Eye swapping is a modification where a customizer removes the original sleep eyes of a doll and places new eyes into the sockets.
Reasons for Eye Swapping
Several eye colors are not widely available and have only been on one or two dolls. For example, only modern dolls #26 and #62 have a unique brown-amber shade, only Caroline had aquamarine eyes, only Saige had dark turquoise, and Ruthie was the last doll available with grey eyes.
If a doll has silver eye and is sent into the AG Hospital, it is possible that the entire head will be swapped out for another head; this can disturb a collector who has a Pre-Mattel doll. Even if the head is not swapped, the eyes will no longer have the soft matching lashes and come back with plastic black lashes.
If eyes are rusted or damaged, an eyeswap can replace the affected eye without having to swap the entire head through the hospital.
It is also possible to fully dismantle an eye and paint the inner chips any unique color.
The size of the American Girl eyes are uniquely sized; other available sizes can appear too large or small in the head and may not function properly. Originally, the only way to obtain properly sized new eyes was to take them from another American Girl doll. Currently, the only company that sells American Girl sized eyes is Beautifully Custom.
How to Eye Swap
The original eyes must be removed from both the donor head (and the recipient if needed). This is generally done by softening the vinyl around the eyes with a heat source such as a blow dryer or pouring hot water into the head cavity and pushing gently on the eye socket from inside. Once the eyes are out, the new ones can be placed in. It is important to put the eyes in properly weighted so that the eyes will still close properly.
If eyes are being swapped from a doll with a darker or lighter skin tone, the skin tone on the "eyelid" may need to be painted to create a match.
Doll repair locations or customizers may perform an eye swap for a fee. For example, the TLC Doll Hospital will swap eyes but two heads must be sent in as they will not place eyes into an empty head; Beautifully Custom will swap eyes, but eyes must be included or purchased from them.
Eye Swaps and the American Girl Hospital
A doll without the original eyes will not be repaired by American Girl.