Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Interview with Doll Dealer and Collector Gail Lemmon

Thief of Bagdad Dancers by Molly-es

 When did you start collecting?
As a child I was about everything Barbie. I had a large collection and would meet with my friends, playing with our dolls for hours and even doing some trading. The love of dolls was my own but the appreciation for family heritage and history came from my mother. I would listen to her for hours telling stories of her childhood growing up during the depression and her young adult life during World War II. My passion for history and collecting all things antique grew. One day at an estate sale, the two forces merged when I purchased an Ideal Toni and so, the doll collecting began. It wasn’t long before I started selling a few dolls in order to upgrade my collection and support my habit. Nearly 20 years later I am a full time doll dealer, meeting with my friends at doll shows. We still play with our dolls for hours and do a little trading, too.

          Campbell Kids by Effanbee

Have your tastes changed over the years?
Over the years as my knowledge has grown my tastes have not necessarily changed, but they have developed and grown as well. Being the nostalgic sort with a love of history, I find myself progressing backwards with my tastes always turning to earlier dolls. When I began, the main focus of my collection was the dolls of my mothers era, 1930’s and 1940’s composition dolls. Soon, it expanded to earlier American made dolls including Schoenhuts and primitive cloth dolls, then to the wonderful German and French bisque dolls. Now, my interests and appreciation have grown to include all types of dolls.
Effanbee Historical doll

 What are your favorite types of dolls and why?

My favorite dolls are those with a story behind them, character dolls representing historical figures, celebrities or characters from literature. This often leads me back to the composition dolls of the 1920’s and 1930’s. Among these dolls you will find iconic celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, and Judy Garland, wonderful characters from literature such as those found in the books of Marguerite Di Angeli and Louisa May Alcott, even dolls like the Effanbee Historical dolls that chronicle over 2 centuries of American fashion. My research on these dolls has given me a look into American history and it’s culture.
W.C. Fields by Effanbee

Do you sew for your dolls?
My creative talents lie more in sketching, oil painting and wood carving, none of which I have time for these days. While I am not an expert seamstress my favorite aunt was. Although I never perfect the skills I did learn the basics from her, so, on occasion, when inspired, sewing for my dolls provides a wonderful, creative outlet. Most often I am looking for dolls in their original or appropriate vintage and antique clothing.

Marguerite di Angeli / Hedwig dolls

What are the characteristics that attract you to a certain doll?
While we all consider condition and originality when looking at a doll I tend to take a broader approach in that the doll must have some special quality. This could well be the dolls mint condition, it may be an unusual feature, the rarity of the a doll, an exceptionally beautiful face or fabulous clothing. As I scan the tables looking at hundreds of dolls at shows or auctions it is always one of these features that will make me take a second look.

Marie Antoinette Portrait doll by Madame Alexander

Are you looking for anything in particular, etc.?
As my attention has turned to German bisque dolls so has my fascination with the varied body styles most particularly that of the lady dolls. So my most recent quest is for fine examples of the Simon & Halbig 1159 and Kestner 162 Lady dolls. Still, I’m always looking for excellent examples of early composition dolls. One that has always alluded me is “Little Annie Rooney” made in 1925 by Cameo Doll Co. I would love to have her.

Madelaine de Baine by Madame Alexander



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