Blythe: Another Dolly Dilemma

I was too young for a Blythe doll when they were first released in 1972, but I was aware of them.  I suppose I saw ads on telly and they advertised in comic books.  Made by Kenner, Blythe had a huge, over-sized head and a mechanism that allowed her eyes to change colour with the pull of a string.  They were only produced for a year, but it’s safe to say they made a lasting impression, and not just on me.

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Fast forward four decades and Kenner has been absorbed by Hasbro, who licenced Takara Tomy to produce a New Edition of dolls, Ashton Drake Galleries to make a range of reproductions, and even produced mini dolls in their own Littlest Pet Shop series.

The vintage Kenner dolls are very expensive on the secondary market and even the newer Takara Tomy dolls are out of my price range and are only sold in the Asian market anyway, so my first Blythe dolls were the Hasbro, Blythe Loves Littlest Pet Shop dolls in 2011.  These little 11cm versions have the bigger head like the original dolls, without the eye change mechanism, but they were widely available here in Australia, were affordable, and above all, cute.  I couldn’t resist ‘Fabulously Vintage’ with her retro inspired fashion and ‘Sightseeing Cute’ with a British punk vibe.  Of course, these little dolls rekindled my interest in the full sized (approx. 29cm) Blythe versions, but I still couldn’t find a doll I could afford, except for dolls sold as ‘factory’ dolls on online auction sites.  And here lies the dilemma.

Just what are these factory dolls?  I had one collector get quite abusive when I asked for information on these dolls, saying that they were stolen or pirated and buying them was tantamount to criminal behaviour, but a lot of Blythe collectors and especially customisers buy these dolls.  I also find these dolls more interesting than the boxed Blythe dolls.  They are sold with some really interesting hair colours and styles, and often have an articulated body, something that other Blythe dolls lack, unless they are customised.  I’ve also found that there are some sellers that have been listing and selling these dolls for years and they openly list the doll’s markings and often state that the dolls aren’t perfect, perhaps indicating that they are factory seconds.  Now surely, if these were stolen, pirated or otherwise dodgy dolls, Hasbro/Takara Tomy could have the listings removed and prosecute the sellers, as Mattel has done in the past.  I tend to believe the theory that these dolls are factory seconds sold by the owner companies, who allow their resale.  I know Mattel does this, with strict conditions on the resale.  But I’m not sure, so I do still have some reservations about these dolls.

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Nevertheless, I fell in love with one of these factory Blythe dolls and took the plunge and bought her. She has gorgeous red/black hair styled in a curly bob.  They, of course, are sold nude or with a clone fashion, so I pieced together a fashion for my girl, a Re-ment blouse, Barbie skirt and tights and boots from eBay.  Deciding on your dolls fashion style is part of the fun of factory dolls.  Blythe looked a bit lonely, so after much searching, I found a factory Middie Blythe (approx. 20cm) doll to act as her little sister.  Again, she is fully articulated, something that most boxed dolls are not. She has extremely long, pinkish/red hair and I haven’t quite decided how to style it yet. For now, I’ve just plaited it. I was also surprised at just how tiny her body is.  The only thing I had to fit her was a Pippa doll fashion, until I made her an outfit to match her big sister’s.

I’m still not sure if buying these factory dolls is encouraging dodgy dealings or breaching a company’s ownership/copyright, but I know I love my Blythe dolls so I certainly hope not.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s day or hate it, there’s probably few who won’t find Kelly friend doll in a teddy bear suit the epitome of a cuteness overload.  So whatever your stance, I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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2005 Hearts and Hugs Melody doll by Mattel

Quick Post: When a Doll is More Than a Doll

Sometimes a doll is much more than just a doll.  This is one such doll.

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When a good doll club friend passed away, many years ago now, her daughter invited some of us to take an item from her collection to remember her by.  I chose this doll.  I’m not sure which doll it was originally, a cheaper, play line doll is my guess, but there are a couple of reasons I chose her.  Firstly, she’s a brunette, not just another blonde, and she has the Mackie face mould, which is a favourite.  But the main reason is she’s a Yang One (pronounced young one), beautifully repainted by another friend, the supremely talented, Jian Yang.  Jian’s name – and his dolls – may be familiar to you.  We first met when he was a student, studying here in Australia, but now he lives in Singapore and is quickly becoming famous as having one of the largest doll collections in Asia, and for his toilet paper doll dress creations, regularly posted to his Instagram (@jianyang1979) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/havetissuewilltravel/) feeds. Jian still repaints/restyles dolls, although I don’t think he sells them anymore. His designs have always been so imaginative and creative, and he’s always had a fascination with paper, entering a couple of dolls wearing papier mache dresses in a competition while living here in Melbourne.

