Identifying a Mattel vs Pre-Mattel American Girl Samantha or Josefina

I was checking out Lisa’s photos of her new “old” Josefina this morning and remembered that long ago I had put up some photos and identifying differences between two pre-Mattel vs. Mattel versions of Samantha and Josefina on a site that I had before I started Doll Diaries. Once I looked at the information again, I decided it was time I share it again in case any of you were interested or needed help identifying an older American Girl doll.

Mattel vs Pre-Mattel (Pleasant Company) version of American Girl Samantha

Pre-Mattel and Mattel Samantha dolls retired

These photos were taken by a friend of mine in 2006 of her newer Mattel version of Samantha (on the left) and her Pleasant Company Samantha (on the right). Here are some of the differences she has noted:

  • EYES – The PM doll (on the right) has lighter brown eyes and they are a slightly different shade
  • EYELASHES – The PM doll has lighter, softer lashes
  • EYEBROWS – The PM doll has lighter eyebrows
  • SKINTONE – The PM Samantha has a different skintone, too

Mattel Samantha Pleasant Company Samantha

And a closer photo for you to note the differences too.

Mattel vs Pre-Mattel (Pleasant Company) American Girl Josefina

Mattel vs Pre Mattel American Girl Josefina

She also has a Mattel Josefina and a Pre-Mattel Josefina. Here are some of the differences she has noted in these two dolls:

  • EYES – The PM doll (on the right) has lighter brown eyes
  • EYELASHES – The PM doll has much lighter, softer lashes
  • EYEBROWS – The PM doll has darker eyebrows
  • SKINTONE – The dolls’ skintone varies a bit
  • HAIR – The PM Josefina has much thicker hair
  • DRESS COLOR – The dresses are slightly different in color – probably due to age
  • MOCCASINS – The PM ones have leather like ties where as the Mattel version have more of a shoestring type tie
  • EARRINGS – These are also a bit different

Josefina before Mattel and Mattel versions

What do you think? Do you like the “original” version of the dolls or the Mattel version better?

More tidbits:

  • American Girl dolls made before 1991 had white cloth bodies where as the newer dolls have skintone colored cloth bodies and only Kirsten, Samantha and Molly were made with the white bodies.
  • The original dolls (first made in 1986) had tags that said Made in Germany and were made by Goetz.
  • Mattel bought the Pleasant Company in 1998.
  • Even though Mattel purchased the company in 1998, dolls continued to have the Pleasant Company stamp on the back of their necks for years to come.

If anyone has a Pre-Mattel and Mattel version of the same doll and would like to do a side by side comparison, we’d love to share it!

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  1. Dina says:

    The original version is a much better made doll. You can definitely see the difference in quality.

  2. Grace says:

    secondie, thanks that was realy helpful!

  3. Melody says:

    My 3rd cousin in virginia used to have Josephina I wish she still did but she grew up and probally gave her away

  4. Tilde says:

    I prefer the mattel dolls actually; I don’t really like the way the faces looked like before. And do you mean the götz dolls company? To write an “ö” you just hit this ( ¨ ) button one time than “o” (:

  5. Char says:

    You’re right Tilde – I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to do the ö correctly.

  6. Caitlin says:

    I like the Mattel Samantha doll better. I don’t know about the Joseafina dolls but I think I might like the Pre- Mattel one better

  7. H says:

    THANK YOU for spelling Josefina correctly. It gets on my nerves so much when people spell it “Josephina”. :)
    I don’t own any pre-mattel dolls, but I wish I did. They sound like they’re much better quality.

  8. Erica says:

    I have a ”loved” Pleasant Company Molly, named Lizzie, I can tell her mold is different compared to my Julie, Ivy, and Kanani. But i want a new Molly.

  9. ag luvr says:

    luv it! the only thing is that i wish that they still have samantha and nellie. i found out about american girl when they retired!! :-(

  10. Lena says:

    Well, Molly’s mold (original) would be different from Julie (Josefina mold) and Ivy & Kanani (Jess mold).

    Actually, I’ve seen “Goetz” and “Götz” used interchangably by the company themselves. I think it may have to do with English speakers being confused by the umlaute (I have actually met some).

    I love the PM Josefina’s surprised face. It’s adorable.

