Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Franklin Mint's Michelle Obama Official White House Portrait Doll - Amended

Mr. Paul Knoll, an account executive with The Franklin Mint (FM), who works with the wholesale team and very closely with FM's product development teams, shared images of the 16-inch, Michelle Obama Official White House Vinyl Portrait Doll. With Mr. Knoll's permission, I am delighted to share the images and ordering information here.

Michelle Obama Official White House Vinyl Portrait Doll

Many will agree that this lovely doll exudes grace and style while adequately capturing First Lady Obama's likeness.  They will also stand in agreement that the authentically styled wig and Official White House Portrait ensemble (black sheath, double-stranded faux pearl necklace, earrings, watch, and black pumps) embody First Lady Obama's elegant style.  (All accessories are removable.)

Available in a worldwide limited edition of 9000, with the first dolls scheduled to arrive in late November 2010, the doll retails for $195 plus $16.95 shipping and applicable taxes.  A choice of three monthly installments of $65 plus shipping and applicable taxes is available.  Ordering has commenced at the Franklin Mint website.

Those interested in wholesale preorders may contact Mr. Paul Knoll either by phone (610) 884-4622 or by email.

Additional costumes are planned at $90 each plus shipping and applicable taxes. See these in the next two images.  (Click images to open up larger versions in a new window.)

Extra costume

Extra yellow dress

Photographs courtesy of Mr. Paul Knoll of The Franklin Mint

With the purchase of the Michelle Obama doll, FM will offer for a limited time only a free Eyewitness to History Newspaper Collection - Ltd. Ed. (a $90 value)!  The website will include this information by the end of the week.


Please do not copy images or text.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blogging and Internet Etiquette

Recently (just this past weekend), I happened upon a website of an upcoming major doll show and noticed an image of two of my dolls... not dolls like my dolls, but my dolls, a copyrighted image. The photo was originally taken for and appears on page 53 of my book, Black Dolls a Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion. Shocked, horrified, bewildered are just a few emotions I felt after seeing the image on this reputable website. I went back to examine the image to be certain it was mine (knowing the first time that it was, because no one else could possibly have two exact early-1900s dolls dressed and photographed identically).

The first thought was the image was scanned from my book, but it was too clear. Then I remembered my "Black Doll Collecting: Moments in Black Doll History" series in February of this year. I used the image on one of the blogs in that series. Aha! (I thought) that's how it was copied and obviously submitted to the website!

Of course the website is not totally at fault. They unknowingly used the image under the assumption that the person or person(s) submitting it were the rightful owners. I immediately sent an email through the website’s contact link requesting removal of the image, but have not received a reply.

The image, initially used to advertise the show's black doll exhibit, is now part of the website's image gallery and is still visible on its home page. The website was obviously modified after my email request, removing my image as the headliner for the black doll exhibit. However, a formal apology or acknowledgement of their error has not been offered.

Had I been asked permission to use my image (taken by me with my camera), I would have been honored and of course requested a photo credit for its use.

As a result, I have replaced the former black text color of this blog's copyright notice with red text. Each subsequent blog, including this one, will contain a reminder that copying images and text is prohibited without prior permission.

The moral of the story: Before you right click and copy someone else's image or copy and paste their written words and use them as your own, ask for permission. It's the right thing to do!


Please do not copy images or text without my permission.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kader Inspiration, Before and After

Seven of 10 sets of Kader Dolls from the Collection of Leeanne Simpson

Fellow doll enthusiast, Leeanne Simpson of Australia, frequently shares photos of her dolls with me.  The above photograph of Leeanne's Kader collection, shared in June of this year, inspired me to add "at least one" Kader doll to my collection.

Kader dolls usually have hard plastic heads and vinyl bodies.  They vary in size from 7-1/2 inches to a rare, 25-inch version.  Leeanne's smallest dolls are 10-1/2 inches.  These dolls were made in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 1960s, distributed chiefly in Australia and New Zealand by Kader Industrial Company Ltd.   Both black and white versions were made with blue and brown eyes used for both.  The blue-eyed black dolls are the rarest.

