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Vol. 5, Issue 2                                                      September 2006


DELIAH BURNS (not pictured)

by Debbie Garrett


My name is Deliah Burns.  I am 41 years old, single and the Godmother of six.  I was born in Belize City , Belize but came to the United States in 1971.  I grew up primarily in New York but have now been residing in New Jersey for three years.  I commute to New York for work every day and for church on Sundays so my friends tease me and say that I really still live in New York and that I only sleep in New Jersey!

Q:      How long have you been collecting black dolls?

          I am not really sure when I started collecting black dolls but I do remember when I started collecting dolls period and that was my freshman year in college.  My first doll purchase was a white vinyl doll by Gotz.  I found her in a little boutique near campus.   When I began collecting, my collection was mostly of white dolls because I don’t remember seeing too many black ones that I found attractive.  Nevertheless, my collection now is predominantly black/ethnic dolls.


Q:      What prompted you to begin collecting?

           I have always loved dolls so I really didn’t need much prompting.  However, I know that it was after visiting my aunt in Manhattan and seeing her doll collection.  She had them displayed in the living room and in her bedroom.  If I remember correctly, most of her collection was of white dolls and she even purchased one for me to start me off.  I believe it was a white doll made of bisque porcelain.


Q:      Did you own black dolls as a child?  If so, which ones?

           I am sure I did but I can only seem to remember two of them.  One was a chubby baby doll named Crissy and the other was a Barbie doll but bigger than the normal Barbie size, more like the size of a CED doll.


Q:      Do you still own any of your childhood dolls?

           Unfortunately, I do not, and sadly enough, I do not even remember what happened to them.


Q:      Please share one or some of your fondest childhood doll memories.

           My fondest doll memory (and really the only memory I seem to have) is the Christmas morning I woke up to find the cutest, chubbiest baby doll in the whole world.  She was named Crissy [Baby Crissy] and she had hair that you could choose to make longer by pulling out hair from the top of her head.  My mom included a doll carriage with this gift and I was beside myself with joy.  I remember being happy for days and days and days!!!  That’s why it’s sad that I cannot even remember what happened to her.           


Q:      As an adult collector of black dolls, what types of dolls do you prefer to collect and why?

           Although I find boy dolls cute and have often admired them, I find that I prefer to and only collect girl dolls.  I think it’s because I find the girls’ outfits cuter and when I thought of myself starting a family, I always pictured myself with a little girl who I could dress up and comb her hair. 

          Also, when I started collecting, I brought a lot of porcelain dolls, then I branched out and brought resin and vinyl as well.  I think resin is one of my favorite mediums because it seems more durable than porcelain and I like the level of detail it allows the artist to convey in his/her work.


Q:      What usually inspires you to purchase a doll?

          Something about the doll first grabs my attention; it could be her outfit, her eyes or even her pose, but something draws me to that doll and if she keeps me drawn to her, (and I can afford it), then that’s when I purchase her.  (Actually, on two occasions, a doll has pulled me in so much that I ended up going over my price range, so there are exceptions to my “and I can afford it” rule.)


Q:      Approximately how many black dolls do you currently own?

          (I actually made an inventory recently after deciding to fill out this questionnaire).  I own exactly 77 black/ethnic dolls, 37 black/ethnic Barbie dolls (16 are what I believe are collectibles, 17 are “play” dolls, 4 are My Scene dolls) and 6 black/ethnic Bratz dolls.  I also have 1 Jordache doll.


Q:      Where and how are your dolls displayed?

           My dolls are displayed throughout my home such that one friend has called it a doll museum.  Let me take you on a tour:

Dining Room


          Two chairs house two of my Caucasian dolls, Bianca by Berdine Creedy and Ella by Annette Himstedt.


        The dining room table has as its centerpiece, four of my African dolls interlocked together: Serena, Maya, Anuli and Nalo.


        Precious Gem by Gregg Ortiz commands attention next to my dining room bench, and the three girls who make up the “Girlfriends” vignette by Laura Lee Wambach (not pictured) sit together on the shelf that separates my kitchen from my dining room.




        Shannon (a Caucasian) doll by Elissa Glassgold (not pictured) sits serenely on top of my microwave while Viola, a little fairy (not sure who the artist is), sits quietly on the shelf that separates the kitchen from the living room.