  11. Lisa says:

    I like the PM versions better because the wigs are so much thicker. My daughters are heavy brushers and pull the hair out quite easily; plus when you put your doll’s hair in hairstyles like ponytails and braids, you don’t see the under part of the wig; I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most about some of the newer dolls, I can usually see the wig base in certain hairstyles even on a new doll.

  12. Sofia says:

    I think that I may like the PM Josefina better, yet I like the Mattel Samantha better.

  13. Zoe says:

    My Julie has “Pleasant company” stamped on her neck and the girl i got her from got her in
    ’08. weird.

  14. Char says:

    Zoe – my Chrissa from 2009 has Pleasant Company stamped on her neck.

  15. Lena says:

    ^^So does mine. It means that an old head mold mold was used.

  16. lissy says:

    i did a comparison of felicities with a friend. you can find it on my blog ( in a post titled felicity fans. my friend has an old one and she is very loved and mine is very new and fresh. however, you can see differences in their face molds and coloring.

  17. Chloe says:

    Ave the PRE Mattel felicity and she’s pretty diffrent

  18. Lena says:

    I think Felicity is the easiest to tell if she’s Mattel or not. The PC one has carrot red hair, while M’s is more auburn.

  19. caroline says:

    i have a pre-mattel Josefina, and a bunch of pre-mattel samantha clothes and a pre-mattel samantha but we lost her at k-mart when i was 4, and we got a new one. 5 years later she’s still here with us and i also have a pre-mattel kirsten, which was my moms’. The rest are MAG and Rebecca.

  20. Meline says:

    I have a PM Felicity, my friend has the Mattel one, and in addtion to the carrot red hair, my Felicity’s eyes are more electric than her’s. I love my PM’s hair, but not her mold/vynal because it reflects light weird and while she’s georgous in real life, pictures of her cause her to look strange. I think my Felicity is actually from early after Mattel took over because true PM’s have chubbier bodies (my friend has PM Samantha) and my Felicity is simarly sized to my other girls

  21. Maria says:

    my Samantha and Kits arms are turning black shoud i send them in to the doll hospital?

    Char, if you sit Felicty on her belly and hit her head (lightly) eyelash come back and if you sit her up it goes back the way it was (broken)? Thats what my Samantha does

  22. Kalina says:

    Nice to know that just checking the stamp on the back of the head isn’t enough!
    Thanks for this! :)

  23. Char says:

    Maria – were Samantha and Kit wearing dark clothes for a long period of time? And yes, I can get Felicity’s eyelashes out if I lean her forward.

  24. Sharry says:

    As a toy collector, I used to get the old Pleasant company catalogs back in the day. I have a pre-Mattel My AG. They seem to be fatter than Mattel. The heads are wider. And I think the cloth on the bodies is different. The AGs now, don’t they have kind of a poly/cotton blend body? My old AG has a linen cloth body. I got her used so there are little holes in the cloth.

  25. Sarah says:

    I’ve never acctually seen a PM doll in person, so I can’t say which I like better! Lol!

  26. Maria says:

    my dad looked up how to fix the doll eyes and he found that it is known as a ”fallen lash” american girl fixes it for free.But you newer know if that is true.

  27. Char says:

    Maria – thanks. I will check into it.

  28. Hayley says:

    I have 6 Mattel AG and 1 Pre Mattel doll and Kirsten is my Pre Mattel doll and
    I compared that mold to the other classic mold dolls that I have and the face is bigger on Kirstens then the Mattel dolls and I like the Mattel dolls a little bit better the Pre Mattel dolls

  29. Hayley says:

    Maria – try a mr.clean magic eraser I used that on my Kirsten she had sooooooo much dirt and junk on her because I got her used off eBay

  30. Meg says:

    I have 2 “old” American Girl dolls and I think that they both have peach cloth bodies. I’ll have to go check. I got Molly for Christmas in 1989 and Kirsten in 1990 or 1991. I even still own the original books, which only have Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly pictured in the back, since that was the whole line-up back then. I like the old cover art better, although I wish they had expanded the series sooner because I really enjoyed the Addy books as well. I was too old to want another doll by the time she came out, though.

  31. Char says:

    Meg – sounds like you have some gems! If you’d like to share photos of your dolls we’d love to see them! And, you are never too old for a new doll!