Retirement is when a doll, outfit, book, accessory, collection, item, and/or product line is discontinued and no longer available for purchase direct from American Girl.
In the American Girl FAQ, the official explanation for retirement is as follows:
"Like every company, American Girl is constantly revitalizing our products to best meet the needs of our customers and our business. While some items are discontinued, many other products are added to keep American Girl interesting and engaging, and to celebrate who girls are today."
Historical Character Retirements
Originally, very few things were retired from Historical Collections. To maintain consistency with the characters through time, almost nothing was retired by Pleasant Company. While several things were remodeled or retooled, they were not completely removed from being purchased. The major exceptions during these years were the original white body dolls, which were removed to give all the characters flesh-toned bodies, and the 1997 Limited Edition Historical Outfits, which, by their nature, were only intended to be offered in small quantities for a limited time.
Keeping each historical character's items consistent—thus to show how things changed through time—was a policy kept until Mattel purchased American Girl. While they maintained this pattern for the initial years, items later began to retire more often and with less of a pattern among the Historicals. For a number of years, retirements were heavily skewed towards Addy, Kirsten, Josefina, and Felicity. Addy, for example, has had every single item in her original school collection retired.
When Kaya was released in 2002, Felicity was removed from paper catalogs. She was only sold online through the website, and items in her collection were massively retired. She was not included in story expansions or collections as well. Several items (but not all of them) were rereleased when the movie and Elizabeth Cole were released and Felicity's collection was revamped.
Starting with Cécile's Summer Outfit and Marie-Grace's Summer Outfit, Limited Edition Historical Outfits and items began to be released again. These were given end dates at release; it is stated that items are only available generally (in their limited design) until December of that year or while supplies last. 
The official position of American Girl is that low-selling Historical items are removed to allow newer items to be released.
Historical Character Archiving
On October 6, 2008, it was leaked by American Girl Customer Service that Samantha Parkington and her entire collection, including Nellie O'Malley and her own collection, would be archived -- they would be put away for an unknown number of years, and American Girl's press releases were vague as to whether they would even be rereleased.
The official announcement was made on Oct 13, 2008 , and soon after, a website was launched to share memories of Samantha.  Catalogues and the website stated that the 2008 Holiday Season would be the last holiday season to get Samantha and Nellie. Nellie dolls sold out completely on December 5, 2008; Samantha dolls remained on constant backorder until selling out on Feb 3, 2009. All item purchases were limited to three maximum of each item (to prevent hoarding for reselling). Books about Samantha and Nellie, as well as their mini dolls and the movie, remained available. Samantha and her collection was officially archived on May 31, 2009, with the release of Rebecca Rubin.
A letter was sent out by American Girl on September 25, 2009, that Kirsten Larson and her entire collection would be archived with the exception of her books and mini doll. A press release from American Girl regarding Kirsten's archival was announced on October 1, 2009. Her collection was officially archived January 1, 2010.
In September 2010, American Girl announced that they would archive Felicity Merriman, Elizabeth Cole, Felicity's entire collection, and Elizabeth's collection. Felicity's entire collection was archived on March 28, 2011.
In June 2013 American Girl announced that they would archive Molly McIntire, Emily Bennett, Molly's entire collection, and Emily's collection. Molly's entire collection was archived on January 1, 2014.
On February 17th, 2014, American Girl's Facebook page stated that Samantha would be rereleased in Fall 2014. In May 2014, American Girl announced that Marie-Grace Gardner, Cécile Rey, Ivy Ling, and Ruthie Smithens would be retired in preparation for the BeForever revamp of the Historical Line, effectively retiring the Best Friends as a line. This gave Marie-Grace and Cécile the shortest ever availability, at only three years.
On May 4th, 2015, American Girl announced they would archive Caroline's entire collection, only her books and mini doll will remain available. This made her tie with Marie-Grace and Cécile for the shortest ever availability, at only three years.
With the release of BeForever, older books for all characters that transitioned into the line were rereleased in the newer two-volume format. Already archived characters had their books gradually removed from stores, though some are still available on the website. All Mini Dolls that had cloth bodies were also retired and only characters carrying forward to BeForever were given the new all-vinyl versions until 2016, when limited rereleases of Molly, Kirsten, and Felicity (in her second meet outfit) were released.
