My colleague gave me an American Girl doll — should I sell it?

Dear Moneyologist,

A colleague of mine received a brand new American Girl “Doll of the Year” in the box, which she had received as a thank-you from a client four years ago.

She was recently cleaning out her office and offered me the doll. My wife and I could then surprise our 9-year-old daughter with this toy on her next birthday. I saw online that this same doll is currently selling on eBay for close to three times the original price. This means that we could probably sell this doll and buy a current one instead (for just a third of what we make from the sale). Or, since my daughter doesn’t even know about the doll that I have acquired, we could buy her a much less expensive toy instead for her next birthday (and end up with an even bigger profit).

The added complication is that this is an Hawaiian doll. It just so happens that my daughter is as fond of Hawaii as she is of American Girl dolls. She frequently talks about how she hopes that the three of us can one day vacation there. (We have no clue how our nine-year-old wound up with this love for Hawaii.) I think it’s also important to point out that my wife does not work. We decided that her being at home with our daughter was worth us struggling some as a single income family. As a result, we try to take advantage of opportunities to make extra money when they appear.

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Do you think this is one of those opportunities? Should we sell the doll? And if we do sell it, should we buy her this year’s doll instead, or go with an even cheaper present?

Matt in Albany

Dear Matt,

I just looked up those dolls online. Boy, you really hit the jackpot with the “Kanani American Girl Doll of the Year 2011.” She’s adorable with her bucktoothed smile — and expensive. For used versions, she’s currently retailing for between $200 and $349 on eBay and $600 for an unused version. The latest American Girl, “Grace, the 2015 Doll of the Year,” costs just $120. I knew these dolls were popular, and came with their own back story to humanize them. Even I am referring to the Kanani doll as “she” and not “it.”

Some pause for thought: This is a multibillion-dollar industry and your colleague probably didn’t realize she was parting with something so valuable. Dolls made up $2.3 billion last year of the $18.1 billion toy industry, according to the Toy Association, the industry group, and that doesn’t even include the lucrative resale market. An original 1959 Barbie sold in 2006 for $27,450, which was one of the highest, if not the highest, price ever paid for a Barbie doll. People sure do have an emotional attachment to these dolls.

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Read: Should the value of family gifts be ‘even’?

Should I sell a valuable doll given to me as a gift?

And they also have a potent place in popular culture. Last year, American Girl — which is owned by toy manufacturer Mattel
 , which also sells Barbie dolls — discontinued four dolls, two of which were dolls of color, from its historical collection. Facebook and Twitter lit up with indignation. In 2012, Mattel was also under pressure to follow the lead of MGA’s bald versions of Bratz and Moxie Girlz dolls and, rather than release a bald Barbie, distributed a bald “Friend of Barbie” to children’s hospitals instead.

You have a much sought-after American Girl doll in your possession, and you realize its full value. Instead of seeing innocence and hope in her big brown eyes, you see green dollar signs. If you had found this doll in a box bound for the garbage I would say, “Sure, sell it.” The fact that your daughter loves Hawaii is a bonus, but not the reason you should give it to her. This was a gift from a colleague, who I assume knew you had a young daughter, so you are bound by that social contract to follow through and pass the doll onto your daughter.

There may yet be complications. If your daughter decides she has moved on from American Girl, you are left with that doll and her $300 bucktoothed smile. In that case, ask your colleague if she knows of another friend’s daughter who would like it. If she doesn’t known anyone else, ‘fess up and tell her how much the doll is worth, and give her the option of selling it. Or — better yet — put Kanani on eBay and give the money to your children’s charity of choice. It will set a great example for your daughter.

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Also see: The trouble with Barbie

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, regifting, or any tricky money issues relating to family and friends? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyologist.

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