We played for two hours that day and she told me she had never seen a collection like mine.
When I first became interested in antique dolls, I studied them up close and personal. It is best to train your eye and the only way to do that is study them. When you do this studying of faces, you start to see the subtle painting techniques, which one has good bisque- versus late bisque. Which ones have little imperfections on the face and what constitutes a character face versus a dolly face. Which body is supposed to go with which doll. Which manufacturers made complete dolls such as Kestner. If the eye cuts are strange on the doll, a nick to the eye may have been shaved off. I started sharing these techniques with Irene and she was fascinated with how much I had studied before I started looking for an antique doll and she was like a sponge wanting to know everything I knew so I began to talk.
We set a date for the next week for me to come and see her collection which she said was nothing like mine. What an understatement. Yes my collection had more bisque dolls in it with characters etc, but HER collection was amazing.
I drove over to her home on a wintry day and arrived at a white farm house set in the midst of tall oak trees. It was like something out of Currier and Ives and she welcomed me into her home. It was filled with many treasures and my eyes flitted from one corner to another as if I had just entered a Museum. I was enchanted with her decorating ideas as everything was old and I always feel better when I am around old things and not just because I am older myself. Old things just seem to be better quality. There is always good wood used on the furniture and my eyes took in the oak dressers, Cherry bookcases, ebony floor units that came from a shop, and all the other beautiful pieces of furniture. All of her rooms were displayed with antique paintings (fantastic), books, duck decoys, and of course my main objective dolls. We started with the downstairs to see the dolls. There was a main foyer with 2 rooms, and case after case of Vintage dolls that would knock your socks off. Original Shirley Temples in all sizes, Judy Garland, R&B's, a paper doll collection that was bar none, & hard plastics original and beautiful. I saw Toni, Ginny's of every kind including a rare Nurse display behind glass, Little Miss Revlon, and on and on more than the eyes can take in for one meeting. It took many visits to her home to really see all that she had and she was kind to let me poke around, look at anything I wanted, and ask questions.
Irene has an incredible mind for details and remembers the stories of her dolls with great accuracy. She was one of those special caretakers that loved and kept the stories of her dolls with them. She documented all purchases, cost, who and how they came to be in her collection and any family references to them in little books that she kept. It was fun just to read those books!
Nothing was off limits in her home, and I was dazzled by her bedroom collection of Quilts, and the bathroom which was a marvel in itself with the claw foot tub and other things of the 20th Century.. We went downstairs to the Game room where the old Dentist chair and jukebox garnered my attention, then back up to the Main floor to see her Chalk ware collection of children and animals.
We moseyed upstairs to see her Schoenhut pianos, her bride doll collection and then I asked if she had dolls that were older and she said a few.
Then I saw sitting on the floor a stunning Pre Grenier. We talked about the doll and she told me of it being in the chest dresser drawer in the home, which is a family home, and how it had 4 outfits with it. I cautioned against leaving it on the floor and in the light of the room and she listened to everything I had to say especially when I told her the worth of this beautiful large doll.
The next time I visited, she had her own case with her 4 outfits displayed around her like the Queen she was!
She showed me a small case of antique dolls that included Wax Over Twins in their carriage, a couple of dolly faced bisque of good quality, and some small all bisque that made me smile. She also shared with me that she had never written a check for more than 50 dollars and I smiled and told her that she would in time:-)
She had such an interest in learning and I am one wordy doll history teacher when given the opportunity so we began to share and I continued to share with her for the next ten years as she built one of the finest antique collections I had ever seen.
She learned to search for those sleepers and find them she did. Her husband supported her collecting and expressed that he would rather she spend more money on a good doll than buy 5 mediocre ones. He was great, and listened and learned also. They took me along on excursions for dolls and learned which ones were the buy or which ones should be left. I kept expanding the knowledge and one show that we were at had a Hawkins doll available. Neither of them had ever heard of it, but they valued my friendship and opinion and the doll became her along with 4 Door Of Hopes and various other dolls that day.
When we would enter a doll sale, we would go in opposite directions to find the doll deal of the day and report back. One time she found Handwerck Twins, and I found a painted eye character. We did this so that both of us would not see the same doll and both want it at the same time. This gave us an opportunity to find a steal of a deal and then share with each other our finds.
We met up with some Internet friends and visited Doll Museums, visited private collections in Canada that made me gasp and we shared our lives with each other.
Life was just better because she was in it.
I continued to buy dolls and one day I had ordered a set of paper dolls from the Collected United with very little descriptions but they were from my birth year of 1953 and that was good enough for me. When they arrived , I examined them as I always do and the handwritten names on the back made me choke on my laughter. I called my doll buddy and said do you have a few to come over and see something that just arrived and like any good doll buddy, she said I will make time.
I took her up to my small doll room where I kept the vintage collection and she and I sat on the floor in front of the antique sofa as I showed her the ballerina paper dolls I had just received. She said these are very nice and then she turned them over.. On the back of one was the name Gloria and on the back of the other one was the name Irene!!!
Simpatico, she and I.
The next 30 minutes was spent changing and playing paper dolls just like the two little girls did when they received them in the 50's. We would exchange knowing glances at each other as we played and for 30 minutes our 2nd childhood came full circle. The world was outside, and we were inside playing and dreaming and recognizing how special our relationship was.
To be Continued.. Kimmee
Judy Garland Paper Dolls
Victorian Girl Paper Doll
Victorian Girl's Germany Doll
Ballerina Paper Doll