Forewarned is forearmed, and so it is with doll collecting. Knowledge of what you’re looking to collect may help avoid a dolly disaster. This is especially true if you collect vintage dolls. A little bit of information can help you spot a bargain and avoid a rip off. Of course, lots of information on lots of dolls is available on the internet, and although I often search online for information, I usually head to my bookshelf first. Yes, I’m old school. I like books, those papery blogs and wikis of the olden days. There are lots of reasons why, the main one being you can’t trust everything you see on the internet. Yes, I know there are some good, reliable websites out there, and yes, books can be unreliable too. But mostly, I tend to believe someone who has spent perhaps years researching, writing and publishing a book than someone who just writes stuff on the net – as, ironically, I’m doing now. Also, if I am researching a doll, I like to rely on more than one source. So in most cases I’ll use books and the interwebs or talking to someone who knows their stuff. I also just love books and would rather spend my time leafing leisurely through a few tomes in front of the telly, than following all the misleading info and false trails down a rabbit hole on my computer screen. Consequently, I have quite a few books, so thought I’d list some of my faves. Some are still readily available, while some may take some hunting down on the secondary market.
Vintage Barbie dolls
There are more books on Barbie than any other doll – and possibly any other toy – in history, but there are a few I think every vintage Barbie doll collector should own. The first of these is ‘The Ultimate Barbie Doll Book’ by Marcie Melillo. This pictures almost every Barbie and friend issue from 1959 – 1995. It’s great for identifying dolls, but also lists markings and original outfits and accessories, so can help identify a Frankendolly or missing items. Of course there are a few omissions, but generally, this is a great place to start. Next are ‘Barbie Doll Fashion’ volumes 1, 2 and 3 by Sarah Sink Eames. These books are fantastic for helping piece together Barbie’s outfits, often listing variations as well as clear photos of each fashion piece and accessory.
If you have foreign or Japanese issue dolls then you need ‘Barbie Around the World’ by J Michael Augustyniak and ‘Barbie in Japan’ by Keiko Kimura Shibano. Again, not perfect, but pretty darn good with fabulous photos and some gorgeous things to drool over and add to the wish list.
For Skipper collectors, ‘Skipper, Barbie Dolls Little Sister Identification and Value Guide’, by Scott Arend, Karla Holzerland and Trina Kent is a must have. Mine is the original, but there is a second addition also in print. And finally, if you’d like inside information on working at Mattel, you need ‘Dressing Barbie’ by Carol Spencer and ‘Barbie Talks’ by Gwen Florea and Glenda Phinney. I’ve just got ‘Dressing Barbie’ and I’m enjoying reading what it was like to design for Barbie. Gwen Florea was the voice of the first Talking Barbie, and her book is a great account of what Mattel was like in the 1960’s and 70’s, as well as her rather interesting life.
Sindy and other British dolls
Reliable information on Sindy is almost impossible to find from just one source, and unfortunately, there is no perfect Sindy text book. There is ‘The History of Sindy’ by Collette Mansell, and while I enjoy this book and have learnt a lot from it, it also contains a lot of inaccuracies and omissions. It’s also really expensive (I was lucky and bought mine when it first came out and it was expensive then, but has appreciated well), but better than nothing. In fact, I haven’t yet found a really good book on British dolls in general. I have a few; ‘British Teenage Dolls’ by Frances Baird, ‘The Collector’s Guide to British Dolls Since 1920’ by Collette Mansell and ‘British Dolls of the 1960’s’ by Susan Brewer. The first two were found at discount book shops and are the best of the three. ‘British Teenage Dolls’ has lots of colour photos and an overview of many British dolls. The Mansell book is text heavy with a few colour and black and white photos. The third one, doesn’t have a lot of information or photos and while you may enjoy the read, I’m disappointed by it and don’t bother with it much.
Other dolls – vintage and modern
My favourite Tammy ID books are ‘Collector’s Guide to Tammy Identification and Value’ by Cindy Sabulis and Susan Weglewski and ‘Tammy Rarities from Around the World’ by Cindy Sabulis and Rebecca Wingler, full of lovely colour photos and lots of info. They may be hard to find, so ‘Tammy and her Family of Dolls Identification and Price Guide’ by John Axe is a good back up, although mine has mostly black and white photos. There may be another, better version of this book available.
Benita Schwarz’s ‘Dawn Dolls Official Encyclopaedia and Price Guide’ has heaps of information and colour photos not only of Dawn dolls and her friends and fashions, but also of other Dawn sized dolls, accessories and advertising.
‘The World of Jenny’ by Rudi Teruel and David Wu is by no means a definitive guide to Takara’s Jenny dolls, but it’s a good start. I’ve identified a lot of Jenny dolls and her friends thanks to this book, written in English and Japanese.
‘All About Momoko Doll’ by Holly is exactly what it says on the cover, a perfect catalogue of Momoko doll issues up until 2017. There are lots of colour photos of dolls as well as accessories and fashions, with some English translations.
Clones are by far the hardest dolls to find reliable sources of info on and books are not always definitive either – clones were sold under many names and guises – but these are a great place to start. ‘Doll Junk’ by Carmen Varricchio shows some clones and fashions and has been useful in identifying some of my collection. ‘Vergessen Modepuppen der 1960’s – 70’s Jahre’ (‘Forgotten Fashion and Teen Dolls of the 1960’s – 70’s’) by Brigitte Enzler are great source for identifying dolls, with a special section on Petra Von Plasty. They are written in German and English.
Ok, I have to do this, ‘The World of Little Tuppence’ by Jennifer Burnett is a fantastic e-book (.pdf) on Lincoln Industries and the Little Tuppence dolls as well as an identification guide, with sections on Penny Brite and clones. Although I may be biased! Contact me for details.
As well as books, I have a good collection of doll magazines – including ‘Barbie Bazaar’, ‘Haute Doll’, ‘Fashion Doll Quarterly’ and ‘Millers Fashion Doll’ as well as folders of different doll club newsletters. All are great sources of information as well as just a good read. I also have a huge folder full of original and photocopies of articles, internet prints, advertising – all sorts of things that can be used for identification and information on all sorts of dolls. I’m always grateful when friends send me additions to this folder, and they know where to come when they’re looking for info.
As you can see from the photo of my bookshelf, there are many other books I haven’t mentioned here, and many more on my wish list (some that I would love are very hard to find). Some that I do own are arty, coffee table-type books, but I always get something out of leafing through these books too. So, whatever you collect, arm yourself with a few books – it will only enhance your collecting experience.
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