Recently, I found a 20-inch, blue-eyed version offered on eBay by Dollysisters14.  I immediately went into "eBay watch mode" and named and claimed the doll as my own.  After checking the current bid amount daily to determine whether or not I would, in fact, bid to win, I did just that. 

His back is marked:
OK (within a globe)
B 3520

The above, "before" photographs are courtesy of eBay seller, Dollysisters14, whose website is a work in progress.

As illustrated in the images provided by the seller, the doll arrived in preloved condition (which is what probably kept competing bidders at bay).  Throughout the years he has suffered multiple scratches to his body and extremities as well as exposed glue on his head. Discounting all this, I still wanted him.

After winning the auction and awaiting his arrival from Australia, I contemplated what I would do to mask the scratches and remove the glue.  I entered "vinyl scratch cover" into Google's search engine and found a couple of products that might possibly work.  Instead of ordering any of these, after viewing an online video demonstrating the use of a household product to remove scratches from eyeglass lenses*, I decided to try this less expensive, on-hand product first.

What I used: 
As suggested in the online video, I used furniture polish (generic Lemon Pledge) on his body to cover the scratches. Some still show, but they are not as visible as before, especially on his inner thigh where the vinyl was almost rubbed raw. His back looks a lot better now, too. I repainted his molded hair black using acrylic paint.  At first I used brown paint to the brown molded hair that frames his face, but I decided to paint it all black.  The paint was sealed with water-based varnish.  I used a makeup sponge to apply the paint and  varnish. 

As illustrated by his "after" photographs, he looks so much better now.

Will I add a smaller version?  Probably not, particularly not one with "brown" eyes which are really amber in color.  But if I find a blue-eyed, smaller black one, I might!  (By the way, the blue eyes are very dark, almost navy blue in color). 

*I have not tried using furniture polish to cover scratches on eyeglasses.  While this might work, I question the clarity of vision through furniture-polished lenses!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Mammy Dolls... Offensive or Not?

Photograph courtesy of Wendy Frank

What is your opinion of mammy dolls (past and present)?  Do you find them offensive, unnecessary, or a vital part of history?  Please share your comments and opinions.  Thanks!


PS  I published this blog prematurely. I had planned to save it as a draft and add additional pictures and text, but, it's early and the fingers pressed the incorrect key!  I'll still probably add another picture of two.  Thanks for your comments.

View a slideshow of mammy dolls here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jill Gets Dressed, Goes Shopping... on Park Avenue

Jill's preordered, 1950s-inspired Park Avenue Shopping clothing pack finally arrived.  It was preordered in March of this year. The complete fashion includes a lavender and green print on white, sleeveless taffeta sheath; purple with green taffeta-lined, short coat and removable skirt; green sash, green taffeta hat accented with lavender flowers in back, faux pearl necklace and earrings, white gloves, black high-heel shoes with rhinestones, and white cat-eye glasses.  Jill wears her original nude mesh hose and holds her personalized green hatbox in one hand and a gold and white striped shopping bag in the other.  

She is one sharp cookie in any one of the many combinations this ensemble creates.  I took lots of pictures which can be viewed as a slideshow


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who Am I? Now I Know

30-inch Walking Doll by Reliable, a late-1990s eBay find offered by a Canadian seller

My blog of March 8, 2010, "Dolls From Around The World - Canada," prompted emails from doll owners looking to either sell a doll like mine or seeking additional information about it. 
In the first email, dated May 10, 2010, the owner wrote:
Hello Debbie,

I came across your website while researching about two black dolls I have since the early 60' that I want to sell.

One is a Reliable manufactured 30-inch walker. I have the original clothes: a dress white, black and red, and black shining shoes. You have the same doll dressed in a child's size white dress, socks, and shoes on your website. It is in excellent condition with some marks on the legs
The other one... [she describes it]. 
I am not sure where I can advertise such dolls, and more importantly, I am not sure of their value.
I would appreciate any information you can provide. I love my dolls but my daughter is now 19 and never had any interest in them so I thought I should make them available to someone who cares.

