(This is a rerun of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago, from my old Yahoo site.)
I like dolls. All shapes and sizes. I have lots of them. As I posted here before, I made a YouTube video of some of my collection, and recently noticed a comment on it asking if I still take my dollies for car rides and into the stores. (It was from someone called The Dana Crew; not sure what that is-—probably something to do with people on the old Yahoo headline boards.) They also called me an insulting name and said something about how they will “find me anywhere”. Well good-—I could use more readers! As far as I know I still only have the two—if I haven’t bored them away yet—and occasionally my granddaughter who pops in to view kitty pictures. In any case, I’m surprised that after all this time people would remember me or that I like dolls. But in answer to the question, it is true that I have been known to take a doll with me in the car—especially on longer trips where I have a chance to sit and admire her beauty. It’s fun. I know of many women who take dolls on vacations to photograph them with the scenery. I’ve seen some beautiful pictures! And as I’ve said before, I do NOT have the guts to take a doll into a store with me and put her in the cart, etc. That would be socially unacceptable. Besides, now I have my doggy purses to carry out in public! (See my blog “Dog Purses, a Woman’s Best Friend”.)
As long as I’m on the subject, I’ll take the opportunity to tell a little more about my hobby, as well as about a vintage doll and toy show I attended recently. I always liked dolls as a child, and had many of the popular ones from the 60’s: Barbie, Chatty Cathy, Liddle Kiddles, Teeny Weeny Tiny Tears, Thumblina, Penny Brite, Dolly Darling and Tammy. As a teen I relegated them to the attic, but retrieved most of them when I moved out of my parent’s house. A couple—namely Chatty Cathy and her sister Chatty Baby—never made their way out of the attic and my parents later donated them to charity. Boo hoo! But that’s what eBay, garage sales and doll shows are for. I probably officially began collecting as an adult in the late 90’s when I became interested in vintage Barbie after finding a library book on the subject. At first I really only cared about fashion dolls, but then my interests expanded to baby dolls, 18” little girl dolls and larger, like Patty Playpal, the size of a three-year-old child. I learned a lot from books and also the Internet, where there are doll collecting sites and groups galore. I don’t know how many dolls I have—I’ve lost count. Most are used, or “well-loved.” Nothing is a valuable antique.
Besides garage sales, I love going to vintage doll and toy shows. I feel right at home there, with like-minded people. Talk about taking a doll out in public—a doll show is the only public place you’ll see grown women lovingly coo at the vinyl or hard plastic baby in their arms, or hear grown men practically squeal with glee at finding some long sought-after doll—I’m sorry—collectible action figure. While these shows do have some newer items, for the most part it is a step back in time. Where else can you just walk right in and pick up a collectible doll or toy from decades ago? It’s like being in a magical wonderland, tailor-made just for you!
These shows can be held at a trade center, hotel, civic auditorium, etc. The one I often attend is at a fairground with enclosed buildings and outdoor roofed pavilions, segregated by category—dolls, action figures, toys, books, records, figurines, stuffed animals, miscellaneous, etc. The men mostly confine themselves to the action figures, toy cars and the like. Sometimes you’ll find dolls and goodies in the other buildings, too. So you should look closely at every booth in every building, and go around several times! It can get crowded so you have to wait for people to move out of the way in order to get to that interesting-looking box in the corner with dolly arms sticking out of it or peek around the big vintage Fisher Price playset to see if there is a treasure hiding behind it. Occasionally you must squeeze your way through “bottlenecks” in the more crowded buildings. Kids often come along with their parents, and dealers will put newer out items just for them—little used Kelly dolls, Barbies, Webkinz, etc. (“Mommy, can I buy this? Please? Can I??”).
While at a recent show, I felt the old “writing urge” flare up from my days as a newspaper reporter. I thought about going around to interview exhibitors and customers like I did when I actually got PAID to write stories, but I couldn’t be bothered (I was on a mission to find dolls!) so I just quickly took note of some things I’d overhear people say as they walked by:
“I had a lot of these toys as a kid.”
“We took them out in the rain! And we played with them so hard, we ruined them!”
“Those just fly off the shelf.”
(Someone asking a dealer for a collectible Simpsons figurine): “I saw it in the store a few years ago and have learned since then to just buy it when I see it. You can always return it.”
