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Introduction to Doll Collecting: Top 10 Mistakes of Doll Collecting Newbies

Friday, July 17, 2009 @ 01:07 PM Karen Hood

Welcome to the fascinating world of doll collecting! We’ve all been there–brand new to collecting, so many dolls to collect, so many ways to collect. Actually, there is no right or wrong way to collect dolls. Collecting is supposed to be fun, so follow your inner collecting muse and enjoy yourself.

That said…seasoned collectors have been through all of the stages of collecting, and they’ve made every collecting mistake that can be made. So…if you’re reading this, and would like to know some of the typical mistakes of beginning doll collectors, here are the Top 10 Mistakes of Doll Collecting Newbies.

1. Wanting It All

If you’re new to collecting, you’re probably like a kid in a candy store–there are so many dolls, and they’re all asking you to take them home! Dolls at the local doll store, dolls at shows, dolls on eBay–they all seem to have your name on them. Whatever you do, don’t give in to all of your doll urges. Before you know it, you’ll end up broke and out of space–before you even know what you’re really doing! So, slow down, and realize you can’t (and shouldn’t!) have it all in the beginning of your collecting life.

2. Collecting Alone

In today’s modern Internet collecting world, its easy to collect in a vacuum, buying and selling dolls through eBay, and through mail order. Well…I can’t think of a more boring way to collect than alone. Having friends who also collect can not only be fun, but informative. If you have a local doll club, join it (or start your own!). If you don’t have a local doll club, you can find one on the Internet, or you can frequent a busy doll Forum (like the ones we have on this site!) where doll collectors discuss everything doll. You can also find doll collecting friends at doll shows and conventions. Trust me, its nice to know some people who don’t think your doll collecting is just an eccentric pastime.

3. Collecting Solely on eBay

If you only collect dolls through eBay, you’re missing SO much. You’ll never fall in love with and discover new types of dolls unless you see them in person–at doll shows, doll shops, doll auctions and doll conventions. Sure, eBay is fun and convenient, but there is nothing like actually seeing dolls in person and/or handling them. A picture on eBay can only teach you so much about a doll…..seeing it in person will teach you ten times as much.

4. Buying Cheap

There is nothing wrong with buying dolls on a budget. But….if you buy 5 $10 dolls, you could have afforded one $50 doll. If you buy 5 fifty dollar dolls, you could have afforded one $250 doll. And so on. I know its hard to not go for volume when you’re starting out as a collector, but if you control the volume and save your funds for slightly better dolls, you’ll end up with a better and more valuable collection in the long run. And, if you DO find yourself with many dolls of lesser-value in the long run, consider “trading up” where you sell earlier doll acquisitions to acquire better ones later on.

5. Failing to Focus Your Collection

This is a bit like wanting it all, but different (trust me, you can be really, really focused–ONLY collecting Liddle Kiddles, for instance–and then want every Liddle Kiddle in sight, right away). If you just collect dolls in general, and you don’t focus, you may end up with a broad but somewhat boring collection. Not too mention that if you collect too broadly, you may simply end up with many lower or medium-level dolls, never really getting to rarer or unusual ones. Oh…and, if you don’ t focus, you can say goodbye to your display space before you know it. Focusing your collection is smart–you can learn one area of dolls in depth, which will help you make smarter purchases, and help you put together a more cohesive collection. Oh….and there is no rule that says you can’t focus on a different area once you’re sufficiently finished with the first!

6. Narrowing Your Focus TOO Much

Yes….I realize I am now contradicting myself. But….if you DO put total doll blinders on, and only collect, um, say again Liddle Kiddles, you’ll never learn anything about any other type of doll. For all you know, you’re true “soul mate” in dolls might be Klumpe and Roldan dolls. But, if you don’t at least notice what else is out there, you’ll never know. Even if you focus on one area of collecting, continue to read books and magazine articles about other dolls, and don’t completely ignore other dolls at doll shows and shops.

7. Keeping Your Dolls in Boxes

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to most antique doll collectors. But…especially for collectors of modern dolls, don’t just leave your dolls in boxes for “investment” sake. If you’re only interested in investing, you should buy some real estate. Play with your dolls–debox, fold, spindle and mutilate. Redress them. Play with their hair. Enjoy your collection! Nothing is as sad as a collector with 200 dolls–all in boxes, either in a case or stored in a closet, and not one single doll to play with!

8. Being Afraid of Live Doll Auctions

Whether you’re an antique or modern doll collector, don’t be afraid of doll auctions. They will seem intimidating at first–buying dolls with live competition, and having to think, quick, on your feet, can intimidate even the most seasoned collector. However, you can find amazing dolls of all types at auctions. Before you’re ready to buy at one, attend a few and get the feel for the market, the bidding, and reviewing the dolls at preview–whether the auctions are held at a local estate sale auction house or a specialty doll auction house. Eventually, you’ll jump into the fray and you’ll be glad you did!

9. Being An Antique Doll (Or Modern Doll) Snob

I can’t tell you how often modern doll collectors look suspiciously at antique doll collectors and vice-versa. I collect both, so I’m sensitive to the snubs of each. Don’t be a doll snob–even if you don’t want to collect in the other universe of dolls, you should still respect it and even explore it as your collecting continues.

10. Living and Breathing by Price Guides

Price Guides are essential to collecting (heck, I have one on this site and I’m writing one!). You’ll need to have a few to help guide your collecting and to help you appraise your collection. But…don’t become a slave to your price guides. If you see a truly mint, all-original vintage or antique doll, that doll can be priceless–one of a kind, that you might literally never see again. So….don’t decide not to buy the doll just because its being sold over “book value.” Conversely, don’t jump at dolls you see that are way under book value–sure, they might be a good bargain, but the doll market is volatile right now, and the market might have changed since the book was written. Or…the doll is being offered way under book value because it has serious flaws in condition or otherwise. So, when you use price guides, start with the price guide for reference, and then think it through further.

by Denise Van Patten

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