Our featured collector for this edition of Black Doll-E-Zine is Ruth Manning.
About herself, Ruth writes:
“I am a retired accountant residing in Colorado. I have been here for almost 45 years, but I'm originally from Houston, Texas.
How Long Has Ruth Collected? “I have been collecting dolls for about 40 years. But I did not call myself a collector at the time, not knowing that if you have more than two of anything, you are a collector. From 1963 to 1990, I would acquire a doll [every] now and then. Prior to 1991, I had less than 75 dolls. By 1999, I had about 250 dolls. After my retirement on September 1, 1999, that number increased from 250 to 700+. Pictured above,
L-R: Barbie for President, Marla Gibbs (Florence of "The Jeffersons"), Baby Sez So (Remco), and Pilot Barbie
How Long Has She Loved Them? “I have loved dolls all of my life. Some time after my second son was born, 31 years ago, I was so disappointed that he wasn't a girl, that my mother sent me a black girl doll from Texas. I still have the doll. She's a 30-inch vinyl doll marked ‘1974 Lovee Doll.’ Her name is Aimee D'Vette. Had my second child been a girl, that would have been her name.” Aimee’s picture was unavailable for inclusion in Ruth’s profile because she (Aimee) is suffering from a broken arm and needs to be sent to the doll hospital.
(Pictured left, Malaika by Shindana and a vintage celluloid doll.)
Childhood Dolls: On the subject of childhood dolls owned and whether she still has any, Ruth comments, “I only remember having a few dolls as a child. Unfortunately, I do not remember who they were; and, unfortunately, they did not survive my younger siblings.”
Doll Memories... With reference to her fondest childhood doll memory, Ruth writes, “When I was a young teen, I saved for months to buy a mail order, blue-eyed, blonde doll with hair that I could comb and style. I cherished that doll, but it disappeared when I went away to college. “
(Pictured left, 25-in composition)
What She Likes: When asked about the types of dolls she currently likes, Ruth writes, “I really like antique and vintage black dolls because I did not realize the value of these when I was young. I prefer black Barbies because I did not like the Caucasian Barbie when she first appeared. I also like to have one of every different type of doll and one of every black doll artist. I especially like dolls representing black American history such as Louis Armstrong and Jackie Robinson.
“Sometimes a doll will just look at me as if to say, ‘Please take me home.’ Just like children, there is always room for one more.
“I am also drawn to dolls that look like little girls, girls holding dolls, mothers holding babies, and any doll with an unusual appearance or [made of] an unusual material. Because I love music, if a doll is black and musical, I want it.”
How Many Does Ruth Own? We wanted to know how many of Ruth’s 700+ dolls are black. She wrote, “Of my 700+ dolls, I would guess that 625+ are black.”
(Pictured left, Little Souls Charlotte)
Ways She Displays: We also wanted to know where Ruth displays her dolls. “Dolls are in every room except the bathrooms. In the living room, they are on the mantel, in chairs, on room dividers, on timeout benches, standing, in a rocking chair, on a sofa table, etc. In the den, they are in a curio. In my bedroom they are on the bed and all of the bedroom furniture. In the basement family room, shelves have been added to cover two walls. They are also in doll cradles and other doll furniture. “
According to Ruth, most of her dolls are removed from the box. “The Barbies are about half and half” (in the box and removed). “If they wear white clothing, or if the box is very decorative and tells the story of the doll, they remain in the box.”
(Various fashion dolls on display, more fashion dolls below)
Where They Are Purchased: Ruth’s doll purchases are from a variety of places. These places include “Kaybee Toys, Toys 'R Us, K-Mart, Target, Wal-Mart, Gordmans, antique stores, doll shops, the Home Shopping Network, flea markets, garage/yard sales, thrift stores, McDonald's Happy Meals, eBay, San Francisco Music Box Co., doll & antique shows, doll teas benefiting charities, and doll conventions. My sons, relatives, co-workers, and most of my friends have given dolls to me. I travel extensively and bring home approximately 1 - 6 dolls from each trip. When it comes to dolls, I have built-in radar. I can be walking down the center of a mall and spot a doll in the back of a store that I had no idea sold dolls.”
Even though Ruth has 700+ dolls and has been collecting for over 40 years, she does not consider herself a seasoned collector; although she adds, “I do not think that anybody would consider me a beginner.” She further explains, “I learn something new every day. I try to collect every book about black dolls and I read them again and again.”
(Special Appearance Violet Waters)
Ruth’s Advice: To other collectors, Ruth offers the following advice: “The only advice that I have is that it is not what the doll costs, but what it means to you and how happy it makes you to acquire it. Life is too short to have regrets about something that you really want. I am an eclectic collector, but you decide [the type of collector] you want to be.”
Ruth also recommends that collectors catalogue or otherwise record the dolls that comprise their collections. She states, “I keep a spreadsheet of every doll by name, description, the date I acquired it, where I bought it, or who gave it to me. Also, every doll has to pose for a picture after she/he enters the house. Barbies have separate albums because they are my largest collection of a kind.” Along with cataloguing her dolls, Ruth adds, “I keep articles found in newspapers and magazines about dolls, doll collectors, cartoons, and jokes.” (Above left, Kiana; above right, Brandy by Furga)
What She Wants: We wondered what doll Ruth currently seeks. She answered, “I would like Fatou [by Himstedt]. I just found out about her and she seems to be calling to me.”
Which One Would She Keep?When asked if she were forced to relinquish all but one of the dolls that she currently owns, Ruth answered, “Of the dolls that I already have, I have tried to decide on that one doll and I just can not do it. “
(Madame Alexander Coca-Cola Cissette)
Collector or Artist:
On the subject of being a doll artist, Ruth admitted, “I really have an appreciation for doll makers. In the summer of 2002, I made my first and probably last black porcelain doll.” According to Ruth, this experience taught her that she lacks the patience for doll making. She added that she named the doll “Patience.” Patience, the doll, is pictured on the left. The doll pictured on the right, Kenta Geneva, was made by Ruth’s coworker, Geneva Lottie.
Final Words: Ruth’s final comment with reference to doll collectors: “Doll collectors are just antique little girls!”
This writer agrees with Ruth -- doll collectors are just little girls at heart.
We would like to thank Ruth for allowing us to include her doll-collecting profile in this issue of Black Doll E-Zine.
If you would like to be profiled in a future issue of Black Doll-E-Zine, please contact Deb at the e-mail link below.
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