Thursday, October 2, 2014

Interview with Ellen Tsagaris, Social Media Director for Antique Doll Collector Magazine

Flat-top china head, original dress, orange boots.
When did you start collecting dolls?
I began collecting dolls when I was three years old.  I won’t tell you how many years ago that was!  I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house, and they and the rest of my family travelled all over the world and the United States.  Their house was full of souvenirs and dolls from nearly every country on the globe.  My first collectible dolls were two Greek dolls representing Amalia, first modern queen of Greece, and the Evzon, or guard of the Royal Palace.  I also commandeered a wooden, hand carved Sudanese man playing a drum from my Uncle George.  I saw my first antique doll, jointed German bisque with open mouth, probably Armand Marseille or Kestner, when I was five at Fantasy Land in Gettysburg, PA.  I was hooked after that on antiques. Reading and writing about dolls is a close second as far as favorite pastimes go.  The first doll book I read was John Noble’s Dolls.  I got it when I was seven years old from my mother.

Diminutive F.G., photo courtesy Fiona Jackson, Ruby Lane
She reminds me of Marchpane from Rumer Godden's
A Dolls' House

Have your tastes changed over the years?

 Like Genevieve Angione, I have to admit that I think all dolls are collectible.  If am being honest, I have to reply that I never met a doll I didn’t like. Having said that, however, I’ve come to focus on metal and mechanical dolls especially antiques.  This interest came as result of researching and writing With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Dolls, Dolls With Metal Parts, Mechanical Dolls and Automatons.  I also try to zero in on unusual china heads, French Fashion dolls, especially Huret, wax dolls, Alice in Wonderland Dolls, and international costume dolls before 1960.  But, I confess to having a fondness for many vintage hard plastic dolls, all Barbies, and folk dolls of many kinds.

Unis Late French Bebe, all original

Do you sew for your dolls?

The Coleman Walking Doll with cage body on display. 
Just behind her is a vintage automaton.  They were
part of a museum display of my metal and mechanical
dolls called "Hinges and Hearts," based on my book,
With Love from Tin Lizzie . . .
Vintage Japanese Dolls
 When I had the time, I sewed for them quite a bit.  I learned to make bodies for antique dolls from my friend, Violet Ellen Page, who was a doll artist and doll maker, and I learned to make doll clothes from my mother and grandmother.  I love patterns, but learned from another friend who was a theater major how to create doll clothes without patterns.  I prefer hand sewing doll clothes, but love sewing machines, too.  I have an antique one I used to use the years I was in graduate school.  My late mother loved to dress dolls, and started a tradition of taking one doll from the colleting to redress each Christmas.  Sometimes, she would use my old clothes, too.  I still love collecting vintage and antique lace, clothing, pieces of jewelry, buttons or trim for doll dresses. My grandmother dressed many dolls for me; if I left a doll without clothes lying around the house, the next morning, it would have an outfit.  She couldn’t stand to see an undressed doll.  When she was a little girl, my grandmother didn’t have dolls.  Her father died when she was around six.  They were living in Calamata, Greece, and didn’t have much money.  She, her mother, and her sister wore black for a good part of their lives.   Both of my grandmothers went to school to be seamstresses; they dressed dolls as well as people, and both loved them.

What doll is on your want list?
I would love to find the pewter headed Huret, a Rochard, and an Edison Phonograph doll.  I’m also looking for an old Bunraku Japanese puppet.  I always look for antique dolls, whatever their condition, because they are finite in numbers.  Though there are many of them, they will never be made again.  Good wax dolls are always on my list, too. Vintage dolls from 1930 to about 1970 interest me and I’d like to find Hugo the Man of 1000 faces and certain Ruth Gibbs and Nancy Ann Storybook dolls.   Also, the dolls Kimport sold through Doll Talk fascinate me, especially their dressed fleas from Mexico!  Really, I hope to have a Doll Museum in a few years, so I  have a detailed business plan complete with wish list for the dolls I’d like for the museum.



  1. Hi, One of my customers has an immaculate doll
    collection of about 100 dolls in mint condition.
    Where can I send some images so that you can see
    the dolls. They may wish to dispose of the collection
    and would like advise on how to go about finding a
    buyer without breaking up the collection??
    kind regards Olaf Haitink, Tony's antiques Port Elizabeth South Africa

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to be so late in responding. Are you in S. Africa, then? My dad was there in the 80s; beautiful place. I have wonderful dolls from there. To answer, if they are antiques, Theriault' may be interested. I am not sure how far they travel. Or, perhaps Bonham's. Here is a link for doll play, South Africa, that is a doll hospital as well. Go to, the United Federation of Doll Clubs, too, or try other antique shops or doll stores in your area. I know you have, but do you have ebay or They sell dolls. Ruby is very good for online selling. What kinds of dolls are these? New, vintage, antiques. My email is I can help more after I see the photos. Good luck. Ellen