Dolls Remain Fun to Collect, Especially at American Girl Stores

I’ve always loved dolls. Tiny Tears, Mary Poppins, Barbie, Madame Alexander and Shirley Temple are just a few that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Many of these I still own!

So I was pleased to be invited to a birthday party that included dolls over the Christmas holidays. The party was for my granddaughter, Sophia Benson, who turned 8 on Dec. 29. It took place at the American Girl Doll store and bistro in Easton Town Center, located in Columbus, Ohio.

Even though it was more than a two-hour drive (one-way) which seemed a lot for a child’s birthday party, it was a lovely party! My daughter Bianca and Sophia’s big sister Maggie also went, along with three lucky American Girl dolls: Felicity, Addie and Marie-Grace.

By the way, Felicity is in my care since it was left at home by its owner when she went off to college (my other daughter who shall remain nameless). I’ve cared for her over the years and took her as my guest though I felt ridiculous.

Once we got to the pink and white American Girl Doll store, it was no longer ridiculous. This big retail space caters to dolls and their owners, displaying endless clothing, accessories — and more dolls. There is even a doll hair salon where children leave their little friends for a style while shopping. ($10 and up)

Plus, you can leave your doll at the hospital for repair if need be and we actually did just that, leaving a fourth doll, Kit, for a leg replacement. The store clerk checked Kit in and dressed her in an official hospital gown!

The bistro is situated just inside the store and offers a full menu, complete with birthday cake. When seated you receive doll booster seats for your smallest guests. These ingenious seats attach to the end of the booth and create an attached chair for dolls to sit at the table securely.

Each doll at the party also receives a placemat, cake plate, glass and fork, plus a party crown to take home. The birthday girl received a crown and favor bag of goodies.

The bistro decor features lots of daisies and a happy retro theme. Overall it was a nice party package for today’s children. Introduced in 1886, American Girl Doll premiered nine historical dolls, telling the stories of girls growing up in a particular historical era. For example, Felicity, who is from the Federal era dating to 1774.

Originally the dolls were made by The Pleasant Company, begun by teacher and author Pleasant Rowland. Toymaker Mattel bought the Pleasant Company in 1998.

American Girl Dolls offer a look at history and American culture in a make-believe way, so they’re educational. The company also has made-to-order dolls that are called Truly Me that can be designed with options that the child selects like hair and eye color, baby dolls called Bitty Babies and Wellie Wisher dolls for ages 5-7.

At 18 inches in height, the historical dolls are easy to dress and there are every style of clothes, shoes, boots and more.

I learned from our waitress that the early dolls made when the company was Pleasant Company rather than Mattel are worth more than today’s versions. For example, when writing this column, an original 1986 Pleasant Company Felicity doll made in Germany was listed at $1,000!

Also dolls are “retired” by the company, such as Marie-Grace, introduced in 2011 but retired in 2014, which adds to the collector fever. (Sometimes dolls are reintroduced like Samantha, one of the original dolls, a Victorian era orphan, brought back in 2014.)

Of course, the biggest values are earned by new in-box dolls, retired or early versions. Like all antique or vintage toys, doll values rely on condition, clothing, original packaging, receipts, accessories and important signatures like that of Pleasant Rowland.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.

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