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Ruby's Dolls
A story about a collector and the dolls that she loves.

One of the most interesting things about owning a doll shop are the interesting people with interesting doll collections that I get to meet on a regular basis.  Last week, a young college student named Cassie walked into my store.  She had lots of questions about dolls, and she was impeccable organized (she had done research, and carried a notebook with pages and pages of notes).  One thing led to another, and I found out that Cassie had offered to help a friend sell a collection of dolls on eBay, and Cassie was in bit over her head--hundreds and hundreds of dolls to sell, and no prior knowledge of dolls!  I agreed to visit the home of the doll collector to see if I could help Cassie out, and that is how I was introduced to Ruby and her doll collection.  

Meeting Ruby 

The first thing that you notice about Ruby Hernandez when you visit Ruby's house is that Ruby loves dolls.  Dolls are everywhere--a few choice ones in the living room, and then hundreds and hundreds and, well, hundreds more in the bedrooms.  And a few hundred more in the shed.  Overall, Cassie estimates (so far) about 2,000 dolls in total.  Now, the first thing that comes to mind is that Ruby must be a life-long doll collector.  Well....as it turns out, Ruby has been collecting for a grand total of 2 1/2 years.  She's not even sure what made her get started, but she has no intention of stopping, not even after she sells most of her present collection (after all, you need to create more space to collect more dolls!)

Ruby's Story 

Ruby was born in Mississippi 60-odd years ago.  She didn't have any dolls as a little girl, but has always been drawn to them, although she didn't do anything about that attraction until three husbands and many years later in Northern California, where Ruby presently lives.  One day, Ruby visited the Salvation Army, and a doll called to her.  Then, Ruby visited a few garage sales, and more dolls (and bears and plush) called to her.  And then....well, before you knew it, Ruby was a regular at the thrift stores and garage sales around town, looking for dolls that needed homes.  Once Ruby got the dolls home, she named them (yes, most of the 2,000 dolls have names!) and cleaned them up if needed--combed their hair, washed them.   Often, Ruby would also dress the dolls--everything from socks and shoes to new undies and dresses.  Before Ruby knew it, she had filled up one bedroom of her home with dolls.  And then, another.  After awhile, the dolls also took over the shed.  

Ruby's Dolls

I asked Ruby why she collected so MANY dolls.  "I don't smoke and I don't drink," said Ruby, "so you could consider dolls my only vice!"  Plus, with grown children, Ruby didn't have anyone to tell her to STOP collecting dolls "my children just think of this as mom being mom" she said.  Also, Ruby has enjoyed giving many of her dolls over the years to small children in her family and her neighborhood.  Now, however, Ruby is feeling a bit over run by the dolls, so through her son, she met Cassie who is going to help her sell many of them.

You might THINK that Ruby is selling so many of them because she no longer wants to collect dolls (well...I did until I talked to her)  but, as I mentioned above, that isn't the case--quite the opposite, in fact.  Ruby wants to continue to collect, but she wants to take a breather AND she's just run out of  room (Cassie told me that several NEW dolls had actually arrived in the house since Cassie has started working with Ruby...).

Most of the dolls in Ruby's collection are from the 1960s through the 1980s.  There are several hundred Barbie dolls (the oldest ones are 1960s Ken and Midge dolls) and many Ideal, Horsman, and Deluxe Reading dolls.  Trolls abound, there are many Black dolls, and lots of cloth as well.  There are also quite a few Cabbage Patch dolls, which are one of Ruby's favorites.  Lots of large play dolls--Patti Playpal types--stand in corners in the rooms, and there are several hundred baby dolls.  Not very many of the dolls are in mint condition, but Ruby wasn't collecting to create a mint collection, a historical record, or a valuable collection--Ruby collected to please herself, and because she loved the dolls!  She is pictured at the beginning of this article with her favorite doll from her collection--a modern porcelain doll that was a birthday gift from a dear friend.

If you are curious about the sale of the collection, you can check in on the sale at eBay, under Cassie's eBay ID, mcplanet01.  Cassie is new to eBay, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind input from more experienced eBay users--you can e-mail Cassie at cskinner@sbcglobal.net with any comments, questions or suggestions.  Tell her that you read this article in the e-mail!


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

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