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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Musings on the State of the Doll House!

Et, tu doll collector!  Or, so I've wanted to say for the last two months.  The slings and arrow of doll collecting fortune have come flying to my cyber door!  So, here are my thoughts on the state of the doll house.

As you know, this blog is meant to be a chronology of doll history.  We've covered dolls from prehistory to the 21st century.  My other blog covers all things doll as well as doll trends and toy topics.  Every other blog I write has something to do with dolls, and my site on Doll Collecting yields a free weekly newsletter which I often post here and on my other blogs.

These are just my musings.  Blogs are places to inspire readers, and to get them to follow up on research and to build on the subject.  I'm not ever going to argue there is a right or wrong way to blog.  So my .005% critics may take that and file it wherever they feel appropriate amid their moldering receipts and paper dolls.

Why do I get the page views I do, over 4 million by now?  Because of the variety.  I began to collect avidly and, yes, seriously, when I was 3.  My parents and family helped me.  We got better and better at choosing dolls, and increasing the quality of our collection, but we also recycled and rescued dolls we liked, made them, repaired them within reason.

My collection began with "tourist" dolls from my grandmother's house.  This was how early collectors seemed to start, with souvenirs of their travels, and it was how Miss Bolin's collection at Eugene Field began.  BTW, if any one knows where the remnants of Miss Bolin's collection are, please let me know.

Early Doll authors: 

I think we can find mention of dolls on cave paintings, if we can interpret what we see.  The earliest "texts" on dolls, if everything is indeed a text, are the Venus figures, dating 40,000 years back.  Plato writes about Shadow Puppets in his "Allegory of the Cave." Someone did the 14th c or so woodcut of the doll and puppet makers, and their are many Cranach and other paintings of children with dolls and toys from Medieval times through the Baroque era.

Mr. Haddock's Androides is free on Google books, and dates from the 17th century.

A Study of Dolls by psychology pioneer G. Stanley Hall and Caswell Ellis dates from 1897, the year my grandpa Steve was born, the year Dracula was published.  I assure you, dolls, are associated in both.  Works of fiction have mentioned dolls, figures, and statues even before that; see my A Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources.  And don't spend tons  of money on it.  It's only $9.99 on Kindle.  I will eventually publish a 2nd ed. hard copy, too.

Laura Starr wrote The Doll Book in 1908, and this is a great cultural study. Emily Jackson wrote Toys of Bygone Days I believe the same year.  These, too, are on Google free.

Max von Boehn wrote Dolls and Puppets in about 1927, and Becky My First Love appeared in the 30s. Janet Pagter Johl wrote in the late 40s.  Mary Hillier, Helen Young, Manfred Bachman, Carl Fox, and more wrote int eh 60s and 70s.  Pat Smith began to publish on modern dolls in the 70s, as did Johanna Gast Anderton.  My friend R. Lane Herron was the first to write on paper dolls in the 60s and 70s, and among the first to write price guides; he is still authoring doll articles and creating dolls. The Coleman's really took off writing about dolls in the late 60s.

They were historians and worked with what they had.  Like Genevieve Angione and Luella Hart, two other authors, they hoped someone would find any "mistakes" and clarify the research.

Courtesy, Theriault's

No one was confused or befuddled.  As with any other art and science, they expected their field to progress as new technology opened new avenues for research.  The fall of the Berlin Wall brought many new discoveries, as did opening of The Strong Museum, now the National Museum of Play which houses the Toy Hall of Fame and much more.

Many today use the term dealer and collector interchangeably. I don't.  Many confuse doll snobbery with doll knowledge.  Harvesting marks to make money is not collecting, and isn't always good business, either.  You can price yourself out the market.  Buy bonds, or day trade.

Don't discourage anyone in what they like to collect, whether it's dolls or used lottery tickets.  In the immortal words of Sly Stone that I've often quoted, "Different Strokes for Different Folks."

Hobbies are not meant to bankrupt people.  We can collect what we like, but for the record, there is a brisk business in my area on Cabbage Patch dolls, even undressed, out of box, naked Barbies, any type of old doll, damaged or not, German Bisque dolly faces, and use, the ubiquitous "Waldas" and mass produced porcelain dolls made in Asia. Prices for these dolls are slowly going up on online auctions; just surf for yourself.

But, that still does not matter.  Doll collectors started 'specializing' because dolls were getting too high.  Variety began to die.  I have seen million dollar plus collections that bored me to tears; there was nothing diverse about the dolls there, and all were clearly an investment, like blue chip stock.  They were an accumulation, to borrow a term from author and artist, Helen Young.

Oh for the days of Kimport, and the wonderful, seemingly infinite variety of dolls in "Doll Talk."

So, just my thoughts.  I love all things doll, from the sublime to the ridiculous.  I will till they lower me into the ground in my own doll box.

Till then, let's keep at it, and all doll divas, please check your dolly egos at the door of the doll house!

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