Now, such a special doll needed a special fashion, and after wearing a Fashion Avenue dress for a while until I decided on just the right outfit, I eventually decided on the 1992 Mattel Barbie Classique Fashion – Fifth Avenue Style by Carol Spencer.  Again, there are a couple of reasons for my choice.  Firstly, I wanted something that would match the doll’s earrings and lip colour, and this is perfect. I love this fashion with its suedette skirt, wonderfully designed jacket and clever, spats-like boots, teamed with a geometric print bodysuit.  It also comes with a poodle, and everything is better with a poodle.  But I had also spent a lovely US Barbie convention, sharing a table with (among other lovely people) Carol Spencer, and I wanted a special doll to wear one of her designs.  This was the perfect doll.

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So, now this doll is much more than a doll.  It reminds me of some wonderful friends, Joy, Jian and Carol – every time I look at her I think of them.  And that makes this doll priceless.

Update: Jian has just identified the doll as Pretty in Plaid. Thanks Jian.

Kurhn doll, Chinese doll

Lunar New Year is here again, so this week, I thought I’d look at the Chinese Kurhn doll. When I finished writing the book on the Little Tuppence doll (The Dream World of Little Tuppence – I really must get around to blogging about Tuppence), my sweet mum wanted to buy me a doll as a celebration present.  Not knowing what I wanted, she asked me to choose one for myself, and that’s how I discovered Kurhn.  A friend was selling one at a doll sale – the first time I had come across this doll – and I fell in love with her immediately.

This doll is a Fifth Anniversary edition from 2009, so obviously, these dolls have been around since 2004.  With a gorgeous black bob hairstyle, she wears a red dress with little Kurhn doll silhouettes printed around the hem and a Kurhn pendant. Kurhn is slightly smaller than the Barbie doll, with a slightly oversized head and big, beautifully painted eyes.  This first doll has a non-twist body, straight arms and slightly bendable legs.  A little while later, I bought a second doll from the same friend, this time a blonde, with a different body type. Called Kurhn Brilliant Constellations – Sagittarius 11/23 – 12/21, this doll has a twist waist with jointed knees and elbows.  She also comes with a cute, but very peculiar looking mini doll. I’ve now got five genuine Kurhn dolls and I’ve discovered that although similar, they have four different body types.

I found a brunette doll at the op shop (thrift store) and it’s possible she’s wearing her original outfit, although missing her shoes (I’ve given her a pair of Re-ment shoes).  Her hair was a bit frizzy, but with a quick going over with the hair straighteners, it has greatly improved.  Her body is very much like my original doll, but they have different markings.  The first doll is marked across the back, Made in China/Kurhn 1003 while the op shop doll is marked Made in China/ Kurhn/A0001.  The bendable doll is marked Made in China/Kurhn 2005.  All have the same face mould and all the heads are marked Kurhn.

I found a Kurhn friend called East Kurhn – Xin Yi, on eBay who has a different face mould.  Again the head is marked Kurhn, and she has a body with twist waist, jointed elbows and knees, but her body is marked differently from the other jointed doll.  She is marked Made in China/Kurhn 1004 and her arms are also different from the arms of the other jointed doll.  Finally, I was given a second doll with this face mould, but her face paint is very different and she has the same body as my first Kurhn doll.  Her hair is a wee bit frizzy too, so again she’ll need a spruce up with the hair straighteners. She was missing her original outfit, so for now, wears a Barbie fashion.

Not being able to read Chinese, as far as I can work out, these dolls are made by Kurhn Toys Co, Ltd., and apart from eBay and at doll shows, I haven’t seen these dolls for sale here in Australia, so I can only assume the dolls that I’ve bought here have been brought in from China.  I have found them on an Aussie website, Red q Panda, an online shop in Sydney, but I know nothing about them and have never bought from them.