Thanks for your consideration,

I replied to "JP" with a suggestion that she try using eBay to sell her two dolls and requested a picture of the 30-inch doll by Reliable.  She never shared the picture. 

The second email dated June 24, 2010, led to the discovery of my doll's true identity and confirmed her year of manufacture as 1961 instead of 1970, as previously assumed.

Hi Debbie,

... I was doing some research on 1930's composition dolls (for my mother-in-law) when I came accross your photo of a black 30" doll you say you bought on ebay a while back. You have down that it was made by reliable in the 1970's. I have what looks like the exact doll, (mine is marked reliable) I received mine for christmas when I was about 5 years old (I was born in 1957 so that would make it Christmas of 1962). I remember distinctly that it came dressed as a nurse and I have been trying to source a photo of/or original clothing for her. If I can find a photo I can make the clothes myself but I would prefer original clothing if I can get it. My question is are you aware of any places I can search for clothing for my doll? I would appreciate any advice you can give and I thank you in advancce for taking the time to read my email.

Hoping your day is as good as mine, and with best wishes,
I replied,

Hi "AP,"

You are the second person within a few weeks to write me about my "1970's walker."

My guess about my doll's year of manufacture was based on the material she is made of, which was still being used for dolls of her type in the 1970s. Many manufacturers also used the same doll molds for several years, releasing dolls with new names, wearing new fashions, and possibly even giving them new hairstyles. So it is possible that Reliable continued to make this particular doll well into the 70s.

Do you have a picture of your doll that you can share?

I haven't been able to document a doll like mine in any doll reference books and, unfortunately, I do not know a search source for clothing.

Reliable made so many wonderful dolls. It would be nice if someone would write a book about them.
The above bolded statement (which was not typed in bold at the time of my reply), led to my immediate search for doll reference books on dolls made in Canada.  I found The Charlton Price Guide to Canadian Dolls First Edition on eBay on June 29, 2010, in a Buy It Now auction for $17.95.  Hesitant to pay as much for this 1990 book by Evelyn Strahlendorf not knowing its contents, or whether or not it would provide the identity of my doll or other black dolls I own, I wrote the seller and asked,

Does this book feature any black dolls? Thanks in advance!
He replied,

Thanks for asking. I was surprised at the number of Canadian black dolls included, and I left out the ambiguous probable Indian/Eskimo ones. I count 28 detailed and illustrated black dolls. Hope that helps! - Mike

Excited and anxious to complete the purchase, I wrote back,
I'm surprised at the amount, too. Yes, it helps... enough for me to buy it now. Thank you for taking the time to give me a head count.


After the book arrived, I was pleased to find several familiar faces of Canadian dolls, but the best surprise was to find my 30-inch walking doll.  The doll is indeed from 1961 when the term "coloured" or "colored" was widely used for dark-skinned people and dolls that represent them, with spelling dependent upon the country of origin.   She's shown and described below in the following image of page 181 in Strahlendorf's book.

Coloured Nurse Walking Doll by Reliable Toys 1961

In Strahlendorf's book, the doll in the photo was probably redressed. I later found an online photo of what appears to be the same doll by Reliable dressed in the original nurse's uniform. The doll was sold with a brown-skinned baby doll, as illustrated next.

Coloured Nurse Walker by Reliable

The catalog description for the above doll reads:
Approx. 30” tall—Satin skin coloured nurse in brightly contrasting white crisp uniform – has easy trouble-free walking mechanism. Dressed in authentically styled uniform with matching cap and wearing red-lined blue cape with imitation pendant watch. Carrying an 8” dark skinned baby doll wrapped in a flannelette blanket. Nurse has sleeping eyes, turning head with washable rooted kinky black hair. Wearing glazed panties, knitted socks and simulated leather shoes. Packed each in a carton. Approx. weight 8 lbs."

Note the continued use of "coloured" to describe the doll's ethnicity and the use of "kinky" to describe the hair texture. 


