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    Auction Finds

    An unabashed ‘dollaholic’ – and very proud of it

    Vicky Forbes stumbled into doll collecting. She was on the hunt for a childhood doll, searching flea markets, yard sales and just about any place else for her memorable Charmin’ Chatty doll.

    After she found it, she also started to notice others, and then she was hopelessly smitten by this menagerie of dolls. Today, she both collects black dolls and sells all manner of dolls as a dealer – on eBay and also at doll shows. She got so much into her new avocation that 17 years ago in Maryland, she co-founded a doll collectors club of like-minded people.

    “I am a happy dollaholic and I don’t want to be cured!” she says.

    vicky1joelouis

    Vicky Forbes with her Joe Louis doll, circa 1940s.

    Forbes shares the story of her collection and her love of dolls.

    Question:

    Did you grow up with a lot of dolls? Were any of them black dolls?

    Answer:

    I loved dolls growing up, but did not have a lot. I would get them for birthdays, Christmas. I remember getting one of those tall 36″ companion dolls when I was 6 years old in 1962. She was black with short curly hair, but I did not appreciate her then because my cousin got a black companion doll with long hair, so of course I wanted her doll instead. I now have two companion dolls in my collection, but I sure wish I still had my original doll. I also loved playing with Barbie and friends, and still have some of my original battle-scarred dolls. I even had the 1967 Black Francie … but alas I sold her many years ago when someone made me an offer I could not refuse.

    Question:

    Tell me the story of how you got started collecting? How long have you been collecting?

    Answer:

    I never planned on being a collector. It happened on my journey to find a replacement for my childhood talking Charmin’ Chatty doll. I would search yard sales and flea markets, and antique shows. I finally found her in 1989. I saw all the other nice dolls and was intrigued. I found an old Doll Reader magazine with an ad for a local doll auction company. I called to see if they were still in business and have been getting great deals on dolls there since 1990. I started selling dolls in 1990 to pay for the dolls I wanted. I was set up at a flea market and a nice older lady invited me to join her doll club, Lady Baltimore Doll Study Club, a UFDC (United Federation of Doll Clubs) affiliated club. This was my first exposure to formal doll collecting. I was hopelessly addicted.

    vicky2vintage

    Vicky Forbes’ vintage dolls.

    Question:

    How many dolls do you have in your collection and how do you store them?

    Answer:

    I downsized from a house to an apartment several years ago, so my collection has shrunk considerably. I have two curio cabinets full and several displayed in my living room and dining area. I probably still have at least 200 dolls. I never keep dolls in boxes as I believe they are to be enjoyed, not held captive.

    Question:

    What’s the oldest doll that you have? When was it made?

    Answer:

    My antique bisque 7″ Gebruder Kuhnlenz doll is the oldest doll I have. She was made in the early 1900s. 

    Question:

    What’s the most special doll in your collection? Tell me the story about your buying that one.

    Answer:

    My most prized doll is my 24″ papier-mache Joe Louis doll made by Bernard Ravca, circa 1940s. He has such a nicely detailed face and looks so handsome in his Army uniform. I was at an auction where many Bernard Ravca dolls were being sold. He was the only black one, and I knew he was going home with me no matter what the cost. There was a bit of a bidding war, but obviously I was victorious.

    vicky3afashion

    Vicky Forbes’ fashion dolls. Forbes makes jewelry for her fashion dolls, and the Colin Dehan doll on the right wears some of her creations.

    Question:

    Why is it important to collect and maintain black dolls? As representatives of black history?

    Answer:

    Black dolls are extremely important in telling the story of African Americans. It is my driving force in collecting. I like doing exhibits showing a timeline of antique through modern black dolls so people understand why they depicted our dolls as pitch-black caricatures and mammies, what happened during the civil rights era when dolls started to more accurately reflect our features, and now the beautiful artist and play dolls that that show all skin tones.

    Question:

    What drives you to collect black dolls?

    Answer:

    I love dolls that look like me and have historical significance.

    Question:

    Do you offer presentations on your dolls?

    Answer:

    Yes, I have done special exhibits with my doll club at local libraries, at UFDC and club-sponsored luncheons, nursing homes, public schools and the Baltimore Museum of Art. I have also done programs for my doll club, and another area doll club for Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Another doll club member (and I) did a black doll display in December 2012 at the Gaithersburg, MD, doll show. We were so proud to win first place for our club. Of course, I had my beloved Joe Louis doll there for all to see. 

    Question:

    Tell me about the Charm City Dolling Club? Has being in a club made a difference in your doll collecting?

    Answer:

    I am currently the vice president of Charm City Dolling Club and one of the founding members. We are in our 17th year and still one of the largest primarily African American doll clubs in the Maryland area. I love being in an atmosphere of people who are as passionate as I am about collecting with an emphasis on black dolls. I have been exposed to fantastic trips to doll museums, doll shops, doll luncheons, UFDC doll convention and primarily the ongoing education about dolls of all types. As our motto goes, which I coined, “We are a delightful group of dedicated dollaholics sharing our love of dolls with others.” Anyone interested in joining our club can email me via the Comments box below.

    vicky4antique

    Vicky Forbes’ antique dolls.

    Question:

    Do you specialize in a certain type of doll? What and why?

    Answer:

    I tend to have subcategories that I specialize in collecting that can change from time to time. I have four main categories of dolls: 1) vintage dolls – 1970 and earlier, 2) Ndebele beaded dolls from South Africa, 3) modern fashion dolls, and 4) modern artist dolls of mixed media. 

