Advice for Beginning Paper Doll Collectors
Copyright 1999 Judy M. Johnson
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This article first appeared in the Paperdoll Review magazine.
Narrow what you collect
Define a parameter on what kinds of paper dolls you want to collect such as: childhood paper dolls, fashion history, politics, comics, ballet, opera, fashion design, babies, celebrities (movies, politics, royalty), children, men, storybook characters, military, antique, magazine pages, artist prints, and original art, to name a few.
Some collectors like paper toys such as: furniture, doll houses, vehicles, animals, jumping jacks, villages, stage sets, etc. And there are odd places to find PDs: on fabric, wrapping paper, greeting cards, unexpected publications, stickers, wood, or rubber stamps. The possibilities are as limitless as creators' imaginations.
Choose a subject or two that you really love, and try to stick with that to control your spending. However, your collection will expand nearly on its own accord once you get started. We caution you when buying from general antique dealers who do not specialize in paper, as they often have inflated ideas of the value of fairly contemporary PDs. And some unscrupulous ones pawn off reproductions as true antiques. If the price seems too high, it probably is. Educate yourself first, meanwhile shop garage sales for some real bargains.
Contemporary Paper Doll Publishers
New paper dolls from publishers like B. Shackman and Dover may not seem very collectible now, but even within the last ten years, some have greatly increased in value. Those that have been discontinued or had small production runs are likely to be more valuable because of their comparative scarcity.
Some major PD publishers have gone out of business or stopped publishing PDs including Green Tiger Press, Hobby House, Athena, Evergreen, Archie Comics (Katy Keene) and many others. So their publications become desirable as soon as they are no longer on the market.
Magazine Paper Dolls
Magazine pds can net you at least the cost of the magazine within a couple years of their publication because of their inaccessibility after a short time. Take them out or not? Purists like to collect the whole magazine, but 99% of collectors have space as a major consideration and carefully remove them with a sharp blade or neat tearing out, so they can put them in binder sleeves for easy viewing and enjoyment.
To Cut or Not to Cut
Those who really like to play with their PDs and want to see what costumes look like on the dolls do like to cut them. In fact, if you love cut dolls for this reason, you can build a collection of older pds more cheaply than others who want perfection, as cut dolls sell for a great deal less than uncut. As for today's PDs, you can solve this by buying two-one to keep and one to cut. Many people do this.
I have spoken with editors of the major doll publications and they pretty much expect people to make one playable copy (not multiples.... that's not legal) of paper dolls published in their magazine.
Newsletters and Reference Books
As far as newsletters for collectors, there are many, and OPDAG and PD Review provides a list in each issue. Each has its own personality and focus, so perhaps you'll want to request information or purchase a sample copy to learn more.
Collecting Artist Paper Dolls
As a working PD artist, I urge you to consider collecting contemporary artists' work. Much of the work we do is printed in limited quantities in black and white or color laser copies and become collectible within a few years. Also, if you follow an artist's career and support them as a fan, you feel part of the joy as they move up the ladder of success and you can say, "I knew her/him when." These artists may be the Queen Holdens of tomorrow. OPDAG's Paper Doll Studio News is a great place to see work by artists of today. Send $7 for a sample issue to OPDAG (The Original Paper Doll Artists Guild), P.O. Box 14, Kingfield, ME 04947.
It's fun to gather a collection, organize it, show it to visitors, and share with other collectors via newsletters, mail, round-robins, and at parties and conventions. There are a lot of really nice people who are willing to share their knowledge on their favorite subjects, and others who have duplicates that they want to trade or sell. Networking is one of the best parts of having a specific collection like paper dolls. It can take you around the world with the people you meet by mail, internet or at gatherings. Good luck and have fun!
Judy Johnson is a founding member of the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild, writes for several national magazines and is a paper doll artist whose books have been published by Dover and B. Shackman. She is also the primary artist for Magicloth Paper Dolls. For a catalog of her paper dolls and paper goodies, send $3 to: Judy's Place, P.O. Box 216, Skandia, MI 49885, or visit her papergoodies website.