“Mommy, this Kelly doll looks just like me!”
(Mom in the doll building with two very bored-looking adolescent sons) Mom: “See? There are plenty of men in here!” Son: “Yeah, taking their wives inside!” Mom: “You know what? I suffered through yours, now you can suffer through mine!”
“She just looks a little dirty—I didn’t clean her.”
“If you ever see one of those, let me know, because I’ve been looking forever.”
“I’ve never seen so many dolls and toys in my life.”
“I couldn’t get the money out of my wallet fast enough!”
“So far I haven’t bought anything for myself, just play sets for my nieces!”
“I better leave before I spend any more money!”
What did I spend money on? Well, I found some goodies, including vintage Liddle Kiddles, a Chatty Cathy, and newer (Bandai) Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I’m always on the lookout for bargains, and had been gazing at the Chatty Cathy dolls—all in excellent condition and displayed nicely, but pricey. These 20” little girls with the pull-string to make them talk were the second best-selling doll in the 60’s next to Barbie. I have several of the more common inexpensive ones, all non-working but cute just the same. I wanted another fixer-upper but had given up, until I saw an older woman in one of the toy buildings holding up a Chatty she had just pulled out of a box of miscellaneous dolls on the floor. I could see that Chatty had an $8 sticker on her forehead. I watched anxiously as the woman examined her. “Put her down!” I tried to telepathically communicate. “Just put her DOWN!” Finally she did, and walked away. Whew! So of course I quickly ran over and grabbed little Chatty. She was in poor condition—dirty, missing her two little signature front teeth, not working (she didn’t even have her pull-string) and wearing a dress in need of repair—but for $8 I knew I could restore her cuteness and display her with my others. I was thrilled!
The same was true for the other dolls I found—all cheap bargains, including little “Slipsy Sliddle” (a Liddle Kiddle doll from the 60’s) and her slide! I also got “Calamity Jiddle” (the cowgirl) and a naked “Freezy Sliddle” (you know—the one who originally came with a snowsuit and sled). And I got some neat Liddle Kiddle paper dolls, a darling Kiddle remake from the 90’s for $2, and a cute little Beanie Baby dog for 25 cents from a little girl at her father’s booth. I later paid $5 for a vintage Chatty Baby story book. Chatty Baby was Chatty Cathy’s little sister, and the book has such cute graphics and a nice story, I thought my Chatty Baby (from eBay) would look cute holding it. I looked for some of my other favorite dolls, like “Baby Face” by Galoob and Katie by Effanbee, but couldn’t find any, even though I had bought some there in the past. Vintage Barbie and her cousin Francie and all their clothes were way too expensive as usual so I looked but didn’t buy. A dealer had a couple of Magic Attic 18” dolls but I managed to pass them up. I also admired the “reborns”—the realistic looking babies that doll artists painstakingly create. They are so beautiful and sweet, even weighted to feel like a real infant. I held a couple of them but they are too expensive for me at this time. Maybe someday (after I sell some things on eBay!).
The shows involve a lot of walking so you have to be prepared with comfortable shoes. I usually pack a lunch and try to make a day of it to get my money’s worth out of the $8 admission fee. Most people eat the unhealthy fast food there, but I always find a bench and eat my organic salad or home-made low carb wrap, and bring my own water. At this show, I sat eating lunch with Chatty Cathy by my side, peaking out of her bag, while thumbing through my Chatty Baby book. A woman walked by, smiled and said, “Don’t you wish you were six again? That would all be new and soooo cool!” Another woman stopped when she saw Chatty, flashed a big grin and said, “Hi sweetie!” as she bent down to pat her head. If my Chatty could talk, I’m sure she would have said hello back.
These women weren’t the first to illicit a smile from Chatty and they weren’t the last. I always feel happy when I look at her and my other dolls. And that’s really what it’s all about. It’s not the vinyl or the plastic or the hair or the clothes. All of this is material. And face it, we are mortals and can’t take any material possessions with us when we die. But collecting cherished playthings helps give us something more; it’s the feeling one gets from looking at and “playing” with these toys, remembering happy times, recalling the innocence of childhood. As that woman said, through these fun treasures, we can capture the wonderment of being a kid again, when everything was new. And that is soooo cool!