All archived characters are seen on the American Girl Archive. . Originally, tags included the phrase "Her/Their stories live on!" but with the gradual phasing out of older books, this tagline has been removed.
Archival is explained by American Girl to allow them to release characters from other time periods or angles that have yet to be covered; so far, this has been accurate. It is also possible now that there may be temporary or scheduled rotating returns of archived Historical and BeForever characters.
It was originally unknown if archived Historical characters would ever be rereleased; Samantha's return for BeForever set a precedent, and this was later reconfirmed with the rerelease of Felicity in February 2017. However, Felicity was only released with a new meet outfit, matching meet accessories, an underwear set, and newly designed BeForever two-volume books and her gamebook.
No characters were retired with Melody Ellison's release; however, most non-flagship stores removed Addy Walker from full display and placed her in smaller, less prominent locations. With the release of Nanea Mitchell, however, Addy Walker and Samantha Parkington were not retired; instead, they were reduced to limited capacity at Flagship stores (Chicago, NY, and LA) and online, similar to Felicity. This appeared to be the new precedent and was confirmed later with Samantha's limited collection and other characters such as Kit and Josefina. This method of non-retirement, referred to by many collectors as "cubing," thus allows historical characters to remain available as obtainable dolls and lasting characters but in a diminished availability. A cubed character generally has only the doll, accessories, and books available for purchase.
Modern Line Retirements
The modern line dolls (AG[o]T/JLY/MyAG/TM) have always had periodical retirements of clothing and accessories so as to be able to update styles to reflect modern fashion. Holiday outfits are quite often retired in early Spring after release, if not soon after the holiday season is concluded. Furniture tends to last about a two to three year cycle. Matching girl's clothing is retired about the same time the doll's outfits are, and allowed to sell out.
Dolls have been retired for various reasons. Some include:
- Some dolls are retired due to low sales or low stock.
- Others dolls have been retired soon before or after a doll of a similar nature is released.
- All dolls that had thick bangs have generally been modified to have a thinner bang style.
- It is suspected the grey eyed dolls were retired or remodeled due to an inclination towards silver eye.
- When all dolls could get pierced ears, the original version of Just Like You 27 with the fixed earrings was retired.
- At the release of Gabriela McBride, since she was in essence a renamed #46, the doll was retired shortly before release. This was also true with Z Yang and Just Like You 30.
Girls of the Year and Contemporary Characters Retirements
Due to the nature of the Girl of the Year line being limited edition collections, the dolls are retired in a set schedule. Each doll and several items are released at the start of the year. A few more items are released in the summer or fall. However, all items available are retired at the end of the year regardless of remaining stock. Some items run out before December 31st and items can be considered retired after they become sold out.
The only items left available after the girl's year has ended are books and other media, such as Chrissa's movie. At the release of McKenna Brooks, American Girl removed the books Lindsey, Kailey, Marisol, and Jess from sale. Later Nicki, Thanks to Nicki, Mia, Bravo, Mia!, Chrissa, and Chrissa Stands Strong were removed. Nowadays American Girl only keeps older Girl of the Year books in stock for short periods of time.
Originally, after the launch of the next doll, remaining stock would be sold at discount. Then everything was fully retired and remaining stock sent to the Madison Children's Museum Sale. Since Chrissa's retirement, some items have been released again under generic names and sold as part of the My American Girl collection.
In 2015 Lindsey, Kailey, and Marisol were removed from the Girl of the Year Archives and all dolls prior to Jess were removed from the official Girl of the Year website. After a few weeks, Lindsey, Kailey and Marisol were restored to the Girl of the Year Archives. On the official site, the oldest character is removed as the newest is added, only showing the most recent in focus and last nine characters over to the side.
Gabriela's collection was announced as being available in 2017 and beyond; she remained available along with many items in her collection until being retired in 2018, setting a new precedent of about two years for the length of collection availability.
