The Art of Doll Collecting
Doll collecting is a popular hobby not just for children but for adults, too. Casual enthusiasts usually have a small set of different dolls at home, while serious collectors can have a huge collection on display.
Whether you’re interested in doll collecting as a pastime or you want to invest time and money in the activity, it is wise to know the basics of the hobby first and learn as much as you can before officially starting it.
History of Dolls
Dolls have been around since ancient times. Wooden dolls were discovered in Egyptian tombs as early as 2000 BC while those made of ivory, wood, or clay existed in the Roman Empire around 100 BC. Ancient Japanese used dolls not just as toys but also in religious ceremonies, while Africans believed that dolls were used by their gods to deliver messages.
There are many famous and popular dolls throughout history. The Teddy Bear is the frontrunner in the doll industry, capturing the hearts of countless children and adults. The first stuffed bear was produced in the early 20th century and was named after the former president, Theodore Roosevelt after he refused to shoot a captured black bear during one of his hunting trips.
The Barbie doll is an iconic fashion doll that defined a generation of young girls in the 1960s. Famous for its hourglass but anatomically incorrect figure, Barbie has evolved from the original blonde and brunette to different hair and skin colors to better represent its diverse market.
Kinds of Dolls
There are many kinds of dolls all over the world. Before starting your collection, it is advisable to know the most common ones and decide which ones you want to focus on.
- Wooden dolls – Wooden dolls are among the oldest kinds of dolls in existence. Parents made dolls for their children to serve both as toys and as items for different traditional ceremonies. An example of a popular wooden doll is the Russian matryoshka doll, a set of dolls that progressively gets smaller with one doll fitting inside another.
- Cloth dolls – Like wooden dolls, cloth dolls were also created for ceremonial purposes. The earliest cloth dolls belonged to wealthy Egyptian families that were well preserved with them in their tombs.
- Papier Mache dolls – Manufacturers started mass-producing papier Mache dolls in the 1820s, mostly in the United States, Britain, and Germany. The dolls’ heads were often sold separately from their bodies and then later glued or sewn together to complete the doll.
- China dolls – China dolls got their name from “china” or porcelain. They are made of glazed porcelain ceramics. Germany began producing them in the 1830s, and they are still among the most popular dolls collected today.
- Bisque dolls – Compared to the smooth texture of china dolls, bisque dolls have a matte finish, making them more lifelike and realistic. They became the rage from the 1840s to the 1950s.
- Rag dolls – Ragdolls were the first dolls manufactured in the United States. One of the most popular rag dolls in history is Raggedy Ann, a red-haired doll created by American writer Johnny Gruelle.
- Composition dolls – Composition dolls were invented in the United States, and are made of different materials, like sawdust, cornstarch, resin, wood flour, and glue. They are considered more heavy-duty compared to fragile dolls produced in other countries.
- Rubber dolls – Rubber or latex dolls became famous in the 1940s because they have a more realistic texture. Today, many otakus buy latex love dolls as part of their collection.
- Hard plastic dolls – Hard plastic dolls are more durable than ceramic or cloth dolls. This is the main reason why they became more widespread in the 1940s. They also have more detailed appearances, and more lifelike eyes, fingers, and toes.
- Vinyl dolls – Vinyl is the most common material used for present-day dolls. These dolls are unbreakable but flexible and are more realistic in their figures. Reasons for Collecting Dolls
Hobbyists have different reasons for collecting dolls.
Here are just some of them:
- Artistic worth – Some collectors buy dolls based on their designs. They get attracted to the dolls’ features, clothing, and even the dolls’ facial expressions. The finer the craftsmanship is, the more appealing it becomes to some collectors.
- Childhood memories – Others collect dolls because doing so reminds them of their childhood. A collector may complete a set of Transformer robots because it is one of his favorite childhood TV shows. A doll enthusiast may also collect Barbie dolls because it was the first gift she ever received as a child.
- Historical value – History also plays a significant role in some collectors’ choices. The more backstory a doll has, the more interesting it becomes. A plain-looking rag doll may be worth much to a collector if it belonged to a famous person in the past.
- Investment – Some collectors also buy dolls and sell them for a profit. Serious collectors will pay at least $20,000 for a valuable piece, and hobbyists can turn their passion into a serious business.
Tips on Starting a Doll Collection
Now that you know more about dolls, it is time to start your collection. Remember these tips to make your hobby more enjoyable:
- Start small – Don’t panic and try to get your hands on every doll you see. Choose a small set of dolls as your initial pieces, and gradually build your collection from there.
- Concentrate on just one or two kinds – Unless you plan to just randomly collect all the dolls you lay your eyes on, it is best to choose one or two subjects to start your collection.
- Do you want to focus on paper Mache dolls? Or are you more inclined to collect china dolls? This helps you focus and save time and money collecting pieces you are truly interested in.
- Create an inventory – The best way to keep track of your collection is to make a list of all your items. Note down the name of the doll, when you bought it and where, and any significant detail—historical, physical—that can help you identify it.
- Know your dolls – Don’t just display your dolls in a glass case and forget about them afterward. Take the time to get to know them. Examine their faces, feel the texture of their skin and clothing, and know the history behind them.
- Display with care – Find a cool, dry place to display your dolls. Some dolls cannot be exposed to high temperatures or direct sunlight, so it’s better to have a cool room or glass cabinet you can put them.
- Have fun – Dolls are interesting collector’s items, so don’t forget to have fun while collecting them.
With all the provided information, you will have a higher chance of enjoying your doll collection.