When one paints an ideal, one does not need to limit one’s imagination.
Ellen Key

As most kids I loved my softies and later my fashion dolls (actually only owned like two real Mattel dolls). Each one had names, personalities and were a part of my family. But unlike most people I don’t think I ever outgrew them… And now I’m coming to terms with this fact, that I am becoming an adult doll collector. And thats it is okay, and kind of awesome…

Becoming a Barbie Doll and toy collector - blog post by iHanna

When I became a teenager I simply could not imagine getting rid of any of my friends (dolls or softies). When I stopped playing with my toys I of course couldn’t have all of them out, but instead of donating them my mom put all of them up into the attic. And then in my later teen years when I stopped playing with my Barbies (they were the last toys “to go” up there) I carefully packed them away in boxes, along with all the clothes mom had sewn for them, Blixten the black horse, the big poodle Prince as well as all their little things, furniture and shoes.

I just loved them way, way too much to give them away. I wanted to keep them even when I didn’t feel the need to spend time with them daily. And they were packed away for many, many years.

But then, about two years ago, I happened upon a very cool trend that is about customizing Monster High Dolls, on YouTube. It’s very artistic and cool what they do. The artists swipe the factory paint of the dolls face to re-paint them in a new style, sometimes more realistic and sometimes very fantastic. They might continue with making custom clothes, shoes or accessories for that doll – making it a head to toe custom. I was totally in love with this idea, and hooked on watching these kind of videos (I’ll post some of them in my next doll post, if you’re curious), and this obvious creative outlet led me down the rabbit hole…

How I became a Doll Collector

After a couple of months of me obsessively watching doll transformations on YouTube I decided to hunt down my first second hand Monster High doll, to try customizing one for myself. I must say I’ve since dabbled in it, but mostly I got hooked on the “collecting” part, which in a way is also rather creative.

I got a few Monster High dolls, which are these totally fabulous dolls of descendants of different famous monsters, dressed in super cool fashion and with rainbow hair. They weren’t around when I was a kid, so I had never seen anything like them before. I was in love.

Thrifted Monster High Doll Venus McFlyTrap

I still love Monster High and will keep the ones I have, and I have a few more on my wish list. But unfortunately they are no longer being made, so new ones aren’t coming out. The love of these dolls (also by Mattel who created the Barbie doll) led me to see other kinds of dolls, so of course I bought my first Barbie as an adult – at another local flea market (around spring 2018). It was just the first one I saw that day, the first Barbie bought with my own money as a grown up. And all the love I had for my very small Barbie collection as a kid, came flowing back to me… I went online, did lots of research – and slowly but surely my collection of Barbie dolls grew and became part of my life. Since then the collecting second hand dolls has gone a little… over board, because I am not always listening my own advice of how to think before buying, but at least most of these are discarded kid’s toys, so I don’t feel bad for the environment. And each doll has brought me so much joy, so it’s excusable, right? Well, I’ve ordered some new dolls as well, when I couldn’t resist. The new made to move doll is great for posing and photographing (but very difficult to find in Sweden).

And I guess the rest, as they say, is history. I am now a doll collector. Who’d a’ thought? Not me that’s for sure.

Creative with Dolls

Yes, I am a doll collector –?or sometimes I think of myself as Creative with Dolls and that is my second user name on Instagram as well. I love these plastic little doll – they’re like little creative canvases that you can build upon. So I have dabbled in sewing clothes for Barbie dolls (let me know if you want to see some of them), trying to make furniture, and things, and backdrops / box rooms for photography, re-rooting doll hair and customizing just a little bit.

I go straight to the toy corner at the thrift store these days. I might at times ask myself “What has happened to me?” but mostly I just enjoy the hobby as much as I can. Being a doll collector is so fun, who has time to second guess it!

I didn’t document anything about this journey on my blog (sorry! but I’ve mentioned it here and there) because I wasn’t completely on board with this idea yet, I guess. I was not sure if it was the right thing for me to do or if I wanted to continue it. But I have a massive documentation on my computer, both photos and written diary entries about “doll collecting” – it might become a book some day, now that I’m on board.

Some of iHanna's Barbie dolls in her new adult collection of dolls and toys

A few of the many Barbie dolls that I have found (mostly thrifting) in the two years that I’ve been a collector. I love them all so much!

I do know in my head that it’s completely okay to be an adult collector of any toys (or other item), right? I think it’s even okay to say that you “play with dolls” as a an adult if that is what you feel like… but could I personally be that brave?

Maybe it was this feeling of already being too silly, colorful and different that stopped me personally from stating the fact that I am a doll collector with bold self confidence (at first). If I was the kind of woman who wore high heels and make up, and collected in a more orderly fashion it would haven been easier? But right now, today as I’m writing this blog post that I’ve been wanting to write for over a year and I don’t feel I should hide it any longer.

It is okay to be an adult toy / doll collector

I always want to share the things that gives me the most joy in life, even when it’s a little beyond being a creative person. Maybe this blog post will encourage someone else, longing but hesitating, to become what they want to be in life?

