When I first began collecting, I remember thinking, I really love dolls; I wonder if anyone else does? We are talking Mid to late 1970’s. I collected regardless – with no internet the world was a small place, limited to the flea markets that were within driving distance. Yard sales and thrift stores were my only go to sources.
As my collection, interest and knowledge grew I finally made the plunge and opened up my first little shop in the town of Salem Ontario, offering the dolls that were collectible at that time. Chatty Cathy dolls, Velvet and Chrissy and other dolls from the 1960’s that you could still find in the thrift stores. I grabbed whatever I could, composition, celluloid, the coveted bisque and china antiques and I self taught myself the repair trade.
My timing was excellent so far as a business decision as the early 1980’s brought the beginning of the porcelain doll craze. Crazy it was!! The biggest player was The Ashton Drake Galleries through the Bradford Exchange, and companies and individuals jumped onto the bandwagon in droves!
I moved to a bigger store, then I moved to an even bigger store, and again and again over the next few years in the booming tourist town of Elora Ontario. In the days before Sunday shopping was allowed, Elora had tourist designation and Sunday shopping was allowed. A nice Sunday in the summer would find cars lined up for a mile out of town. Elora was booming and so was the doll industry.
Enter the “Doll Making” industry. Doll makers held classes where they helped you to create your own porcelain doll from start to finish, including sanding, painting, assembling, dressing… or choosing from their array of available dresses. Another huge influx of porcelain dolls in the secondary market resulted.
Coillectors and collections grew, people collected like crazy, and then almost overnight realized they had too many dolls. The wholesalers disappeared, the doll making classes stopped, the dolls people thought would see them through retirement became virtually worthless.
Thus I say Poor Little Dollies! I have watched the market stagger and fall, and certainly the mass produced cheap dolls of the 1980’s and 1990’s will always have way more in supply than demand, however I am starting to see a definite return of interest in collecting dolls in some form. Newborns will be the next craze to die out, I have no doubt at all about that. Finding the same number of untalented makers as there used to be untalented porcelain doll makers makes me smile. I would love a $1 for everyone that has ever said to me “I make dolls!” Those with true artistic talent and ability are the exception rather than the rule. God bless people for trying it out and enjoying the process, and taking pride in the result, but it has not helped the resale market.
I feel that the entire cycle has gone back to my beginnings in the 1970’s where antique dolls were the ultimate prize, they have held their value far better than most newer dolls produced, and their ageless charm and beauty will never ever fade.