Dolls are not like other antique and vintage items. Sometimes, I feel more like a psychiatrist than a businesswoman when making deals to buy dolls, especially dolls from someone's childhood.
Dolls From Childhood
In the typical situation, an older woman will come in carefully cradling a doll in a towel or sheet. She asks me if I'm the lady that buys dolls, and when I give the affirmative, she carefully unwraps the doll, perhaps an old bisque doll or a composition Shirley Temple. Sometimes the doll is in breathtakingly perfect condition, sometimes the doll is well loved. I'll admire the doll, and this is when the stories start.
Memories of Times Gone By
Whatever the story is, you can see the emotional connection that the woman has with the doll--perhaps her tales are of how precious the doll was to her (and hence the perfect condition) or perhaps, for the well-loved doll, the tales are of all the fun they had together--at tea parties, up in tree houses, playing mommy or with sisters. Often, tears will well up.
What About Your Family?
This is the point that I should bite my tongue (especially with a perfectly mint doll!) but I instead can't help myself, and I'll ask if they wouldn't rather give the doll to a daughter or granddaughter. No, they'll sadly say, I don't have one, or, the ones that I have don't like dolls.
Finding The Doll A Good Home
Occasionally, the lady will look at me quizzically for a moment and realize that she doesn't really want to sell the doll at all. Most, however, say they need to sell the doll for some reason (moving to a smaller home is common) and they would like to find the doll a good home. After some haggling on the price, the doll is purchased, and a last, wistful look and goodbye is given.
Seeing Collections At The Homes of Collectors
It can also be an emotional situation when visiting the home of a doll collector to purchase a collection. Some of the most difficult moments I have had buying dolls at homes have involved elderly collectors who are moving on to nursing homes or other smaller quarters. Often, it is the family who has urged them to move and part with their collection. And, they really don't want to. There is a reaction to nearly every doll I pick up--I feel like the villain, the bad guy in this situation.
Even in situations where the collector of the dolls is willing or even happy to sell, there is an emotional component to seeing how someone lives and how their collection, sometimes amassed over a lifetime, has fit into their lives. And, even the willing sellers can get a bit emotional about finally parting with their dolls.
Dolls Of The Recently Deceased
Another situation that tugs at my heartstrings are dolls brought to me by uncaring families of the recently deceased. The dolls are sometimes slammed on my desk unceremoniously, tossed together in a cardboard box. Its still obvious that the dolls were well cared for, and meant something to the deceased. You might think, especially for an old childhood doll, or for dolls lovingly collected by a doll collector, that the family might want the childhood doll or some of the collected dolls as remembrances, but, too often, the family can't sell the dolls quickly enough.
I bring up these stories not as cautionary tales for the doll collector of what might happen when you are gone (although, they are fitting for such an article as well) but instead to point out the strong emotional ties that are part and parcel of selling dolls.
The Emotional Component To Modern Doll Purchases
Even the modern dolls of today have emotional components to their purchases. Certainly, this is evident with baby dolls--the way that children and adults alike react to the doll and choose the dolls so carefully, often basing the choice on the doll that tugs at the heartstrings the most. Fashion doll collectors do it, too--they'll just fall in love with the look of a particular doll. They can't often articulate why, but perhaps the dress reminds them of a past time in their life.
Selling Dolls Is Not Like Selling Widgets
Selling dolls is unique. Its not like selling furniture, dvds, office supplies or food. Or widgets.