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Myrtle Beach Doll Show
The Coastal Doll Collector Club Show is a Big Success!

By Roving Reporter Cheryl Conrad

My friends and I had been anticipating March 3, 2001, the day of The Coastal Doll Collector's Show, since the new year started.  I had the pleasure of visiting the show last year during my first year living in South Carolina, when  I was initiated into this great experience by Sharon Westmiller of Gilbert, South Carolina, who owns The Dollmakr shop and started our Dear Dollies Club.  This year's Show was just as varied as last year and I was not disappointed.  

At The Show

There were 93 vendors at the show from as far away as The Netherlands, Nebraska and Michigan displaying everything from miniatures to molds to china paint, shoes, wigs, laces, fabric, paper scraps, and antique and vintage dolls.  Of the dolls, there were Shirley Temples, Kewpies, Barbies, Ginnys, Nancy Ann Storybook, and many other  popular dolls of the 1950's through 2001.  I was surprised to see such a varied assortment of dolls on display.  Of course, as a new collector, I had learned more about dolls since last year's show and I could pick out the names of more dolls that I had read about.  There was also a very good selection of ethnic dolls this year  which I don't remember seeing as many of last year.

I'm sure I could have interviewed every vendor there if there was time.  Everyone had a story to tell.  I did talk with Lynn Slade of Slades Antique Dolls.  She was a collector until she was urged by a dealer friend to attend an auction with her.  She was hooked right
away.  Ms. Slade has recently relocated from Michigan to Myrtle Beach.  Her display was breathtaking (see picture).  Her statement that "Germans are toy makers" says it all.  She had beautiful examples of Kestner, SFBJ, K*R, and Heubach antique dolls by German makers.  What really sets these dolls off is not only the wonderful condition they are in but the exquisite clothing, made from antique fabric, that has been sewn for them by a lady in Michigan whose attention to detail really stands out.

Other types of dolls that were  on hand included Lee Middleton, Susan Wakeen, the old cloth standbys--Raggedy Ann and Andy (some newly made and some vintage), Attic babies, American Girl accessories, Gene and on and on.  The only editorial comment I would like to make here is that from my experience (which isn't lengthy) and what I have read, dolls with imperfections especially in the facial area will not bring top dollar. However, at the Show, the prices on some of the dolls (mostly composition) I felt were out of line considering the condition--crazing, cracks and yes even gouges!

Talking With The Members of the Coastal Doll Collectors Club

Miriam Little, treasurer of the Coastal Doll Collectors Club, had old me that they expected 2,000 visitors at the Show over the 2-day period.  As it was, they anticipated an even larger turnout this year due to the very rainy period over Saturday and Sunday--in contrast, last year the day of the Show was 74 degrees and a beautiful sunny day.  In the early years of the Show, attendance averaged about 1600.

Miriam explained that the Coastal Doll Collectors Club is a working club with varied interests.  They have monthly meetings and were organized in 1980.  The members collect antique to modern, cloth to porcelain--the whole spectrum.  The representatives of the club that I spoke to were very gracious and generous to me with their time, considering how busy everyone was that day putting on the Show.  I thank them very much for demonstrating the hospitality that South Carolina is noted for.

Ellie Schiller, President of the Club, shared her philosophy about doll collecting:  "A lot of people think they (dolls) are playthings but they are really pieces of history."  She strongly advocates teaching with dolls in the classroom which excites both boys and girls.  When you add period clothing to a doll and use it as a teaching assistant, another country becomes real.  The club enjoys creating displays at libraries and nursing homes to share with the public. 

Southern Cotillion Display

It was a distinct pleasure to be able to talk to Thelma Resch, a well-known sculptress and mold maker from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, which is not too far from Myrtle Beach.  Thelma is also a member of the Coastal Doll Collectors Club.  She sculpts her original designs out of clay, produces the molds and sells them to dealers for everyone to enjoy.  Her original sculpture named "Kathleen" was used for the display called "Southern Cotillion" for the show (see picture below).  Thelma explained that about 6 months ago the club decided the theme for their display would be a debutante party or cotillion, which is a southern tradition.  All members took part in creating their own doll from the Kathleen doll they were provided. 

Elvira Peele, who has a kiln, poured the "Kathleen" mold for the members, and the members learned how to prepare the greenware and china paint the features of the dolls.  Elvira said it was a learning experience for everyone.  Finally, a basic pattern was provided for the beautiful clothing, but everyone enjoyed adding their own dreams to the beautiful gowns of white with laces, pearls and other accessories.

Thelma explained that there is a matriarch in the display who was a debutante years ago.  She decides which young ladies will participate and be accepted into society.  It was hard to believe that these dolls were all from the same mold.  The variety of hair design and color as well as skin tone and style of dress made them all look so different! 

More On The Show Experience

It may have been raining outside but it didn't dampen the spirits of the lucky people who attended this doll show.  If you couldn't find something to your liking at this show, it probably doesn't exist!   One of my main preoccupations at last year's show was to zero in on the doll that suited me best.  I admire all dolls from all eras and appreciate their beauty and artistry which made this show most appealing.  I discovered that my favorite, however, is the Patsy doll.  I don't know if it is the purse of her lips which reminds me of my own daughter as a young child or the era of the l930's which she symbolizes but I know she talks to me!  I bought one of the
current reproduction dolls on the market last year which I enjoy very much. I do have what I think is a doll from the l920's with many of Patsy's characteristics in composition which is a medium I am partial to also.  I am fortunate to live near Camden, South Carolina which has many antique shops and opportunities for good finds!

My friends who I referred to early on in this article all came away quite satisfied.  Shirley found a Heartstrings Angel Barbie  that she had only seen once before at a friend's house which she had to have and a couple of outfits for her childhood doll which have made her doll very happy (as well as its owner).  If possible, that doll's face just seems a little brighter these days!  My friend Debbie added five more ethnic dolls to her and her daughter's collections.  I bought some miniature dolls and bears to use with the Santa's I make.  I looked for some shoes for my composition doll but didn't have any luck this year.  Last year at the same show I bought a whole collection of shoes for my new Patsy doll!  (I hope my husband isn't reading this)

Well, needless to say, we are all still talking about what we saw at the doll show and what we brought home including some great memories of a day shared with good friends. After reading this I hope you have also experienced a bit how we felt as we experienced this wonderful show.  Our next doll show adventure  will be in Florence, South Carolina at the beginning of October, although a firm date hasn't been set yet for this show.   If it is sooner than October that's fine with us!

Get to know Cheryl:  Read her Biography!

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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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