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All dolled up: Collector shares her dolls with the public

Sunday, April 25, 2004

(Photo)
Suzanne Boren of Charleston displays one of her favorite dolls.
CHARLESTON -- For the next month, Suzanne Boren of Charleston is sharing her personal doll collection -- from Scarlet O'Hara to the American Girl Scout to Chatty Cathy -- with the public.

"I like my dolls, and I just wanted to show them to other people," Boren said. "There are quite a few doll collectors around the area, and there are a lot of people who collect dolls, but they do not necessarily collect old dolls."

For this reason, Boren decided to put her own collection to use and currently about 75 dolls are on display at Boren's Merle Norman Cosmetics store at 102 North Main St. in Charleston.

Boren's childhood passion for dolls resurfaced about 10 years ago after a childhood playmate of Boren's had an aneurysm and died.

"I kept thinking about Jeannie (Boren's friend) and how we played dolls together so I dug out my two dolls I had left," Boren recalled.

Boren began to expand her collection, and today she has over 100 dolls that she's purchased from auctions and private sales.

There was a time frame when collecting dolls wasn't the thing for grown women to do or for them to admit they liked dolls, Boren pointed out. But these days she's singing a different tune.

"I've always liked dolls. I'm 55 and I don't mind saying that," Boren said. "I love my dolls and it's sort of like living in a second childhood."

Boren prefers the 1950s dolls, which aren't considered antiques, but rather they're considered modern collectible dolls. One of her bigger collections are the Ginger dolls from Cosmopolitan.

"Cosmopolitan is the brand and Ginger was just the name of that series of dolls," Boren explained. "Some Gingers have a vinyl head with rooted hair. If they have the hard plastic head with a glued on wig, they're an older doll and really wear better than the vinyl dolls, which can break down and get sticky. They just don't age as well as the hard plastic."

One of Boren's particular favorites in her collection is a Girl Scout doll. "I searched all over for the Girl Scout doll. I had one just like it when I was a little girl and a Girl Scout," Boren noted.

Other doll brands on display include Gustave F. Wolff, Madame Alexander, Terri Lee Co. and Lee Middleton. Some of her "character" dolls include Shirley Temple, Sweet Sue Bride, Little Orphan Annie, Beth from "Little Women" and Miss Revlon.

And there is an art to collecting old dolls -- something Boren's husband didn't grasp right away, she said. "He was just buying anything. He didn't understand that I wanted an old doll that doesn't look like an old doll," Boren laughed.

It's not an inexpensive hobby, either, Boren pointed out. For example, a particular 1950s Barbie Boren would like to have costs anywhere between $1,000-$2,000.

"And you can't go buy my dolls any place," Boren said, adding that's what makes collecting so fun.

As a doll collector, one of the hardest items to find are the doll stands, Boren said. Also finding someone to repair the dolls is another challenge, she added.

When they aren't on display at her store, Boren keeps her dolls primarily in her living and dining rooms at her house.

Although she admits putting her collectibles out on display is not what collectors are supposed to do ("They really should be tucked away in nice little boxes where nobody can see them"), Boren admitted she just wants people to come in, look at the dolls and reminisce about their childhoods.

She reasoned: "Why have something if you can't see and enjoy it?"

The collection is open to the public free of charge and can be viewed at her store from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.