There is nothing quite as exciting to a doll collector as the exquisite anticipation of a doll event. Those of you who have been to one know what I am talking about. A doll event is the one place we can go to in which we are completely surrounded by people who “get” us, or at least “get” our passion for our hobby. It’s the one place we don’t have to explain our hobby to the uninitiated—those who can’t understand why a grown woman would buy 500 “Barbie dolls.” It’s the one place where we aren’t judged for putting down $300 for “just a doll” crafted by an amazing artist who should be getting much more for her efforts. And it is the one place where you can literally squeal with excitement upon winning a doll raffle and not be carted off to the Funny Farm.

Tomorrow I will attend Metrodolls in Iselin, New Jersey—an annual event founded by the Metrodolls club about a decade ago. I attended once before nine years ago, and, as I do at all doll events, I had a lovely time. The souvenir doll was a beautiful raven Tyler in black and red, and the companion doll was a pretty Shauna with variegated hair dressed in a bedtime ensemble. Both of these dolls are still in my collection.

Metro Style Tyler
Sweetheart Style Shauna

While Metrodolls is a terrific time packed with the events all doll collectors hold dear—vendors, raffles, auctions, presentations, and the great souvenir doll reveal—it is also all too short. Given that I’ve been looking forward to this event since I decided in February to attend, that’s a lot of buildup over a one-day event.

But as I sit in my hotel room in New Jersey and write this, I am reminded that I am here for more than the dolls—I am here for the doll people. I reunited with several people in my former doll club this evening, and I had a wonderful time catching up with them and chatting with collectors I haven’t met before. Doll collecting is as much about the personalities that make up our community as it is about the art we collect.

So tomorrow when I squeal with joy over being called as the winner of a raffle, or when I gasp in delight when the souvenir doll is revealed, or when I squeeze through a crowded vendor table to lay claim to that perfect little black doll dress, I will know that I am in the company of people who understand completely where I am coming from.

Antique dolls, little old ladies, and the best pulled pork ever

[Note: My apologies to those of you who received an email about this post yesterday. I had not yet finished it, and I hit the “post” button too soon.] 😦

Last week I ventured to Lakeland, Florida, a small town about an hour from my house in Tampa, to attend a doll show. I’ve always thought that “doll shows” were misnamed, as they are actually just a gathering of second-hand sellers offering their wares to collectors in pursuit of a good bargain. I’d been to this “show” before. It is held in a city municipal building in a large room reserved for community events, and it is sponsored by The Tropical Doll Study Club. This doll club is comprised mostly of older ladies who shy away from modern dolls in favor of child vintage and antique dolls, and the offerings at this show reflect that. I’d last attended the annual show two years ago, and the slight attendance made me fear that this event, like many other doll gatherings, was on its way out due to waning interest.

My experience this year was quite different, as I was barely able to get into the door just one hour after the event began. I’d previously been on the younger side of the other attendees at this event, but this time I was the youngest by at least 25 years. I found myself shuffling around a room crowded with ladies well into their 70s to 90s sporting perfectly coiffed snow-white hair, many with canes, walkers, and motorized wheelchairs.

Politely holding back from the crowd of hunched backs weighed down by years of osteoporosis, I waited my turn to examine each table’s offerings. There was a huge range in doll quality and price. The dolls ranged from beat-up vintage child dolls that vendors were trying to liquidate by nearly giving them away to high-end, well-preserved antique dolls selling for thousands of dollars. I know nothing about valuing vintage and antique dolls, so I don’t know if there were any “deals” to be had. There was a handful–and I do mean handful–of modern fashion dolls along the lines of Tyler and Gene, but the vendors obviously hadn’t priced them on eBay lately, as they were asking two to three times of what the dolls currently go for.

My personal “find” of the day was located at the back of the room, where I found box upon box of hundreds–perhaps thousands–of old doll magazines. Since I myself hold on to every doll magazine I have ever acquired and occasionally enjoy looking through them and reminiscing, I immediately started going through them. There was everything from Doll Crafter to FDQ, and some of the magazines went back to the early 1980s. I plopped myself down beside the boxes (no easy feat, as I was wearing a dress for a wedding that I was to attend later in the day), and I began combing through them. In about 45 minutes, I had put aside about a dozen magazines to purchase. I walked up to the nearest person–who I assumed was selling the magazines–and asked her how much she wanted for them. She replied that they were placed there by several vendors who wanted to get rid of them and so were “giving them away.”

“And I have a couple boxes of doll books,” she added. “Would you be interested in those too?”

Holy shit.

Needless to say, I spent the next hour or so assembling pile upon pile of doll magazines and books, and then I made several trips to my car to transport them all. Standing at the back of my small SUV, I observed my find and reflected on the reaction of my husband—who had just recently went on a rant about how I never throw anything away and how our garage is filled to the top with doll crap—upon seeing my haul.

And then I closed the door with a shrug.

I had a bit more time before I had to leave for the wedding, so I ventured back and looked over the items in a charity auction. They were pretty sad—mostly small, worthless dolls and teddy bears that people obviously wanted to get rid of. Still, it was for charity, so I bought a few tickets.

At this point, all of the jostling among elderly doll collectors and leaning over heaps of old magazines had made me hungry. Several ladies were selling pulled pork sandwiches, scooping the fragrant meat from well-worn crock pots. I ordered one, and I have to say that it was the best damned pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever tasted. I followed it up with a couple homemade cookies being sold by a benevolent-looking grandma, and I made it to the door, satiated by dolls and home cooking.

It was a very, very good day.