The Contemporary Line initially did not announce any time of retirement for the characters; in 2018, Tenney and Z were announced as retiring, effectively closing the line.
Bitty Baby/Bitty Twins Retirements
Like the My American Girl line, Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins have items retired on a cyclical basis.
With the revamp of the Bitty Twins line in 2006, all the outfits that suggested a younger age to the twins were retired.
With the change to Bitty Baby as less like a baby and more of a doll companion in 2013, Bitty Bear was retired. Later, several versions of Bitty Baby were retired, slimming the line down from the eleven dolls it had available, and books that had been available were retired and removed.
With the release of the WellieWishers line, the Bitty Twins collection was officially retired.
Several lines have been retired by American Girl, most often due to poor sales, replacements, issues, or lack of interest:
The Angelina Ballerina licensed line was purchased by another company in 2004; Amelia's Notebooks discontinued their partnership.
Book Line Retirements
Books have been retired on an infrequent basis. It generally depends on the line.
- Original Fiction Novels are no longer sold through American Girl.
- The History Mysteries are a discontinued line.
- While the Girls of the Year are all retired at the end of the year, their books and any movies released remain available for a time afterwards. Older books are later retired as new books are released.
- When all of the Girls of Many Lands were retired, so were their books.
- Amelia's notebooks stopped being carried through American Girl, though Marissa Moss continues to write them and publish them through Simon & Schuster.
- The launch of BeForever and the restyled books meant older style six-volume books--and meet books for Best Friend characters--were retired and made generally unavailable. This was also true when the BeForever branding was discontinued and new, abridged central series books were made available.
Other books, such as activity books or informational books, are retired in cycles as purchases and/or stock become low, or relevance is diminished. While the Historical Characters have had some books retired (e.g. the Short Stories) none of their Central Series have ever been retired completely, though hardback editions have been retired. With the launch of BeForever, Central Series are no longer available in single-story books, and in 2019 abridged versions were launched.
Already archived characters no longer have books sold in stores, though some are still available on the website.
Purchasing Retired Items
Although items cannot be purchased by American Girl directly after retirement, there are other ways to obtain retired items. Many will have a higher cost than what was originally offered due to either rarity or fragility, but many can be found at a cheaper cost.
- Books are often the easiest to purchase, and can be found on secondary markets such as used and secondhand books stores, Amazon, private sales, or eBay. Some books may remain in stock at physical book stores even after a character is archived or books are discontinued.
- The most prolific method is eBay or similar secondary auction sites; retired items can be searched for and purchased from sellers. This is hit and miss—some items show up very frequently, while others show up rarely. Sometimes, items are sold incomplete, missing various things such as hats or smaller accessories (for example, the windmill that comes with Felicity's Town Fair Outfit is known to break very easily).
- Used toy or secondhand stores may sell American Girl items; one well known store is Girl Again, a resale boutique for gently used items.
- As products may qualify as "vintage" according to Etsy in being a minimum of twenty years old at listing, items can sometimes be found there.
- If a collector is a member of online communities, they can find other collectors or owners who are selling items through private direct sales, including via social media.
- The Madison Children's Museum Sale used to have several retired items available that were returned to American Girl. This was changed with the Consumer Product Safety Information Act; they now primarily sell overstock, though recently retired items and occasional older product is available in small capacity. Older retired items in low quantities are often auctioned, rather than sold directly.
- Some collectors who are skilled in craftwork or sewing make replications of items and outfits, either for personal use or to sell to other collectors. It can be very hard to do this with clothing, as prints cannot be exactly matched each time; however, many collectors are satisfied with near replicas.
- Some wholesale doll clothing companies have made replications; the quality and accuracy of these items varies.
- The historical clothing patterns which were released for Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly are available to be downloaded in .pdf form from AG Playthings here; these can be used to make simulations of retired items or different items in the same style of the originals.
- ↑ American Girl Corporate: "Frequently Asked Questions: Why are some of the products I wanted to order no longer available?" Accessed 19 October 2019.
- ↑ Items may be rereleased, but they are often split into separate components or missing items that were available.
- ↑ Facebook Statement
- ↑ Facebook statement