        On the console table underneath the shelf that separates the kitchen from the living room, Mia, by Pamela Erff, prayerfully stands watch (not pictured).  To the right and left of the console table are Betina by Berdine Creedy and “But They Had a Sale” by Pamela Erff and Linda Rick.  In the middle on the bottom shelf of the table sits “Little Boogia,” Small Wonders by Bert.


Living Room


        On the living room sofa, Nadine (with her missing tooth) by Pamela Erff holds my precious OOAK, Jaelynn by Laura Tuzio Ross.  On the coffee table, not just commanding, but demanding attention, is one of my most recent purchases, an OOAK by Patricia Coleman Cobb, MISS BROWN SUGAR!




        On the highest shelf of the entertainment unit, my collectible Barbies are displayed (with the exception of two that are still in their boxes, Nne and Nichelle--not pictured). In the middle section of the entertainment center are several of my Kaye Wiggs' dolls.

          In the curio section of the entertainment unit are most of my figurines, my Makeba doll from the Richard Simmons Collection, two of Jan McLean’s Lollipop girls, Bebe and Neena, Sumptuous Esme, CED Basic Colin and the Lounge Kitty in black leotard Barbie (not pictured).


        On the floor next to the entertainment unit stands Nia by Goldie Wilson and sitting in front of her is Mandze by Elissa Glassgold. 

        In her own special corner by one of the end tables, is Siam by Laura Groh, a whimsical character.



        My Jordache doll (not pictured) stands on my desk watching me type while another of my recent purchases, "Centra" (holding a Bru Doll) by Goldie Wilson sits seriously perched on top of my filing cabinet.

        Several dolls are perched on my bookshelves, both the shelves inside my closet and the ones outside of my closet (not pictured).


          Sitting on a wicker stool is the always laughing, Sierra by Pamela Erff.

 Laundry Room

          My one and only doll made of yarn, sits on top of the dryer in her happy state (not pictured). She can flip over to her sad state but she never seems to want to stay that way so I leave her happy and in her blue outfit.



        As you enter the bedroom, please remember to say hello to the Bradbury sisters, “Day Dreamer” and “I’m Googly Over You,” as they sit perched next to my night table.   On top of the night table is Camille by Berdine Creedy who I have holding “Sheer Delight”, a Madame Alexander doll.


        Under the windowsill to the left of my bed are several dolls each holding Bratz and My Scene Barbie dolls and leaning on each other.  I think of them as sisters and friends who are very close and dear to one another.  They are Naomi by Pamela Erff holding Tamarah by Joke Grobben (Gotz)--not pictured, “Bear Hugs” by Pamela Erff, who ironically is leaning on “Lean on Me” by Pamela Erff and Linda Rick. “Pretty Kitty” and Sage both lean on opposite sides of Serafina, all three by Monica Levenig.          

        On the Television unit are my girls in white and cream outfits: Tabatha by Kaye Wiggs, Rosalie by Hildegard Gunzel (Gotz), Rachel (Zapf) and Halley by Elissa Glassgold, Aaliyah by Lorna Miller Sands, and Kandas and Angelina by Berdine Creedy (not pictured).

          On opposite sides of the television are: Dina by Carin Lossnitzer (Gotz) and Liddy by Elizabeth Lindner (Gotz) (not pictured).      

          Stephanie (a Caucasian doll) by Christine Orange sits on the woofer next to the chaise (not pictured).

        On the chaise, sits the queen, Arjani by Dwi Saptono; leaning on the chaise is Matoka by Annette Himstedt.

        Standing defiantly by my standing mirror is “Heaven Sent” by Donna Rubert and sitting on a chair behind her is Arcadia by Pamela Erff (not pictured).



        Four dolls dressed in outfits of lace and frills adorn this bathroom.  Three form a circle around my laundry basket: Taylor (a Caucasian doll by Pamela Erff), Angel (a Caucasian doll by Hildegard Gunzel) and “Sweet As Can Be” by Pamela Erff and Linda Rick.  Perched on top of the laundry basket is “Hannah And Her Honey Bear,” a Caucasian doll by Pamela Erff and Linda Rick.

