Never Too Late
Ever noticed the quizzical faces when you mention you are going to a doll show or traveling to a doll convention?
“Dolls? Like the kind kids play with?”
“You mean you are going to buy some dolls for your children?”
“No. I am a doll collector.”
“You collect dolls?”
As you can see this sort of conversation going on forever, you just smile and guide the conversation to another subject.
Why is it when someone announces he collects vintage wines, no one asks, “Wines? You mean the kind people drink?” It seems perfectly okay to collect cars, motorcycles, CDs, books, oriental rugs and any number of grown-up things.
As soon as someone mentions that he collects a childhood treasure, however, it becomes a curious thing. It’s not just dolls; people collect die-cast cars, model trains, and comic books. There are paper dolls, cast iron banks, and dollhouses with all their furnishings. The list could go on and on, including marbles and yo-yos, puzzles and puppets and even classic Erector sets.
When the non-collecting public comes up against those who treasure the trappings of childhood, three things usually happen. The first is the awakening. I call it the “you-collect-what?” reaction. It’s as if the idea never crossed their mind.
This awakening is usually followed by an intense interest. The questions come fast and furious—Do a lot of people collect those? How much do they cost? How hard are they to find? Can you show me your collection? What does your husband/wife think?
The third reaction is often a wistfulness—a connection. “I remember when I had a Chatty Cathy doll…but my mother cleaned out the attic and gave it away.” There is a real hunger to be connected to our childhood, no matter how old we are. This connection is addressed by one of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time:
“I need not belabor the point that to retain our childlike openness does not mean to be childish. Only the most mature of us are able to be childlike. And to be able to be childlike involves memory; we must never forget any part of ourselves. As of this writing I am sixty-one years old in chronology. But I am not an isolated, chronological numerical statistic. I am sixty-one, and I am also four, and twelve, and fifteen, and twenty-three, and thirty-one, and forty-five, and…and…and…”—Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980
Our advertisements for the Guild Doll for 2000 are headed with the following piece of wisdom: “It’s Never too Late to Have a Happy Childhood.” We doll collectors understand that already.
The Year of the Doll: An Inside Look
The year has well and truly started.
That may sound ridiculous since this newsletter will you when the year is more than half over, but the doll year is only now getting underway. There’s always a flurry of excitement right around Valentine’s Day when all the new dolls are debuted at Toy Fair in New York City, but that’s when the dolls are little more than a gleam in the designer’s eye.
The dolls that are shown at Toy Fair are almost always the design prototypes. These are the same dolls that are photographed for the catalog. Each dollmaker and doll manufacturer at Toy Fair rolls out the red carpet to the professional buyers, but once the foot-worn carpet is rolled back up at the end of the Fair, when the booth is crated and the dolls are shipped back home; then the real work begins.
Molds must be made, fabric purchased and porcelain ordered. The number of individual elements that go into one doll is staggering. When that number is multiplied by all the dolls in the line, purchasing alone becomes a mountain of a task.
As the supplies begin to arrive, the artists have been busy learning the new dolls. Each face is a whole new challenge. These are the times we look with envy at the businesses that make the same product year in and year out. We reinvent ourselves each and every year.
Spring is what we call our ramp time—the time we are gearing up and it feels as if we are in slow-motion. This is the same time all the details are complete with our ad programs and promotional activities. Show dates are set and appearance details ironed out.
Just about this time, collectors begin to wonder if they will ever see the new dolls in the stores. Dollmakers wonder if they will ever be able to begin shipping dolls. It’s a time of anticipation.
By summer, dolls begin to make their way to store shelves. By mid-summer, the year is well and truly underway. The doll catalogs that collectors have been studying since February give way to store visits.
As soon as the kids are back in school, shipments begin arriving at stores by the truckloads. The Lawton Doll Company tries to ship the last of our dolls by the first part of December, but in heavy doll-buying years we sometimes spill over into January.
During summer and fall, the next year’s dolls are on the drawing board—hopefully finished by Thanksgiving for cataloging during December and January. And in February, it all starts over again.
What an exciting cycle—to be saying that the year has only just well and truly started, while working furiously toward a fabulous new offering for 2001. I can’t imagine a more exciting life.
Toy Fair 2000
In a World of Change
In a world of change, quality endures. That’s been our motto for almost as long as we’ve been selling dolls. Somehow it has never been more apt than at the turn of this century.
Change is everywhere. A friend recently wrote that they were losing the bookstore that had been part of their town for generations. This store weathered the first influx of chain bookstores, but the advent of the superstores, like Barnes and Noble—with their discount prices and coffee lounges—crippled them. The advent of the deep discount dot com companies, like Amazon.com, dealt the finishing blow. Her bookstore friends are packing their books and closing the store.
When one company gets too big, they can often dictate the market. Barnes and Noble, for instance, is so big that if they tell the publisher they’re not interested in a certain proposed title, you can bet that title will be the first one cut from the publisher’s list. That’s disconcerting if you appreciate diversity.
But change happens. Try to find a corner grocery instead of a supermarket these days. We readily admit that some changes are necessary to better serve people’s needs, especially when we want a bigger selection. An interesting phenomenon, however, is the rise of specialty grocers and gourmet grocers—independents in a world of mega grocery chains. People found they wanted to explore diversity and quality. In a world of change, quality endures.
There is a similar movement in the world of dolls. We hear there will be at least half a dozen new dot com companies at Toy Fair. They’ve got deep pockets and they plan to roll out huge websites to woo the collector. Add eBay, Amazon.com Collectibles, and Sotheby’s Online and you have a lot of companies posturing for your collectible dollars. But what sets apart your longtime independent doll dealer? Quality. In a world of change, quality endures.
At Lawtons, we’re still committed to the independent doll shop. We understand that adding a doll to your collection is more than pushing a grocery cart through the aisles. We think you deserve a knowledgeable dealer who is willing to tell you the stories behind the dolls. We think that relationship is at least as important as convenience. We want you to experience the kind of service that’s nearly extinct in our fast-paced world, from a dealer who knows how to buy dolls for the connoisseur. So don’t expect to find Lawtons being discounted and “blown out the door.” You deserve better than that.
Speaking of change, December saw a change of another kind for Lawtons. Keith and I bought back the half of the company owned by Linda and Jim Smith, our longtime friends and partners. The Lawton Doll Company is now owned completely by the Lawton Family. You won’t be seeing many changes however. We pledge to continue to offer strictly limited editions of the highest quality. After all—In a world of change, quality endures.
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The Lawton Doll Company
Post Office Box 1227
Hilmar, CA 95324
Phone 209 632-3655
Fax: 209 632-6788
info @ lawtondolls.com