Many young girls start doll collecting with their first Barbie but there are some people who continue into adulthood. African-American doll collecting is a very niche market. And with every collection, there are things to do or not to do. Debbie Behan Garrett, author of The Doll Blogs: When Dolls Speak, I Listen and creator of the Black Doll Collecting website, provides some insight on collecting Black dolls.
The Network Journal: Why collect Black dolls?
Debbie Behan Garrett: Black dolls, when they are created as positive replicas of the people they portray, are affirmations of black beauty. People who collect black dolls collect them for a variety of reasons. No one reason for collecting is more important than the other. Usually, the love for the African American culture, an admiration of other dark-skinned ethnicities, and/or desiring to be surrounded by positive images are key reasons people collect Black dolls.
TNJ: How does one begin collecting?
DBG: Before beginning a Black-doll collection, a potential collector should: a. Establish a budget; b. Determine the specific type or types of dolls that are of interest or likable because a person can never go wrong buying what they like as opposed to buying something for its current or future potential; and c. Become knowledgeable on the subject by investing in reference books and networking with like-minded collectors through local or online doll clubs and groups.
TNJ: Are more people collecting Black dolls?
DBG: The number of people collecting Black dolls is constantly on the rise, as more manufacturers and doll artists incorporate aesthetically-pleasing dolls into their lines.
TNJ: What kind of dolls should you collect?
DBG: After exploring the various doll categories, considering the different doll-making eras (antique, modern, and vintage), and selecting a favorite medium, a person should collect the kinds of dolls they find most appealing.
TNJ: Are there different types of black dolls?
DBG: Doll categories include artist, fashion, historical and/or Black Americana, manufactured, play line, one-of-a-kind, portrait or celebrity, reborn, and repaints, just to name a few.
Doll eras include antique (75+ years old), vintage (50 to 75 years old), and modern.
Some materials used in doll making include bisque, clay, cloth, composition, hard plastic, paper, porcelain, resin, rubber, vinyl, and wood.
TNJ: Can the dolls be played with?
DBG: Dolls manufactured for the play market are best suited for ‘doll play.’ Typically, dolls that fall into the artist or art doll category are not designed for play. However, once a doll is incorporated into a collection, if it is articulated or possesses any form of movement, it remains at the discretion of the owner whether it can be played with or not.
TNJ: How do you keep the value of the dolls?
DBG: People who are concerned about preserving a doll’s value usually leave dolls in their original manufactured state usually in an enclosed, climate-controlled area of display. Some collectors keep their dolls in the never-removed-from-box state. Doing these things ensures that little to no drastic change occurs to the doll’s original condition. Keeping a doll’s original papers to include hang tags, certificates of authenticity along with original boxes aids in maintaining value.
TNJ: Should you insure your collection?
DBG: Just as one would protect other valuables against potential loss or damage, a valuable doll collection should also be protected against loss. A separate insurance policy for the collection may be required based on the value of the collection if a homeowner’s policy is not already in place that sufficiently insures the collection.
TNJ: What are some mistakes people make when collecting dolls?
DBG: Mistakes made by beginning collectors include believing a doll is valuable because it is “old,” or because a seller describes it with terms that imply worth such as “hard to find, rare, or collectible.” Buying any Black doll because it is Black can also often lead to amassing a collection of dolls that do not provide enjoyment in future years.