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Collecting Dolls

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Collecting Dolls

Doll collecting is a highly popular hobby. The United States alone has tens of thousands of people and dozens of institutions that preserve dolls.

Outstanding public collections of dolls in the United States are at the Museum of the City of New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in New York City, the Wenham Museum in Wenham, Massachusetts, and Mary Merritt's Doll Museum in Douglasville, Pasadena. Museums all over the world have similar collections. Important European exhibits of dolls are in the Germanisches Museum in Nuremberg, Germany; the State Museum of Toys in Zagorsk, the Soviet Union; and the London Museum and Bethnal Green Museum, both in London, England.

Doll collections may be of either a special or a general nature. A special collection is limited to dolls of a particular period, style, or nationality. Some collectors try to obtain a doll in native costume from every country in the world. A general collection may have any doll that is of historic or artistic value.

When and where a doll was created may be determined by such factors as its dress, the materials of which it is made, and certain physical details. European dolls, for example, are often dated and identified by their eyes. In the earlier models the eyes were generally of enamel. As time went by, however, doll makers began to make glass eyes, which were of one color and often without a. pupil. Eventually the two methods were combined, and a doll eye consisted of a glass pupil and iris surrounded by white enamel. Today most dolls have plastic eyes.

It is not known who the first doll collectors were. The Aztec ruler Montezuma, in 16th-century Mexico, had a large collection. Queen Victoria of England owned more than 100 dolls, which were described in 1904 in a book by Frances H. Low. Many of them have been preserved and can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

During the past 75 years, doll collecting has become increasingly popular, especially in the United States and Canada. Many doll collectors begin this hobby by preserving their own childhood toys. Dolls are bought and sold through antique dealers, through personal advertisements, or at auctions, as well as in toy stores. Some dolls have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. Particularly valuable are the fashionably dressed dolls made by Jumeau and by Bru in France during the late 19th century. The most expensive of all, however, are dolls from ancient times.

History of Dolls

Small human images were probably first used in religious rituals; gods and saints were similarly represented. In #Egyptian# tombs, images representing servants were buried with the dead person, and, in China, doll figures were substituted for human sacrifice at burials after the time of Confucius.

In Japan, dolls may represent famous warriors and are specially made for the boys' and girls' festivals. Doll figures have also been used for witchcraft; made of clay, wax or rag, the image was used in spells to bring harm or death to the person that it represented.

However, dolls used simply as toys have an equally long history. From ancient Egypt, paddle dolls, carved from wood and decorated with paint and beads, have been found. By Greek and Roman times, dolls had movable limbs and clothes that could be removed. If a girl died before marriage, her dolls were buried with her; otherwise, when she married, she relinquished them on the altar of Artemis (Diana) to show that she had finished with childhood. In the Middle Ages, doll-making became an industry in some areas, such as Nuremberg in Germany. Dolls were made not only as toys for children but also as a means of displaying fashion. In the eighteenth century, beautifully dressed fashion dolls were sent to fine ladies to show them the latest styles.

The earliest dolls were made from wood, rag, string, bone or clay, but, by the Middle Ages, the bodies were made of leather or fabric and the heads, hands and feet of leather, wax, wood and, finally, china.

Gradually 'composition' heads were introduced, made of a type of papier-mache, and the finest dolls were given heads of bisque (unglazed china). Many had human hair and eyes that opened and shut. The wax dolls of the nineteenth century were gradually replaced by the more durable rubber and celluloid kinds of the early twentieth century.

Modern dolls are more life-like and usually made of vinyl plastic. Some have complete wardrobes, reflecting modern styles, and others have devices to enable them to cry, walk, talk and perform many other functions.

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