The hobby of creating reborn baby dolls began in the early 1990s when doll enthusiasts wanted more realistic dolls. Since then, an industry and community surrounding reborn dolls has emerged. Reborn dolls are primarily purchased online but are available at fairs. Depending on craftsmanship, they range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Reborning involves numerous time-consuming steps. The most basic form of the process involves taking a vinyl doll, adding multiple hand painted layers of paint, and adding other physical features to the doll. Artists can pick different brands to best suit the doll they wish to create. Reborn artists can also buy reborn doll kits that are sculpted by reborn sculpt artists. A kit includes the vinyl doll parts. Customers can then purchase a reborn doll by choosing a kit (name) by sculptor (name) and have it reborned by a reborn artist (name) e.g. Adam by Mary reborned by Ann. Consumers can purchase a wide range of supplies for creating their own reborn. Making a doll from a kit allows artists to omit some steps in the fabrication process and begin with a blank canvas. Many supplies are needed for both external and internal modifications of reborns to make the doll seem more realistic.
Some consumers of reborn dolls use them to cope with their grief over a lost child (a memory reborn), or as a portrait doll of a grown child. Others collect reborns as they would regular dolls. These dolls are sometimes played with as if they are an infant. Critics debate whether reborn dolls are harmful, or whether these dolls can help in the grieving process. Because of their realistic appearance, reborn dolls have occasionally been mistaken for real babies and "rescued" from parked cars after being reported to the police by passers-by.