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The Observer Paper 12/17/14

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Paper doll revival leaves collector overjoyed

I was walking through a grocery store to pick up some less exciting necessities when I saw it. Right there in front of me on a stand in the aisle the words shown up as though destiny planned it just for me: “Vintage Paper Dolls.”

Paper dolls! How long since I had seen them for sale anywhere except by special order at Sunflower Book Store? Maybe 10 years? 

As it turns out, the Golden Books seem to be attempting to revive the old paper dolls of 1962 with Barbie and Ken coming forth to seek, perhaps, a new generation of paper doll lovers on general market shelves.

I’ve been a paper doll collector for years and haven’t given it up yet, so I laid down my hefty price and carted home the new book to give a home to these new guests.

It made me wonder how many of today’s children know about or have even seen an actual paper doll. A paper doll, for those who aren’t aware, is the imprint of the human or animal form on a sheet of paper or cardboard. It is usually in color and accompanied by pictures of clothing tabbed at the shoulders and sides to adhere to the doll. They often came with cardboard stands to make the dolls stand alone.  

The dolls and clothing are cut out with scissors or punched out individually and used for the amusement of a child. I guess I’m just a child at heart, although I don’t cut them out anymore unless I have two books alike.

My first paper dolls were simply the forms of unnamed women’s clothing models cut from the pages of catalogs like Montgomery Wards, J.C. Penney’s and newspaper advertisements. Sometimes I would paste them on cardboard to make them more sturdy. Soon I was adding men and children to form families of dolls.

It was with great pleasure that I received my first real paper doll book one Christmas when I was quite young, let’s say about 1932. 

This would have been only the beginning of a growing collection containing dolls such as Tillie the Toiler, Baby Scootles, Shirley Temple, The Campbell Soup kids, the Dingle dolls, the Dionne Quintuplets, and a multitude of unnamed paper dolls because of my penchant of not throwing things away.

My first collection was destroyed, but I began again; then, they too, were given away. Today when I purchased yet another book, perhaps on the eve of another paper doll revival, I have hopes of joys shared by other little girls with imagination. Playing with paper dolls is good in solitude or shared with others.

Now that I have admitted to my paper doll addiction, it makes me wonder if there are other adults who would admit to the same.


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