PROFILE OF A COLLECTOR
by Debbie Garrett
Cheryl Bruce with some of her beautiful dolls
In the last issue of
Black Doll-E-Zine, we profiled Marvin Bruce, the husband of the collector we are profiling in the current
Cheryl Bruce, is 51 years old and resides in a Maryland suburb, about 10 miles outside of Washington DC. She is married with 4 children/stepchildren–ages 21, 26, 28 and 45 years; and 3 grandchildren– ages 7 months, 13 and 22 years (at the time of publication). She is a registered nurse employed fulltime as the program chief for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program in her county. Other than doll collecting, in her spare time, she reads, plays the piano and sings in 2 Christian choirs. Besides the WeLoveBlackDolls online discussion group, she belongs to and is the secretary for the Charm City Dolling Club in Baltimore, MD.
Cheryl was asked a host of questions regarding her black-doll collecting passion. The questions and her answers are as follows:The questions and her answers are as follows:
How long have you been collecting black dolls?
I started collecting black dolls in about
What prompted to you to begin
collecting? I have ALWAYS loved dolls and I
started looking for black cloth dolls when I traveled.
In about 1993, I stumbled onto Tina and HSN and maybe two years
later, eBay; and I have never looked back!
Did you own black dolls as a
child? If so, which ones?
I don’t even remember seeing many black dolls when I was a little
girl. The ones that I do
remember seeing had hair like mine that kinked up when it got wet so I
never cared whether I had one or not.
I definitely don’t feel that way now.
Do you still own any of your childhood dolls?
I had almost all my childhood dolls up
until our house was destroyed by fire in 1991, but I did not consider
myself to be a doll collector then.
Please share one or some of
your fondest childhood doll memories?
My favorite memory is the summer when I
was 8 years old. My mother and I took the train to visit my great-aunt in
Memphis. I had taken my all-time favorite doll, Tiny Tears that I had since I was 5 years old.
Aunt Betty-Mae measured Tiny Tears, made about 6 outfits for her
and sent them to me in a little doll sized suitcase that was full of the
clothes for her. I was so
delighted and felt so special! I
still had those clothes at the time of the fire.
I always felt like she and I had a special bond through those
As an adult collector of black
dolls, what types of dolls do you prefer to collect and why?
Now, although I primarily collect black
doll, I am attracted to any doll that “speaks” to me and “speaks to
my heart”. Prettiness or
cuteness is not necessary, but the doll must have a personality that comes
through to me. I collect what
I like…a little too much!
What usually inspires you to purchase a doll?
The doll must speak to my heart and I have
to be able to afford the doll, of course.
Approximately how many black dolls do you currently own?
I have not counted for a while and
probably cannot since the dolls are everywhere in the house and many are
stored in boxes in the basement. A
conservative guess would be about 500.
A doll collector and vendor once told me that after a while, no true
doll collector counts or even wants to know how many dolls she has, and I
am finding out that that is true. About
6 years ago, someone asked me that and I said, “Oh about 75,” and I
went home and started counting. I
stopped when I got to 150!
Where and how are your dolls displayed?
Most of the small dolls (10 inches or
less) are stored in my library and on shelves at the top of my stairs in
the loft area. Larger dolls
are everywhere set up in little “conversational” groups, i.e. in the
foyer, the library, the family room, the living room, the dining room, the
stair landing, the sunroom, my bedroom and sitting room.
Some are stored in the sewing room and many are stored in the
Do you keep your dolls NRFB (never removed from box) or do you remove them
from their boxes? I
remove them from their boxes when I want to display them.
I never keep them in boxes just for the sake of NRFB. I only put
them in boxes for storage when they are not displayed.
The larger dolls I cycle for display.
Otherwise, my husband and sons would run me out of the house!
The primary purpose, for me, in buying dolls is to enjoy them.
Keeping them in the box for the sake of NRFB would not allow me to
enjoy the doll. The investment
part of collecting takes a distant second place to enjoyment.
From which sources do you purchase dolls?
purchase dolls from eBay and other
online auction sites, HSN, internet stores, private vendors, doll shows,
doll club meetings, toy stores…anywhere.
Do you consider yourself a 'seasoned' collector?
If so, what doll-collecting tips would you offer to beginning
do not consider myself to be a pro by any means, but to beginning
collectors I would offer the advice that I have heard Tina Berry give.
That is not to limit yourself to any particular kind of doll, but
to buy what you like. I would
also offer advice to those who will use eBay: Do not allow the
spirit of competition and winning override common sense in bidding and
realize that everything on eBay will usually show up again. So do
not bid out of desperation. Just
If you are a beginning collector, what would you most like to learn
about your new hobby? I would like to learn more
about black antique dolls.
If you could own one doll today, which doll would it be and why?
Right now I would love to own one of Elisabeth Pongratz’s wooden
dolls. They are so smooth and
exquisite, but pricey! I only
see them at The Toy Shoppe in Virginia.
I finally got two dolls within the last year or so that I had been
longing for. To complete my
threesome – I finally found Philip Heath’s Josephina, to go with his
Seraphina and Will; and I got an excellent deal on Zwergnase’s Leon.
Cheryl Bruce is truly a passionate collector of all types of beautiful black dolls. The editor echoes her advice to buy what you like... what warms your heart as long as it is affordable. The end result will certainly be a collection of eclectic dolls that you will forever treasure.
Easter Grouping at Hearth
Kiyoko and Tomiko by Martha Pineiro
Kalila by Pauline Middleton and Kuki by Annette Himstedt
Natterer, Gotz, and Sasha Dolls
Heath Sisters--Seraphina and Josephine
Leon - Zwergnase, 2002
Thank you, Cheryl, for sharing your black-doll collecting passion with
The Black Doll-E-Zine!
Index ||| Welcome ||| Mailbag ||| About the Editor ||| Collecting News ||| Profile of a Collector ||| Profile of an Artist ||| Doll in the Spotlight! ||| Doll Care Basics ||| Resources ||| FAQ ||| Closing Words