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Cultivating Your Doll Collection

Updated on December 1, 2016

Jean Lightfoot Doll Collection

The Jean Lightfoot Doll Collection at Haywood Hall House and Gardens Raleigh (Wake County, N.C.)
The Jean Lightfoot Doll Collection at Haywood Hall House and Gardens Raleigh (Wake County, N.C.) | Source

Cultivating is an Essential!

As a doll collector, my long term goal is to have an amazing collection of dolls that I'm proud to display. I want to own beautiful, high quality pieces that I can't show off enough. I don't want the arteries of my home to clogged with junk I don't look at. This is what cultivating a collection is all about. Cultivating a collection hones it, defines it, and pushes it in the direction you want it to go. To cultivate a collection, one must give the collection a theme and prune the excess so that growth can occur in more appealing ways.

This process has three major benefits. The first benefit is that it frees up space to store and display other, more desirable pieces. The second benefit is that the collection will be more visibly appealing and less cluttered. The third benefit is that eliminating some of the clutter can free up some cash to reinvest in other pieces.

Matryoshka dolls in street fair - Budapest
Matryoshka dolls in street fair - Budapest | Source

Don't Let a Collection Become a Stockpile

Robin Zasio made an important point in her book The Hoarder In You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life. There is a marked difference between a collection and a stockpile. If your collection doesn't have a specific theme, it will very quickly take over your house and over clutter your life. A collection should be artfully curated and planned, and it should be possible to display. Having many multiples of exactly the same doll might be a sign that a collection is becoming a stockpile.

Your Collection Should Have a Theme

No matter what type of dolls you collect, there should be some type of theme you can describe to others.

For example, character figures. It's a broad theme, certainly, and it encompasses multiple brands of dolls, like Barbie, Tonner, and Sideshow. But there's a requirement for an item to pass into the collection: It has to be a character from popular culture. It can't just be Barbie, it has to be Barbie as Bella from Twilight or Ken as Legolas from the Lord of the Rings.

Other theme ideas:

  • Celluloid dolls
  • BJDs (Ball Jointed Dolls)
  • Antique dolls produced before 1916
  • Dolls that resemble family and friends
  • One particular name brand, like American Girl, Barbie, or Tonner
  • Dolls common when the collector was a child
  • OOAKs and artist dolls

A Themed Display of Baigneurs, French for Baby Dolls

	 Photographed at Musée du jouet de Colmar in France.
Photographed at Musée du jouet de Colmar in France. | Source

Don't be a Completist in a Small Space

While mega collections are very impressive, if you can't display most of what you own, it takes some of the enjoyment out. Completism is at its most dangerous when we're talking about toy lines with long histories like Barbie, or ongoing current toy lines like Monster High. These types of properties could go on indefinitely, and these dolls have a lot of extra merchandise, too! Try to avoid being sucked into buying less desirable licensed products, like mugs too precious to use.

Why not narrow your theming down? If you collect just character figures, for example, why not skip some characters you don't like as much? For example, in the Batman vs Superman set, you might buy your favorite characters, Batman and Wonderwoman, but skip your least favorite character, Superman.

Or, if you collect just Barbie dolls and you start collecting the Holiday Hostess series, but you don't really like the Thanksgiving edition, you don't have to buy it anyway just so you have a complete set. You don't have to buy things that don't give you joy just because they're available.

Even in cases of dolls you've already bought, you can decide later to break up a set and sell pieces of it that give you less joy than your favorites do. It helps to do this a couple of times a year. This makes space for new selections and keeps things fresh and fun.

What to do with Cluttersome Former Favorites

Here are some suggestions for items deemed more clutter than fun:

  • In December, one might want to go through the collection and see if there are any dolls that would make appropriate gifts for charitable organizations like Toys For Tots. They collect new in the package toys to give to children who might otherwise not get anything for Christmas. Examples of this would be playline or holiday Barbie dolls in the box.
  • Some items that have gone up since purchase could be auctioned off on Ebay.
  • Items that have little value are good candidates to give to thrift stores.
  • Broken items can be thrown away or repurposed as craft supplies.
  • In the spring, it may be appropriate to sell excess items at a garage sale or flea market.
  • Some items might make good just because gifts for children in your life, like grandchildren, cousins, or neighborhood children.

A PSA for Toys For Tots


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