        I have one more bathroom and presently that is the only room in my home where I do not have any dolls displayed.  Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Q:      Do you keep your dolls NRFB (never removed from box) or do you remove them from their boxes?

          As I am sure you noticed from the tour, I do not keep my dolls in their boxes with the exception of two Barbie dolls, Nne by Byron Lars and Nichelle Urban Hipster from the Model of the Moment Series.  The only reason that they are not displayed is that I haven’t taken the time to make room for them up on the shelf with my other collectible Barbies.  I always tell my friends that I don’t consider myself a collector for investment purposes but for aesthetic purposes.  I have to touch them and be able to handle them and really appreciate their beauty by seeing the details of their craftsmanship up close.  The sooner they are out of their boxes the better. 


Q:      From which sources do you purchase dolls?

          I started out purchasing dolls from small doll shops or drug stores, then from catalogues, such as The Danbury Mint, Franklin Mint, and Ashton Drake Galleries.  Then, I discovered Tina Berry and HSN and was with them until they stopped selling dolls.  In between my HSN stint, I also began shopping via the internet from places like A New Doll In Town, The Dollhouse, The Toy Shoppe, Samantha’s Dolls and Ellen’s Dolls.  My most recent purchases have been from the 18th and 19th Annual International Black Doll Show  and Sale in Philadelphia.


Q:      Do you consider yourself a “seasoned” collector?  If so, what doll-collecting tips would you offer to novice collectors?

          I have been collecting dolls since 1983 so if it’s how long a person has been collecting that makes them seasoned, then I guess you could say I am.  However, I think of those people who actually research the dolls and their history and their worth as “seasoned” collectors, whereas, I collect just because I love the dolls; they are art to me, eye candy, if you will.  I just enjoy looking at them and having them decorate my home.

          What I would say to someone who is just starting out is this: there is no right and wrong way to collect.  It’s personal to you and to your tastes.  When I started out, I only purchased Caucasian dolls because at the time, those were the only ones I found attractive.  As time went on and my “doll horizon” broadened, I realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t find the black dolls attractive, it was that I hadn’t seen all that there was out there.  When you love something, it doesn’t take much effort so just follow your heart, but be wise in your spending because it doesn’t make sense to have a house full of dolls and then no place to put them because you neglected to pay your mortgage!  

 Q:      If you are a beginning collector, what would you most like to learn about your new hobby?

           Although I am not a beginning collector, I still believe there is a lot to learn. What I would love to experience is the opportunity to watch an artist create a doll from the beginning (when the inspiration first forms) all the way to the end product.


Q:      If you could own one doll today, which doll would it be and why?

           This is too difficult a question because, one, I haven’t seen all the dolls in the world yet, and two, I just love them all for different reasons.  However, I would love to own at least one piece from the following artists:  Philip Heath, Heloise, Pauline Middleton, Sarah Niemela, Bets Van Boxel and Zwergnase.


Q:      Deliah's final comment:

           I absolutely love dolls.  It’s hard to explain in words the joy I receive from looking at them and collecting them.  Sometimes I think God has placed them in my life to uplift my spirit because that’s exactly what they do for me.  I look at them and they make me smile.  I learned about the annual black doll show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last year from a friend.  I attended the show for the first time last year and could not stop talking about my experience.  I know that my friends (especially the ones who do not collect) were sick of me but I could not help myself.  If I could wrap up the feeling I got from being there and seeing all those beautiful works of art, I would package it and give it away to as many people as I could.  I used to own many more dolls than are presently in my collection and that’s because I’ve given some away.  Some people can’t understand how I could give away my “babies,” but that’s because I have received joy giving dolls as gifts just as much as collecting them.  Some I gave away because my taste changed, others because someone raved about them so much that I couldn’t help myself, and others I actually purchased specifically to give to someone.  I guess that’s the same feeling as a Christian we have in sharing the Gospel.  It’s just too good to keep to yourself!

To Deliah's final statement, I add a resounding, Amen! 

Deliah, I enjoyed compiling your collector's profile and taking a virtual tour of your doll museum-in-the-home collection.  Due to storage constraints, I was not able to allow The BDE readers to take the full picture tour, but I am sure they appreciate your vivid tour description and the photos that I was able to share.  Thank you for sharing your collector's profile with us.


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