I have also found a Kurhn clone doll at one of my local discount stores.  At first I baulked at the $9.50 price tag – after all, the genuine Kurhn I bought at the op shop was only $1.25 – but I found her too interesting to resist and had to go back and buy her. Called Merry Fashion Girl, the head isn’t marked, and the face paint is a little different to the real deal, but there’s no mistaking it’s Kurhn.  She has a very cheap, hard plastic body with stick-thin legs that look very strange.  Her hair is a lesser quality than genuine Kurhn dolls hair, but it’s quite thick and nicely styled.  She came in a gift set with a couple of awful, cheap looking dresses, an umbrella and handbag, hence the hefty price tag.  I haven’t seen a similar clone since, so I’m glad I bought her.  It just goes to show that no doll is safe from having a cheap copy hit the market.

Kurhn is readily available from eBay and is not very expensive, especially for the quality. So if you’d like to add a Chinese doll to your collection, Kurhn may be the doll for you. Gong Hey Fat Choy and welcome, the year of the pig!

Harley Davidson Barbie and Ken Giftset 2009

I was really excited about the Harley Davidson Barbie and Ken Giftset of 2009.  The Ken doll had a new face mould and articulated body and the Barbie doll has the Aphrodite mould, and at that point I didn’t have a doll with this mould. I couldn’t wait to get this set.  However, once the box was open, it was a different story and I found myself feeling disappointed.

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The Ken doll is fantastic, he zoomed straight to the top of my favourite Ken list.  His face is drop dead gorgeous, with a swish of dark blonde hair, and his articulated body is great too, the most poseable Ken doll body to date, used on several subsequent dolls, with bending elbows, knees, wrists and ankles.  I love that he has a ‘tattoo’ on his forearm, although I hope he didn’t pay too much for it, as the artwork leaves a lot to be desired.  His outfit is understated, ‘pleather’ pants, boots, long sleeved Harley Davidson tee shirt, helmet and sunglasses.  I have had arguments with other collectors who claim that his face is the same as the Twilight Edward doll, but there are many differences.  Harley’s nose is smaller and straighter, his chin has more of a cleft, there is more gap between the tip of his nose and his lip and his lips are less pronounced.  There was no disappointment at all with this half of the giftset.

Harley Ken 2009 has a different face to Twilight Edward, although there is a slight resemblance. Why didn’t Ken get skulls on his sunnies?

The Barbie is also gorgeous, I love that she has jet black hair and the dark eye paint and partial beehive hairdo give her an edgy, Amy Winehouse vibe.  Her fashion is fab, cream ‘pleather’ pants and jacket over a black tank with silver Harley Davidson logo, silver hoop earrings, black boots, helmet and sunglasses.  A couple of little extra touches really impressed me; she has a tiny diamante belly button ring and little skulls on the side of her sunnies (why didn’t Ken’s glasses get this touch?).  All good so far.  And then I took her out of the box.  She had bendable, pivotal legs, but unbending, straight model-muse type body and arms. What the hell Mattel? What on Earth were they thinking?  Why give Ken a fab new poseable body and not make Barbie fully articulated too?  And too bad if you were planning to display them on the Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Sure Barbie could sit on the bike, but with her arms stuck straight out.  And this was so close to being a perfect set.  I was so disappointed, that I found myself mostly ignoring these dolls for display and dioramas, and sadly, they were banished to the back of the cabinet.

I decided to look for a body suitable for a swap for Barbie, despite the fact it would mean losing her belly button ring (and charcoal nail polish), but it would have to be the right type of body, and she is very pale.  Luckily, a couple of years later a friend gave me a Sinatra Barbie and her body was the perfect match.  It’s a hybrid body, a Pivotal torso which is slightly longer than Harley’s body, Pivotal legs and arms and Fashionista hands.  Now, I always intended to swap them over straight away, but I’d left it so long, the thought of removing Harley’s head without damaging that bee hive put me off and I just didn’t get around to it until a week or so ago. But now it’s done and Harley Barbie and Ken can finally take a spot in the front row of the cabinet with the other poseable dolls that I use all the time.

Sinatra Barbie became Harley’s body donor and Harley is so much better now that she can move.

I’m on the hunt for a tiny diamante to glue to her belly button now, just like her original body.  I’m finally happy with both these dolls, this is now the perfect giftset and a disappointment no more.