Life is too short for hesitations. Go for it!

As an adult you can do and collect what ever you want, as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. Those who wants to judge you (call you a child, a hoarder, someone not serious enough, someone spending money on unnecessary plastic items) are people you don’t want to know anyway (because they’re small-minded and judgmental). They scare me at times, because they come from such a strong belief – but I will try to be brave(er) in the future.

I have always loved kid’s stuff, miniatures, doll houses etc…

There are so many aspects of this hobby that I absolutely LOVE!

Mattel made Barbie Fashion in collaboration with famous brands like Sanrio, Power Puff Girls, Care Bears, Hello Kitty etc

I haven’t even talked about the Barbie Fashion either – there is something to swoon over for every girl out there. My personal favorite is Mattel’s collaboration with different kawaii brands… Power Puff Girls, Care Bears and the new Toy Story movie not the least… I want them double up, one in Barbie size and one in my own size. ♥

Now that I think about it, it’s kind of strange that I didn’t dive into it a long time ago! There were clear signs that it could be something for me, but I didn’t want to read them. I could even say I am a toy collector I think, even though dolls are my main focus at the moment. But I’m drawn to so many different things all the time. Miniatures, plastic figures, doll clothes and fashion, Barbies, toys from my childhood (early 80’s) and anime movie figures. Give me anything plastic, colorful (or just very pink) and small and I will be swooning over it in seconds.

I have always loved Hello Kitty, Lala & Kiki, Kate & Bobby, Disney princesses, Kewpie, Strawberry Shortcake, miniatures, and small, cute things – always and for ever. What you’d call kawaii I guess. And as I’m learning more about the toys of “right now” I have fallen in love with LPS dolls, Shoppies, all of Barbie’s little sisters and some collectible figures.

And I love the whole Barbie pink vibe aesthetics of course, but I don’t think I’ll go totally Azuza Crazy, that would be too much (for some, hehe).

A lot of Barbie and doll collectors, I’ve noticed, like to keep their dolls in the package (NIB for New in Box), display them like they live in a toy store and just keep them… That is not me and it will never be my style (I think). I’m the kind that picks up shabby playline dolls at the flea market to clean, shampoo and give lots of TLC to.

I love me a good fixer-upper-doll. I love the creative part of finding (or making clothes) for her, and making her more “mine”.

I think cleaning and combing out seriously sad doll hair is one of my favorite things in the whole world! I don’t care if they’ve got the right clothes, or if they are “collectibles”. I love fun hair colors, cute faces, their fashion and to “play” with them. Not the imaginary play I did as a kid, but rather to photograph, display and set them up together now.

Diversity and news

In case you haven’t looked at new dolls recently, here’s a tasting of what’s out there that might make you understand my cravings a little bit (?):

Diversity among Barbie dolls is a fun fact these days

Diversity is a fact these days when it comes to dolls, a great change from all the regular blond Barbie that were? available when I was a kid. Theses are on my wish list; Yoga Barbie Barbie with rainbow hair, and Barbie Fashionistas 82 Doll Chic in Chambray as well as Barbie Fashionista123 with Long Braided Hair Wearing Girl Power T-Shirt, Barbie Fashionistas #33 (Fab Fringe) and?Tomb Raider Lara Croft modeled after the Swedish actress of course. ♥

And the more I am becoming a part of the doll community online, the more I learn, read and find out about the hobby. It’s super fun, because I love research – but also dangerous when I find that I need the new stuff. There are soooo many collector dolls I wish I could afford that it’s crazy (for example one styled by Iris Apfel or what about a Barbie that is dressed in fashion inspired by StarWars R2-D2?), but they often are not even sold here or are way too expensive (for me).

Collector Barbie dolls on iHannas wish list as a doll collector: Tokidoki Barbie, 60ths anniversary Barbie and Grease Barbie

Collector Barbie dolls are created for grown up collectors and a lot pricier than the playline. These pink haired ladies by Mattel are very high up on my wish list as a doll collector: Tokidoki Barbie, 60ths anniversary Barbie and Frenchy from Grease.

I want one of each, please.

It’s very rare to come across vintage dolls in Sweden (if you don’t look online) but I would really like some of the reproductions that are out there, as well. Maybe one day when I can afford them. But I’m also trying to be aware of space, but that’s a (much more boring) issue for another day.

I could write a lot more, and probably will in the future – but for now this is what I wanted to share today. How I become a doll collector and how very very much I love being one.


PS: Do you have a favorite Barbie or other doll? I only had one real (Mattel) blond Barbie when I was a kid and it was the Twirly Curls Barbie, then I had some Pediegree Sindy dolls (another fashion doll that I still love and adore, this one from the UK)? – and a lot of clone dolls that was of course as loved and part of my personal Barbie family.

If you’re not into dolls, please do tell: What do you collect?

Some links
Collecting and climate change – very much in line with my post How to (try) to Buy Less this Year