.
Accessory Comparison: American Girl vs. Our Generation Dolls
Both brands of dolls offer an impressive selection of accessories from furniture to clothing, hobby-related items, medical and health materials, as well as clothing and footwear. Since both dolls are 18 inches tall, the clothing for American Girl and Our Generation dolls do fit each other. However, the doll proportions are ever-so-slightly different so clothes may not fit perfectly, but not enough for most children to notice.
What also sets American Girl apart is that they have licensed partnerships and collaborations with brands including Disney, Dreamworks, and LoveShackFancy. So if having trendy accessories or iconic Disney princess dresses is important to you, American Girl accessories may be more your speed. But the Our Generation accessories cover almost all the bases too—think pets, furniture, school accessories, camping gear, and more.
And yes, the accessories for both American Girl and Our Generation are interchangeable.
While books aren’t technically considered doll accessories, it’s important to note that when American Girl was first founded in 1986 with the historical character dolls, they were each aligned with a set of books that told the story of the girl. This created an interactive bridge between doll playing, collecting, and learning. The founder, Pleasant T. Rowland, was a writer and educator after all. So while some Our Generation dolls come with books featuring the characters as well, they don’t yet compete with the American Girl historical dolls.
Shop Similar American Girl and Our Generation Accessories
Customer Service Comparison: American Girl vs. Our Generation Dolls
Since American Girl dolls are their own brand, they also have their own designated Customer Service department for any issues with ordering, shipping, delivery, and product quality. If your doll happens to get damaged or “injured” the company has a Care Center that can help to repair and refresh your doll under most circumstances. They can repair or reattach limbs, clean the doll, restyle the doll’s hair, and more. Some of the American Girl stores, like the one in NYC, even have a cafe, in-store party options, hotel packages, a “spa,” and more.
Because Target’s Our Generation dolls are exclusively sold at Target, they are considered Target merchandise and are subject to their customer service policy. Speaking only from personal experience, Target has a pretty robust return and exchange policy and does tend to stand by the items they sell. Though, they don’t offer repairs or refreshes and have yet to open a “spa.”
So, Which Doll is “Better”?
To me, there really is no “better” as it’s truly a matter of priorities and preferences.
I’m sure childhood nostalgia has something to do with my brand loyalty, but I do prefer the American Girl dolls. As for my daughter, she’s 5. She doesn’t know the difference. So we will continue to mix and match both doll brands and accessories—because why not?