    Question:

    Do you have a certain criteria for collecting dolls? Or do you just buy what you like?

    Answer:

    Well, right now space limitations dictate what I collect. I always buy what I like, but rarely at retail. I am a patient collector and will wait to get a deal. Dolls I buy must fit in one of my curio cabinets and fit into one of my categories. Gotta stay focused when you don’t have much space.

    Question:

    Do you collect dolls only or also their accessories? Do you collect other types of things?

    Answer:

    I also collect clothes for my dolls. I don’t have space for any (doll) furniture or (doll) houses.

    Question:

    Is there one doll you’ve always wanted but haven’t been able to find?

    Answer:

    I love hard plastic dolls from the 1950s and always wanted the Madame Alexander Cynthia doll. I will get her one day at the right price. Remember, I am the patient collector.

    vicky5artist

    Vicky Forbes’ artist dolls.

    Question:

    Where do you usually buy your dolls from?

    Answer:

    Most of my dolls come from auctions, estate sales or doll shows. I rarely pay retail for a doll. After all I am also a doll dealer, so at any time my “babies” could be sold for the right price.

    Question:

    You are both a collector and a dealer. Tell me about why you chose to do both.

    Answer:

    I sort of fell into the business of selling dolls as a result of collecting. I would go to auctions and get these box lots that had a few dolls I wanted to keep, but what would I do with the rest? Aha, sell them at a flea market. Well, I got to really love the people I met who were doll junkies like me. I am naturally friendly and dolls just sell themselves. The best benefit, of course, is having more money to buy the dolls I like to collect. So over 24 years later, selling dolls is still as enjoyable as ever.

    Question:

    How do you decide which dolls to keep and which to sell? Do you only sell black dolls?

    Answer:

    Sometimes, my decision is based on practical matters, like when I moved to a smaller living space my larger dolls had to go. Also as my collecting focus changed, it was easy to sell the ones that no longer fit into my focus on black dolls. Hence, I sold almost all of my white dolls except a few with red hair. I am a sucker for any doll with red hair. I generally do not collect porcelain dolls and got rid of all but about four of them.

    I sell all types of vintage to modern collectible dolls. Most of the dolls I sell are not black because they are generally not that prevalent at the auctions I attend. When I do get black dolls I sell them primarily to my doll club members, then any left over are eBay fodder. 

    vicky6african

    Vicky Forbes’ African dolls, including beaded Ndebele dolls from South Africa.

    Question:

    How often do you sell on eBay? Is it a lucrative or good place to sell dolls?

    Answer:

    I have been selling on eBay (her eBay seller Id is dollin4u) every week for the past 13 years. It has been a very worthwhile venue, but only for informed sellers who know the value of items and keyword importance in the titles. I do well because I am buying dolls that are well below fair market value, and can sell them reasonably and still make a profit. I would advise any would-be eBay seller to do their research first on what a doll is selling for on the auction site before listing it. That will avoid disappointment if expectation on value is too high.

    Question:

    Have you had your doll collection appraised? Are your dolls catalogued?

    Answer:

    I try to keep a catalog of my dolls with photos, but it needs to be updated. I have not had my collection formally appraised. 

    vickycloth7a

    Vicky Forbes’ sharecropper and mammy dolls (at left) and other cloth dolls (at right), including a female doll with teeth.

    Question:

    Someone mentioned to me that doll collecting is an obsession. Can you ever have too many dolls?

    Answer:

    Oh yes, doll collecting is an obsession bordering on hoarding. My theory is you can never have too many dolls so long as they fit in the space you have. I am a happy dollaholic and I don’t want to be cured! 

    Question:

    Tell me a little about yourself and your background. What do you do when you’re not collecting dolls?

    Answer:

    I live with my husband James of 31 years who has reluctantly come to love the dolls as much as I do. I am the oldest of eight siblings, so I never felt the need to have any kids of my own. My dolls are the only children I need, thank you very much. I was a program analyst with IRS where I worked for 21 years.

    vicky8tiny

    Vicky Forbes’ Tiny Kitty Collier dolls from Tonner Doll Co., along with Barbie dolls.

    In the year 2000, I had an awakening that life is too short and you should do what you are passionate about to make a living. Hence, I became a full-time doll dealer selling primarily on eBay, which I still do in addition to doing a few doll shows a year, such as the one in York, PA.

    I have always had an interest in photography so eBay is a perfect fit. I also enjoy making jewelry for me and my fashion dolls. I am also a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant, and do free facials and makeup in my volunteer work with area nursing homes and homeless shelters. I recently joined the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW so I can help our wounded veterans. It’s a busy, but rewarding life I lead. Just not enough hours in the day.

    _________________________

    If you collect black dolls or know someone who does, please let me know. I’d love to write about them and their collection. If you have any doll memories, please share those, too. Please contact me in the Comments box below.

    Here are the other blog posts in the black dolls and their collectors series:

    Barbara Whiteman and the Philadelphia Doll Museum

    Aunt Sarah’s Dolls

    Memories of a special doll and a love for baby dolls

    My chance meeting of a black doll collector

    A surprising mix of black dolls at convention

    When black dolls talk, Debbie Garrett listens

    Baby dolls don’t ‘eat, cry, or grow up & sass’

    There’s more to Barbie than just good looks

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