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Collection Red Model 08

I've been visiting Target almost weekly in an attempt to purchase this store exclusive.  Barbie Basics Model No. 08 from Collection Red was finally in stock yesterday.  Excited to find her, I grabbed the box, taking claim of "my doll" before inspecting the remaining stock.  The other two models in this collection were plentiful - the blonde (more of her) and the brunette (fewer, but more than one of her).  The one I purchased was the only Model 08 in stock.  

I exhaled and contemplated purchasing the accessory pack, but left it behind as there are only a couple of pieces in the pack that interest me. 

08's caramel complexion is complemented by her golden blonde curly 'fro. 
Deboxing is definitely in order.

With her purchase, I have one down and two point oh! to go: 

2011 Barbie Basics 2.0, that is:

Barbie Basics Collection 2.0, Model 08 and Model 17, the it's-about-time-Mattel-made-a-new-African-American-Ken-head sculpt!, are at the top of my wish list.  They are scheduled for release late Fall 2010.  Inhaling again...


Monday, September 13, 2010

Time Warped Sellers

I use several search words and phrases to search for black dolls on eBay... just to browse, you know. Usually, the search is simply "black doll," "African American doll," or the specific doll or artist's name.   This morning, I used one of my rare two-word searches and was not surprised to find listings that use "Negro doll" in the auction titles.

Is this 2010 or 1910?


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who Am I - Doll from Ireland?

What I know about this doll is that it is a full-body composition doll with spring joints and an astrakhan wig, circa 1930s-1940s with a working "ma-ma" voice box or crier, probably sold and possibly made in Ireland.  It does not have manufacturer's marks, which makes it difficult to trace it to a specific doll maker.  The current owner has allowed me to share her query and images about the doll here.  They are as follows:


This is my moms doll. she named her 'Pamela'. she gave it to me when i was a teenager. Im trying to identify it.

She is over 55+yr old.
She is made of what i can say hard plastic? black. Lips are painted on pink.
Her eyes open + close.
When you lay her down she 'cries'.
Her hair (as you can see by pic) is a 'rug like' piece glued on.
She has her original shoes/socks+pants her dress is new (12yrs old) not her original.
On bottom of shoes it says "Cinderella #3".
She is hollow inside.
Her arms/legs move with what looks like springs/hinges?!.
I would love to know what type doll she is. what year or approx yr around she was made.

Thank you,

If anyone can add additional information about this doll or a doll of this type, feel free to post a comment.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Man in the Blue Suit

I ordered this blue suit from an eBay seller for my TrueType Obama figure.  It included shirt, tie, socks and shoes. The quality is nice (even though the shirt and pants have Velcro closure). There are no loose or dangling threads, missed stitches, or other irregularities that I could find.

The coat is lined.  The pants and shirt wear well without it. The nylon black socks fit his feet and the shoes were easy to put on without unlacing. I prefer leather (or believable pleather) shoes over the patent-leather (PL) ones that came with the suit because PL shoes on men just don't work for me.

I've given the seller positive feedback.

"The man" is joined by his First Lady, who now wears her original little black dress with the addition of a scarf to mask the plunging neckline.


Friday, September 3, 2010

New Terri Lee Dolls

The two new African American Terri Lee dolls, Ready for Recess and Swing Into Spring, have been added to the online shop of  They are order-ready here.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

S.I.S. Rocawear Comparisons

Rocawear So In Style Barbie 2nd wave

I purchased the recently released second version of Mattel's So In Style Rocawear dolls and photographed them with the first version (the dolls on the left) for comparison.  The first version was released last winter.  Click on photos to enlarge, then maximize the second window.

So In Style Rocawear Grace, Full View
So In Style Rocawear Grace, Close-up

So In Style Rocawear Kara, Close-Up

So In Style Rocawear Kara, Full

So In Style Rocawear Trichelle, Full

So In Style Rocawear Trichelle, Close-Up

So In Style Rocawear Chandra, Full

So In Style Rocawear Chandra, Close-up

Rocawear Darren has not changed.

Because of her textured hair and fashions, Trichelle remains my favorite (both versions).  I think Chandra #2 is stunning in blue.   Do you have a favorite?