Million Dollar Baby (MDB) is one of the industry’s best survival stories—while many other brands faltered in the ups and downs of the nursery furniture market in the last 25 years, MDB successfully adapted to a changing market. Among the first to jump on the import bandwagon (the company launched in 1990), MDB has thrived by selling its wares in a large variety of stores under a series of aliases. It also didn’t hurt that the company was the first to see the potential of the Internet to sell furniture.
Even though this company got its start selling low-price Jenny Lind cribs to discount stores, you’ll now find it everywhere from Walmart to pricey specialty stores . The company’s cribs are sold under the aliases ABC in JCPenney and Baby Mod at Walmart.
The company divides its line into six brands: DaVinci, Million Dollar Baby Classic (MDBC), babyletto, Nurseryworks, Franklin & Ben and ubabub. We review Franklin & Ben and babyletto separately. Here’s an overview of the rest of the brand.
DaVinci is the entry-level price point, sold online. A good example is the DaVinci Kalani, a 4-in-1 convertible car sold on Amazon. The Kalani’s affordable price tag ($200) and ability to convert to a full-size bed make the crib a good pick for those on a budget. In the past year, DaVinci rolled out new dressers to match the Kalani crib (both a three drawer and a six drawer version).
While most entry-price-point nursery brands have very limited finishes, DaVinci shines with a series of colorful Jenny Lind cribs for $250 in green, blue and yellow. Also: DaVinci cribs are GREENGUARD Gold certified to be low emission, again unusual at these prices.
New for 2017, DaVinci will launch a “Carter’s by DaVinci” as a “value brand” with simple styling. Here’s an example:
Million Dollar Baby Classic (MDBC) is somewhat more expensive than DaVinci and sold in retail stores. Style-wise, MDBC and DaVinci are similar. The difference: DaVinci’s dressers are ready-to-assemble (and hence easier to ship), while MDBC’s dressers are pre-assembled. In 2017, MDBC will debut its first crib with end panel upholstery—the Darlington will run $650.
Cribs in the DaVinci lines are $200 to $280; dressers are $250 to $500. Million Dollar Baby Classic cribs are $400 to $750, with dressers for $450-$830—in recent years, we’ve noticed the MDBC brand has moved more upscale in pricing, with new cribs in the $600-$700 range.
All Million Dollar Baby furniture is made in Taiwan by Bexco (Million Dollar Baby’s parent).
We’d describe MDBC and DaVinci as traditionally styled; the company puts its modern offerings in the babyletto sub brand—although MDB sells a series of modern cribs called Baby Mod at Walmart with less fancy detailing for $200, which is a good value.
Million Dollar Baby’s two most expensive brands are Nurseryworks and ubabub. We’d describe these offerings as nursery porn. Take Nurseryworks’ Gradient $7500 crib, made of solid maple with a “3D skin that generates the slats which form an asymmetrical organic surface that explores continuous movement with no visual end.” Right.
Australian import ubabub similarly targets the “I was an early investor of Snapchat” market with its $2300 Pod model with clear acrylic sides. Too much? The Nifty Clear is an affordable $1550. Affordable in the “my tech start-up just was bought by Google” way.
So, how’s the quality overall for Million Dollar Baby? The cribs are good; the dressers, not so much. Our biggest beef with MDBC/DaVinci: their heavy use of pine, a soft wood that is can easily scratch and damage from everyday use. How easily? Of the 1000+ reviews posted of the DaVinci Kalani crib on Amazon, about one-quarter mention/complain about how easily the crib scratches.
You could argue that scratches and dents aren’t safety issues—and for $200, you probably aren’t expecting an heirloom quality piece of furniture you will hand down from generation to generation. Yet, we think MDB could improve the finish process to prevent some of the damage.
Low-end pine is common for $200 cribs . . . but even the more pricey furniture in the MDBC line (like the Arcadia double dresser for $750) is made of pine and MDF. At this price level, you can get better quality from the other brands we recommend.
How is MDB’s customer service? We’ve heard mixed reports. Retailers seem happy with MDB’s customer service and deliveries. Consumers are less enthusiastic, telling us about unreturned emails, poor assembly instructions and overall lackluster customer service. One particular issue is items arriving damaged, either from shipping or from MDB’s lack of quality control. Be sure to order from a retailer with no hassle returns.
Speaking of quality control, MDB had to recall 17,000 DaVinci cribs in late 2015 because “a metal bracket that connects the mattress support to the crib can break.” MDB corrected the defect so the current DaVinci cribs are fine, but this again speaks to quality control.
Despite that recall and other hiccups with this brand, we recommend DaVinci and MDBC’s cribs, at least the ones under $400 with one major caveat—the soft pine wood can and will easily scratch and damage. Skip the dressers. We’ll bump up their rating this year—Million Dollar Baby’s continued innovation with finishes/style in affordable price points deserves praise. Rating (cribs only): B+