Collection the foundation of A to Z Doll Club

Published 6:25 pm Monday, March 27, 2017

For some, dolls are a part of childhood, left behind once a girl hits a certain age. But for others, dolls are a lifelong hobby and an investment. Some dolls are also the basis of a local social group that has come together once a month since the 1980s to talk about its finds, new and old.

The A to Z Doll Club is that club — a group of women who, each for their own reasons, began collecting dolls at some point in their lives.

“I started (collecting) because my first doll was one my grandmother gave me when I was 2 months old. There’s a lot of sentimental value in that,” said Patricia Harris. “Plus my mom taught me to sew by teaching me how to sew doll clothes.”

Dolls have been created for hundreds of years, and have been bought and sold by collectors for nearly as many. Harris said she enjoys studying the history of each doll — and there are so many categories and so many eras from which to choose. There are vintage dolls, porcelain dolls, newer mass-produced dolls with series of collectibles, such as Barbie, Madame Alexander dolls, and many, many more.

A to Z member Gloria Windley knows all her dolls’ history: to Monday’s meeting, she brought a Littlest Angel, a small, circa-1950s doll in her original box, along with neatly package outfits that were sold separately.

“Like all little girls, she loved clothes. Her mother would take her shopping every Saturday,” Windley said, and elaborated on how on one shopping trip, Littlest Angel selected a petticoat above all other clothing options.

Vintage dolls such as the Littlest Angel can add up to a lucrative hobby: in 2014, a porcelain bisque doll made by French sculptor Albert Marque in 1916 was sold at auction for $300,000. But more likely, doll collecting stems from appreciation for the craft of doll-making, and a bit of sentimentality.

“My mother did not like dolls. She was very athletic and a tomboy, so I didn’t have dolls. After I grew up, I got all the dolls I wanted,” Windley laughed. “Mother had 100 pairs of shoes. I have dolls.”

The A to Z Doll Club members will be featuring their dolls — some for sale and some for display — at the club’s annual Doll Show. The show was originally scheduled for Oct. 15, just a week after Hurricane Matthew blew through eastern North Carolina, which left the show’s venue flooded. The Doll Show has been rescheduled for April 8 at the Tar Heel Variety Theater in Chocowinity and will included 41 tables of dolls and their accessories and 12 out-of-state vendors, along with those members who will be selling parts of their own collections.

“We’ll have porcelain dolls, Barbie dolls, handmade dolls — if you like a doll, it’ll be there,” Windley said.

Also on hand at the Doll Show will be a specialist from New Bern who does doll appraisals and repair.

“That’s for when people — they had a doll that used to be their mother’s and they want to know how much it was worth,” said club President Diana Cates.

The Doll Show will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 8; admission is $5. There is no admission for children under the age of 12 who are attending with a parent. The Tar Heel Variety Theater is located at 485 Carrow Road, off N.C. Highway 33, Chocowinity.