My First Clones

For the first post of 2019, I thought I would go back to the beginning, where the dolly love affair began for me.  I got my first teenage fashion dolls (as they were called back then) for Christmas in about 1970, a week before my fourth birthday.  I had no idea such things existed, so when I unwrapped these tiny plastic people under the Christmas tree, I was immediately both fascinated and in love.  I can still remember that moment, that feeling, it was so strong.  They were quite simply the best things I had ever seen, and they were mine.  They came with a few fashions and a plastic hanging rack/wardrobe with tiny coat hangers, and here my memory isn’t so good.  I can’t remember exactly which outfits I got, or, for that matter, exactly what clothes my clone dolls were wearing.  I’ve had to rely purely on gut instinct, the fashions that I feel I’ve had the longest, that came on that first Christmas morning.  I’m fairly certain I have all of my childhood dolls clothes, I was the kind of child that really looked after everything.  I’m not saying I was perfect, of course I’ve lost little bits and pieces over the decades, but not entire fashions.  I also still have the hanging rack – somewhere. Again, it’s not in perfect nick, I’ve lost some of the hangers and I think I might even have broken a part of it and it’s had to be repaired.  When I find it, I may feature it.

These first dolls were cheap clone dolls, that is, copies of other dolls.  Two are quite obviously Sindy clones, their faces look very much like her, although their bodies are more Barbie-like in size and design.  They are made from a hollow, blow-moulded plastic, although their arms are solid. Their hair is a poor quality fibre and is sparsely rooted. These must have been the cheapest of the cheap dolls (well, I was only almost four) as their face paint is very poorly applied, and there are small paint splats all over their faces.  The dresses they wear may be original.  They are both made from the same kind of cheap, coarse weave fabric and are very similar in design.  One has a ‘Made in Hong Kong’ tag sewn into the outside seam. I’m also guessing the boots may have been original, I can’t remember (or find) any other shoes that suit them.

The other two are closer to Skipper doll size, although their faces are a little different to Skipper’s.  Again, they may be wearing their original fashions and shoes, they feel right to me.  Both these dolls have the same face mould, but they do have quite different expressions. The head of the doll in the floral dress is stuck at this angle, giving her a sweet, demure expression, where the other one seems to be having a bad day and is quite clearly over it.  Both had rooted eye lashes, although they are mostly missing on one doll.  They have a lot of hair.  Cheap, easily damaged, unruly hair, so I’ve had to tie it back.  Again their bodies are blow-moulded hollow plastic, but their arms are a rubbery vinyl.

I can’t recall (or find) ever getting any clothes to fit the Skipper sized dolls, they had to be content with homemade fashions, but I’m fairly sure these three fashions came with the bigger dolls.  I love the pink fuzzy coat (possibly brushed nylon of some sort) with the cheap nylon faux fur trim and hat, even though it is not a good fit and the belt buckle is a nightmare to undo and do up again.  I also love the little pill box hat with the pink and green dress, even if I did have to stick a pin in the doll’s head to keep it on.  I have no idea of brands or names of these dolls or fashions – none are marked or tagged other than ‘Made in Hong Kong,’ so if anyone has any idea of who or what they are, I’ve love to hear from you.

In the grand scale of things, these four, pretty crappy dolls are not worth much at all – then or now.  But to me they are priceless.  I love them as much as any other doll in my collection because they were the first.  They were my first plastic play pals and the catalyst of my collection. I wouldn’t part with them for the world.

Quick Post: Happy New Year

Twelve months ago, I decided to start a doll blog as another way to share and enjoy my collection. I intended to try and post often, but before long, I had set myself the challenge of posting at least once a week.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.  I didn’t know if I’d have the time, the inclination and above all, enough things to write about.  But here I am, a year later and I’ve achieved my goal.  I’ve written 60 posts which have been viewed over 4500 times, by almost 2000 visitors, from 58 countries.  Now, by blog standards, that’s not huge, but I when I started, I didn’t really expect anyone to find and read my posts at all, so I’m more than pleased with the results. I’ve received some lovely comments and feedback, met some new people and hopefully helped a few fellow collectors too.  The most popular topic by far, has been the Skipper Babysitter post – it seems to be viewed quite regularly – and to be honest, I’m not really sure why.  I’d have thought vintage dolls would have been the most popular, but that goes to show how much I know.  I’ve realised I haven’t really written much about the doll that is most represented in my collection, the Barbie doll, but I suppose that’s because there are so many websites and blogs devoted to them.  I’ll endeavour to continue in 2019 (and perhaps I’ll even write more about Barbie), but until then, I want to thank you for reading, liking, following and commenting and, above all, I want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2019.

Happy New Year!

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