So you think you know about doll collecting

People collect just about anything – ceramic lighthouses, pine cones, left-handed tea pots. One individual collected hundreds of ring-pulls from different soft drink tins (and used them to make a chain-mail ring-pull shirt in fact. How would you iron such a garment? Could you put it in the tumble drier? If you did would that invalidate your guarantee?!)

But there’s one collectible that has long endured while other collecting fads came and went. Demi Moore and Sophie Ellis Bextor collect them. And you may be hornswoggled to learn that John Wayne himself collected them too. I am speaking of course about dolls.


Now before shouting ‘You can not be serious!’ in a John McEnroe accent, let me tell you just how serious doll-collecting can get. Bonhams of Knightsbridge, London, the esteemed auction house, recently sold a rare, German, Kämmer and Reinhardt character doll thought to be the only one of its kind in existence. The price tag was a shave under a bank account busting quarter of a million pounds. That’s enough money to support the average wage earner and his family for ten years. That’s a lot of doll.

I’m willing to credit the buyer with having more sense than money, but those new to the doll collecting game and non-collectors alike still harbour ill-informed ideas in flavours varying from mildly bonkers to seriously daft.

barbiedollFor example, some Barbie dolls have the figure ‘1966’ stamped on their plastic derrieres. wannabe collectors claim that these are worth a bob or two. They’re not. The figure ‘1966’ is simply the patent date. Novel though having a date-stamped butt may be, such Barbie dolls are more common than pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They are therefore unlikely to finance your next Mediterranean cruise nor help you stroll down easy street to retirement.

Another common misunderstanding is that only prune-faced old biddies collect dolls. In fact anyone at any age could be a collector—a next door neighbour, the man who comes round in the fish van every Tuesday, or your solicitor for instance. Yes, but surely only women collect dolls, I hear you cry. Isn’t it a gender thing? No. Most collectors are female but men collect too.

Perhaps one of the reasons why so many people collect dolls nowadays is that they can be regarded from so many perspectives. Are collectible dolls toys? Works of art? Conversation pieces? A little bit creepy? Or all of the above?

A couple of other misconceptions about doll collecting relate to cost. Some say that only rich people can afford antique dolls. Not so. You can buy antique dolls for about £70. Others believe that all dolls bought off the Internet are made from cardboard toilet roll inner tubes and the unravelled wool from their great aunt Maude’s Christmas cardigan collection. Wrong again. Dolls in all sorts of price ranges sell online, just like any other commodity.

Probably the biggest myth around doll collecting is that if a doll is old then it must be valuable. This is what’s known in the doll collecting world (and everywhere else, come to think of it) as a load of old flannel. If this were true—that ‘old’ was indeed ‘valuable’—I’d be worth more than that German doll.