Artistry. History. A seemingly infinite variety of choices. And of course, timeless, captivating charm. No wonder so many have started their own doll collection and that it has become one of the most popular hobbies in America.
The world of doll collectors is a vast and busy one, but there's always room for one more!
We asked doll lover and blogger Maureen Jenny Aucone of The Mommy's Guide for her thoughts. She also sits on Madame Alexander's 2014 Mom Advisory Board, so clearly we value her opinion.
With Maureen's help, we put together some advice to help you get the most out of collecting, starting with your very first doll.
The Most Valuable Dolls Are the Ones You Love
“The first thing you want to do when starting out a collection for yourself or a loved one is to shop for the doll you love,” Maureen says, “not one that you think will be 'worth' something later on.”
Even the most high-end, value-conscious collectors were originally drawn to the hobby by a love of dolls. Nobody can be sure which dolls will gain or lose value in the future.
Collect what you love and you'll have a collection you love, no matter what the financial value of it may be.
Start With a Focus, But Follow Your Heart
One Collector's Story
“Our family collection started back in 1970 when my mother received the Madame Alexander Ireland Doll for her birthday. As a middle class family they worked hard for every penny, so it was a very special thing to get the signature blue Madame Alexander Doll Company box underneath the wrapping paper.”
Maureen Jenny Aucone
There are as many dolls out there as there are ways of collecting. How do you know where to draw the line?
Maybe you want to concentrate on a single manufacturer, like Madame Alexander, or even a single collection by that manufacturer. Maybe you like baby dolls, or Native American dolls, or Mardi Gras dolls. Maybe you like dolls with purple dresses, or dolls made in the 1950s, or porcelain dolls.
Having a focus helps you sift through the multitude of dolls in the marketplace, and gives your collection a distinctive character. That said, if something else really catches your eye, don't be afraid to give it a try.
It's your collection. The only rules are… well, you make the rules!
Join the Doll Collecting Community
Doll collectors are a passionate lot – and sometimes they can be surprisingly boisterous! But they're also friendly people who love sharing the hobby with newcomers.
Joining a doll club in your area, or an online community of fellow doll enthusiasts, is a fantastic way to learn more about the hobby. And doll clubs put on regular events that attract dealers and collectors from all over to buy, sell, and trade dolls.
Attending a show is a fun crash course in doll collecting. Beware: you might just get hooked!
Make It a Family Affair
What better hobby to bring a mom and child together, or an aunt and a niece, or a grandparent and grandchild?
“Start the love of doll collecting early,” recommends Maureen. “Giving a newborn baby a Madame Alexander doll may not put a smile on the baby's face right away, but mother and daughter will look back fondly on that doll as the very first in their collection.”
As countless doll collectors know, a love of dolls is the kind of family tradition that passes down from one generation to the next.
Know What You're Buying
As we said, any doll has value if you love it.
But doing a little research can help you avoid overpaying, or being disappointed in the doll you get. How can you tell if that doll price is too good to be true? You can start with any of the various price guides in print, on the web or at libraries. Ask your fellow collectors, too.
As you get deeper into the hobby, you'll learn what to look for.
Don't Forget Care and Maintenance
Sunshine, dust, pets, humidity: these are the enemies of any doll collection. Fortunately, they're easy to keep at bay. Keep your dolls out of bright light and out of reach of cats and dogs. If they're on an open shelf, dust them regularly.
And don't cram them into musty basements and attics. Of course, this doesn't mean you need to lock them away in a vault, either.
Dolls are meant to be enjoyed!
The Closer to Original, the Better
It can be tempting to spruce up an old doll by replacing her tattered outfit with a new one. But not only would the original outfit make the doll more valuable, it would also be truer to the artistic vision of the dollmaker.
If a doll or its accessories need repairs that are more sophisticated than you can handle, the skilled restorers at a doll hospital can make it look new without sacrificing its original character.
Hang on to Those Dolls That Mean the Most to You
The most important dolls in your collection are the ones with a story behind them. These are the dolls you can never replace at any price, and the best kind to give as gifts.
“Birthdays and holidays are always great days for a special gift,” Maureen says, “But pick other moments in someone's life to give them a doll, too. Like when they lose their first tooth, do a great job in school, or just because you love them. The way the doll is given is almost as important as which doll you pick, so choose your moments. “In years to come, when they are showing off their collection, they won't just remember the name of the doll, but who gave it to them and why.”
And aren't memories what collecting is all about?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!