Follow by Email

Sunday, April 26, 2015


I wrote last about decluttering with an aim to opening up some literal as well as mental space in my life. Well, things are progressing.

After much research, I managed to find a vinyl collector for the majority of Dad's old jazz albums. Armed with a special turntable that records straight into a computer music file, I spent a whole weekend copying some early folk and contemporary trad jazz that will never be sold on iTunes or found on YouTube. It was a rainy weekend, perfect for soaking up the memories that bubbled up in me as I sang along with the old music. Then I catalogued and uploaded the tracts to my iPod, packed up one hundred pounds of vinyl record albums, and shipped them to Tennessee. On tax day. It was, quite literally, a weight off my mind.

Next up? A doll collection.

I was never the sort of child who played with dolls. But I spent my college years working at Disneyland in the gift shops in Fantasyland. I became friendly with Elyse, the Doyenne of the Doll Department in Tinkerbell Toy Shop (alas, the shop is long gone). Elyse was British, and I admit I first made her acquaintance in order to hear her beautiful Sussex accent. Soon, though, I became fascinated by Elyse's knowledge of her stock and began to love her charges as she did, and to request the department on my shifts. The Doll department was tucked into the quiet back end of the large shop, near a back door that wound around the side of Sleeping Beauty's castle...far from the counters selling t-shirts and pencils and rulers and pens with a Monorail that floated from one end to the other when tipped. Everything in our end of the shop was expensive: we sold what are nowdays called the Princess dresses (Snow White, Cinderella, etc., sized 2-6x), and dolls by Effanbee and Madame Alexander.

The Madame Alexander dolls were by far our best sellers. Yes, we occasionally had some truly special (read: $$$$) editions such as a 21" Scarlett O'Hara in the deep green "drapery" dress, or lifelike, life-sized baby dolls, but the biggest sellers were the 8" dolls. The word on the street at that time was that Madame Alexander herself was 85 and in very poor health, and that when she passed away the molds that produced the dolls would be broken. For this reason, we were allowed to sell no more than two dolls per person, we were not supposed to alert our many collectors to a new shipment, and we weren't allowed to specify what we wanted to order. The company simply shipped us what they felt like shipping us when they felt like shipping it to us. We inventoried then sold it...often selling out in a matter of days.

So given that level of exposure and excitement, I started to grow interested in collecting them too. I started with some of the Storybook dolls (the Little Women series, Scarlett O'Hara) and moved into the International line. True to my training, I kept every box, the packing material, and often even the hang tags, carefully stored in an old footlocker. I've added a few dolls to the collection over the years, but for the most part, it's remained static, not least because there is limited room in the glass cabinet I display them in.

But...the dolls are of a period my life from which I have grown away. It was time to find them a new home. So I started doing my research on eBay and elsewhere. And found, to my disappointment, that all that hype back in the late 1970s was just that--marketing hype. Madame Alexander sold her company a couple of years before her death in 1990, and there hasn't been so much as a slowdown in the production of dolls since. The average closed auction price for one of the dolls was one-seventh of what I'd paid for them in 1980.

Still, I kept reminding myself, the point was to rehouse these lovelies where they could be more fully appreciated. And thus, the exodus. As of today, all but four of the Madame Alexander dolls have left for new lives in new places.

Which left me two nice empty shelves in my display cabinet, located in the dining room at A Butler's Manor. Hmmm. What to fill the space with?

Ah hah! Simple. Something representative of where I am now, what I do now. My "grown up" self.

I set up a display of all of my books for sale.

Yeah, I've still got some porcelain dolls to find new homes for. But instantly, what a change it made to the feeling of the room. And to my heart. This is who I am now. This is what I do now. This is my past...AND my future.

And sure, perhaps my books will remain "collectible" only to me. But they're my best sellers.

1 comment:

  1. Caps. Like minds. Etc. I collected the 8" Madame Alexander for my daughter when she was a child. Now we have boxes and boxes of original dolls. What a marketing hype that was! However, I still love the pretty little dolls.