Brian lives across the street from me. He ran an antique business for a long time. Now in his eighties, he’s pretty much retired… Although once in a while he buys and sells things that cost more than my car.
I’ve waited patiently to see inside his house. When I finally did, THIS is what I coveted most.
He has at least ten of these Asian dolls, lining the steps to his second floor, and I had a hard time admiring anything else—the artwork, the towering grandfather clock, the carved settee, I was distracted, trying to figure out how to stuff one under my shirt without him noticing. It was one of those things where your brain short circuits and makes you fidget, because now you cannot live without this thing.
With me, the thing becomes all-encompassing. It doesn’t matter what it is. Swing dancing, antique mirrors, MadMen…a thing that is simply appealing to most people, sticks in my brain and goes into overdrive.
So you can imagine how I was thrilled. When he said I could have one. And also how, obviously I could not take it. That’s just wrong. To take things from old people. Everyone knows that. So I said no.
And he said, look I have a bunch of them, they’re not worth anything, and to give one to someone who loves them would make me happy. But I still couldn’t take it.
Until he said he gave one to another neighbor… and I was like—give me that.
I brought her home and put her on my dining room table. Except my brain was still stuck on the short-circuit part. And I wanted another one. Actually, I wanted two more. Because why have two, when you can have three? So I planned to break into his house and steal them…
Paul said—why don’t you just ask him? Stealing them will be complicated and involve flashlights and staying up late. I said—I cannot ask. That’s crazy. Who gets something perfect… isn’t satisfied…and asks for more.
So the next time Paul saw Brian, he asked him. I was mortified.
But seeing as how Brian said sure, absolutely… It turned out my mortification wasn’t severe enough to prohibit me from picking out two more.
If I had searched the entire eastern seaboard for the exact thing I wanted to put on my dining room table, I wouldn’t have found this. If money was no object, and I could buy anything I wanted, I wouldn’t have found this. So to be given the exact thing I most wanted, that I didn’t even know about was excellent.
Keep reading, for the doll’s history…
Update—my post was already pretty long, and I wasn’t sure the whole story was of interest, but now I think that was silly of me. This is obviously the most interesting piece of the story:
My dolls are reproductions.
Brian bought the original doll from a personal estate, when he first started buying and selling antiques. He thinks it’s probably from the 1930’s, and was possibly the kind of thing you might win at a carnival. He liked it enough to keep it in his own collection. I WISH he wanted to give me that one!! But he’s not offering! I do want to get a photo of it, next time I’m over there.
At some point, in the 1950’s he saw a similar reproduction being sold at a Philadelphia department store. The reproductions were being sold for a couple hundred dollars, which was a LOT of money then…
Brian figured he should get in on that… and he had a mold made of his original doll. The original is slightly larger, due to the molding process… but other than that, the reproductions he had made are identical. He hand painted all of them himself, using the original as his guide. Looking at them side by side, to me they look identical. They also make me think of Brian as an artist. The detail and skill are really remarkable. He sold them in his shop, and kept a number of them.
In his 60 years in the antique business, he’s never seen another one of the original. I did spend some time on the internet… also looking for the Philadelphia-department-store version, thinking that anything vintage and mass-produced would be somewhere on the internet as a collectable, but I couldn’t find anything.