After This Latest Estate Sale, I’m So Done With Dolls Forever


As everyone knows, I help people liquidate their (usually) inherited estates as part of the services we offer at my antiques shops. It’s hard work, because sometimes this stuff has been sitting for ages, and sometimes it’s a mess. And because one of my shops is located in a part of Florida where there are plenty of barns and workshops and neglected garages, sometimes it’s a dirty mess. But I love it.

I love getting my hands dirty and sorting everything out and organizing it and pricing it and, finally, selling it to people who need it or want it as much as the previous owner did. Plus, there is always something interesting in the mess.

It’s interesting what people collect — everything from vintage Coca-Cola items to heaping piles of kitchenware. And it’s interesting what their hobbies are — quilting, cooking, welding. I’ve found a 1955 UF yearbook as part of a teacher’s estate; a collection of Civil War-era buckles and bullets from a guy who spent weekends using metal detectors; a red Craftsman tool chest stuffed full of Snap-On tools; and one woman’s assortment of glass eyes. (This job is not for everyone. Taking the lid off that box was a real eye-opener.)

The estate I’m working on now has 951 dolls (I counted). No one needs that many dolls. But I’m sure they made the owner happy. There are dolls sitting on every piece of furniture. There are glass-fronted cabinets full of dolls. Her husband built a display shelf around the perimeter of the living room for the dolls. Then he added on a porch. Then another porch. Then built another house to help store them all.

I didn’t have anything against them before, but now I simply hate dolls. And it’s not because of the work entailed. Most of them don’t have to be researched. Dolls aren’t selling well right now, so most are worth $5 to 15. But there are also some true antiques in the mix — valuable handmade dolls from Germany and France, dolls with porcelain faces and ugly hairstyles worth $500 each. There’s a 5-foot-tall French Bru doll worth several thousand dollars. Barbie dolls (even the fancy ones, still in the box) don’t bring much anymore. At an auction, they’d sell for around $5 each. I’ll try to get $10. But this collector has a seven-piece set of MAS*H figurines (still sporting original price tags of $1.25 each on markdown) that is currently being sold online for $225. I learn something every day.

So it’s not the work. It’s the uncomfortable and unrelenting feeling that I’m being watched. I’m starting to get creeped out. I think I saw a head turn in my direction. I swear I put Raggedy Ann on a different table. I’ve started leaving the house before I can hear them whispering among themselves about my hairstyle.

Because of the volume of this particular estate, I won’t have it completely priced until mid-October. There’s the main house, the “doll” house, a basement, a shed and an absolutely filthy 400-square-foot workshop. The workshop is full of tools, thankfully, not dolls but — did you see Chainsaw Massacre?