Our Greatest Resource
One of the things that I enjoy about doll collecting is learning how to ID my dolls and learning about the history of the companies that made them so this month I’m going to talk about the various resources we can use to do that.
I’ve written before about how as my generation of doll collectors age there seem to be fewer doll museums and doll clubs around so new collectors must look elsewhere for information. I firmly believe that our greatest resource as doll collectors is each other. Many of us have little snippets of information about a doll or company and when they are put together a picture emerges. Of course, that is what good researchers can do. If you like solving puzzles researching can be a lot of fun even if it is frustrating at times.
As I said there are not as many doll clubs around as there used to be so there may not be one in your town. If there is you are lucky because there may be regular meetings, they may run doll making classes, they may put on doll shows, they may have a club library and of course, it is an opportunity to spend time with other collectors. A lot of clubs have an online presence these days and may have a blog, social media page or a website to keep members and visitors updated on their activities
Online groups on social media sites are everywhere. One of the main reasons, apart from keeping in touch with family and friends that I don’t see, that I stay on Facebook is the number of doll groups you can find there. There are general doll collecting groups, groups who collect specific types of dolls, buy and sell groups, groups who ID dolls. These are very handy if you are looking for a particular doll, or trying to ID one as there are very knowledgable members. Most of the doll groups that I belong to are Australia/New Zealand based. I chose them because it is obviously cheaper to buy from someone in Australia than overseas and because they generally talk about dolls I am more familiar with. I do belong to one US-based group called “Let’s ID Our Dolls” which is very good too. Many of these groups are private and you have to be approved to join the same as with any club. I have had good experiences on a few occasions I have bought from Facebook group members but like anything you have to weigh up the risks of buying from a stranger without having seen the doll. Unlike eBay, Etsy and other sales sites there are no feedback ratings to go on.
YouTube is another useful resource for collectors and quite a few YouTubers have doll channels where they show and tell about their own collections, review new dolls or do tutorials on repairing and restoring dolls. I’ve looked at a lot of these and while I’m usually a person who likes written instructions I have found some of them very useful.
I am aware that there are also doll groups on Instagram and Twitter and probably other social media that I know nothing about. I’m not sure if they are good resources for information but they may be good for photos and young people like this type of social media so it may be the way collectors communicate in the future.
Finally, I’ll mention sites such as Flickr which has many doll photos which can be useful when you are trying to ID a doll. Sometimes the photographer will have included useful information about the doll while for others it is more about the presentation. Pinterest can also be a handy site but I often feel like I have fallen down a rabbit hole when searching pictures on Pinterest as they are sourced from all over the place and often tracking down information about the photos is very hard.
Books and Magazines
Sadly there are not many doll magazines being printed these days. I used to get Barbie Bazaar and Australian Dolls and Bears regularly and sometimes at doll shows or markets I would buy older copies of magazines like Doll Digest or Doll Reader. Places like this can still be good to find old magazines.
I have a small library of doll books that I often turn to when I’m trying to ID dolls. There are numerous books about Barbie of course. The vintage and mod eras are very well documented and there are books that cover the decades of the seventies, eighties and nineties. I haven’t seen many books that cover the Fashion Fever or Fashionista dolls as yet. I’d certainly buy one that showed all the Fashion Fever dolls, outfits and accessories. I have books about British dolls which are a particular interest of mine. Many of my books are out of print now but can still sometimes be found on the second-hand market.
If you are trying to research a company you may have a harder time as many of the doll makers of the past have disappeared into oblivion. An existing manufacturer may have a website with some history of the company but otherwise, you can try old newspaper and magazine articles which you may find online or at the library. Things like advertisements and trade papers can be useful too.
Whatever you are trying to learn about ask questions, send emails, read blogs and forums. Contact the authors of books and articles. There is no telling what a persistent researcher may turn up.