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Nature or Nurture: Why in the World Do I Buy Dolls?

I have a unique work situation: It’s me alone in a room, with just voices and thoughts in my head. (Call it the “Joan of Arc” setup, without the unfortunate stake burning.) My office is at home, and I spend most of my 10-hour workdays behind closed doors, seeing nary another person for much of that time. Yes, I will occasionally spot my husband as he continues the never-ending project of building my house’s upstairs level (hopefully, it will be done by Thanksgiving) and my kids burst through the door for a noisy salutation at 3 p.m., but other than that, it’s solitude.

I do have a coworker, so to speak—my loyal, lovely cat, Annie. She lies beside me all day long, and follows me when I do exit the office. She’s like a faithful dog with her own unique cattitude, though. She might be fetching, but she’ll never fetch! The other office mates are my dolls. Yes, you read that right: my dolls.

Not wanting to morph into one of those “crazy cat ladies” who speaks only to felines and only has feelings for those four-legged friends, I make sure to inject a bit of humanity into my work décor. Hence, the lineup of dolls.

If I had my druthers, I’d go out and buy the “Mad Men” Barbies that I covered in a past blog. I love the show, and I really adore the crisp, tailored re-creations that Mattel has done. Unfortunately, my pocketbook is not that plush these days—see above-mentioned building of an upstairs level—so the quartet of advertising gurus will have to remain an elusive pipe dream. Perhaps, I’ll scoop them up one day in the future, via eBay, the Internet source for making materialistic wishes come true.

Desiring, however, to have a couple of new faces in my watercooler arrangement, I went out to buy a new doll. Luckily, the shopping spree coincided with my birthday and, even more important, getting a 10-percent discount coupon for Target in the mail.

Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Target. I can’t get enough of their surprisingly snazzy household accessories and their beyond-cute selection of children’s clothing and women’s pajamas. (Remember, I work at home. That means I’m often dressed like the female Hugh Hefner, ready for bed no matter the hands on the clock.) With my coupon in hand, I headed off to the big box store to come home with a big box of make-believe.

The Target near my home has a healthy selection of dolls to choose from, and I had an idea of whom I wanted to find, even before I crossed over the automatic threshold. I recently acquired the “Landmark Statue of Liberty” Barbie, and I felt Lady Liberty was crying out for some friends, some other dolls who were yearning to breathe free. I went out with that mission to spring some characters from a hollow, fluorescent toy aisle.

Keeping with the Landmark theme, I selected the “Big Ben” Barbie, as well as her Parisian counterpart, the “Eiffel Tower” miss. Getting a 10-percent discount was nothing to sneeze at, so I happily headed home with a pair of treasures.

Having the trio of national emblems is a satisfying feeling. The collection was three dolls strong, and I have accumulated ALL of them. But what if others join the motif? That’s often a problem with these arching doll themes: how do they begin, and where do they end? The four seasons is a simple one to attain: after all, only four dolls can be manufactured. But Great Eras of History? Hello?!! We have primitive man, all the way to metrosexual man. Where would that line ever stop? (This was an actual Mattel product, and I bailed from it as the decades just kept coming and coming. No end appeared to be in sight.)

Right now, I’ve got hopes that the Landmarks will remain relatively manageable. If more have to be made, I imagine I’m leaning toward a “Leaning Tower of Pisa” for Italy or a really great-looking “Great Wall” for China. Who knows what others will be concocted by the design team, or if this is truly the end of the line?

I guess this is why I am a collector (or maybe just crazy, see voices-in-my-head reference). I know that three landmark dolls should be more than enough—and each one really is beautiful and regal, standing on her own two legs. But, still, I have that uncontrollable urge to perhaps swoop in and snag another one . . . or four. See, how fast it snowballs. It’s a mysterious DNA tag that makes me, and others, want to own a doll for the simple loveliness of the creation, but then also buy more and more for the thrill of the hunt.

There you go, I have stumbled upon my answer. The next and final Landmark entry should be Egypt’s “Sphinx Barbie.” Known for its enigmatic appearance, and its skill at riddle telling, this sphinx would be the ultimate salute to all of us collectors: we see, we pursue, we buy, and we don’t really know why. If anyone can unravel that collectible riddle, a doll should be made in her honor, too!

(Readers, what other landmarks would you like to see done? If you could send a postcard to Mattel, what destination/recognizable edifice would you choose? And, for the brave among us, why do you think YOU collect?)

Photo Captions

Even though I promised myself to buy one doll as a birthday treat, I came home with this pair of glamorous globetrotters (top). I say my DNA made me do it.

If Mattel’s Landmark Collection is going to continue, what will be next? I’m thinking a salute to the Sphinx would be a mysterious, mesmerizing design (down).





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I am a doll collector and a doll historian. I would like to connect with you via blogging, facebook, or twitter.
Jeanine Gehringer , October 25, 2010 | url
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I am a doll collector and a doll historian. I am interested in connecting with you via twitter and/or facebook.
Jeanine Gehringer , October 25, 2010 | url
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I collect dolls because I like to decorate my home with beautiful works of figural art. Dolls are much softer to the touch. Even an expensive porcelain one still has fabric clothing and a gorgeous mohair wig. My collecting is very tactile.
I think the next Landmark Doll should be the Louvre or some other world-class museum of art.
Joan Emerson , October 22, 2010
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they are just releasing a NEW Cleopatra inspired doll.
fran , October 21, 2010

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