Some don't outgrow affection for dolls, and collectors will have their day with a show here

For the past twelve years Wendy and Larry Mitchell of Naples have been collecting dolls. The couple are members of the Naples Doll Club and are beginning preparations for the club's annual Naples Doll Show to be held on January 18-19, 2013 at Moorings Presbyterian Church.

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

For the past twelve years Wendy and Larry Mitchell of Naples have been collecting dolls. The couple are members of the Naples Doll Club and are beginning preparations for the club's annual Naples Doll Show to be held on January 18-19, 2013 at Moorings Presbyterian Church.

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Photo with no caption

Photo by JASON EASTERLY // Buy this photo

Imagine a newborn infant that has been the same age for 55 years. She is Wendy Mitchell's first doll, named "Baby," and is now one of about 300 that Wendy and her husband Larry, have collected.

The Mitchells are not alone in their passion for dolls. According to the United Federation of Doll Clubs, doll collectors make up one of the largest hobby groups in the world.

Walking into the Mitchell's elaborate two-story Naples home is like entering a fantasy land. There are dolls everywhere, carefully placed on sofas and chairs; one over in a corner. Wendy's handmade Alice in Wonderland ensemble, a collection for an upcoming doll club 30th birthday celebration, sits on a landing.

The couple have been collecting dolls throughout their 41-year marriage, as well as other items such as teddy bears, and they say it has increased their intimacy and satisfaction as a couple.

Of all the things people collect — stamps, figurines, coins, clocks and cards — none might be more fascinating than these surrogate human replicas. Some people collect dolls for fun, and some do for profit.

According to 63-year-old Mitchell, chairwoman of the Naples Doll Club's upcoming annual Doll Show and Sale, collections from this hobby can run the gamut, from that very first "baby" doll to a rare find such as an 1800s fashion doll she bought in France for $34,000 just a couple months ago.

Enter Dot and Bill Hagman, Naples collectors of such expensive dolls for the past 25 years.

Although the Naples Doll Club membership is currently women, these two couples share their mutual passion and joy for exploring the fascinating world of "little people" as duos.

"This is something that we really enjoy doing together. It has really added to our life as a couple. We even will play with one doll, Molly," Wendy Mitchell said.

By play, she means creative pastime. She crochets clothes for Molly. As collectors, the Mitchells will go on "search and rescue" missions, she said, and find secondhand dolls at discount stores they can bring home, fix up and add to their collection. And of course, there are trips to Kmart, auctions and estate sales.

Mitchell said she and husband, Larry, are not "high end" doll collectors who spend a lot of money on their dolls. Their average purchase is about $17.

The Hagmans, however, look for the rare acquisitions. Dot Hagman said she has been collecting dolls with her husband for 25 years. She carefully places her latest purchase on the floor and shows off her Vichy Automation French Fashion doll as the 1870s collectible moves to music. From the silk and satin elaborate dress and hat, down to the opera spectacles the doll moves, the relic is elegant and precise.

She said in the 1800s, wealthy women would have the dolls brought to the privacy of their home to show potential dresses. The doll's price today: $14,000. The Hagmans have spent upwards of $34,000 for one of their estimated 500-600 dolls.

"There is so much to this activity of collecting dolls. My personal call is rather eclectic," said Hagman, who serves as vice president of the Naples Doll Club.

Bill Hagman collects dolls too — more than 120 Skookum Indian dolls, a highly collectible one made in a variety of sizes and styles that depict Native American tribes and customs.

"We have enjoyed this hobby together for years. It makes our travelling adventure in the United States and abroad so special and fun," he said.

The Naples Doll Club is a nonprofit under the umbrella of the United Federation of Doll Club Collectors, and was established in 1982. There are currently more than 50 members. Proceeds from its events benefit charities.

Members are doll lovers from childhood, dealers, restorers and artists, as well as historians interested in studying dolls from different eras.

And then, of course, there are collectors of Barbie and Ken, that unforgettable couple of the 1960s who haven't gotten the first gray hair or laugh line on their faces.

© 2013 gonaples.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Sessions