This review is by Rachael 'Nova' Sheogayrath.
For my ninth birthday one of my mother’s friends gave me a shoebox containing several old porcelain dolls. A few years later I bought one at a thrift store, then another, and the set snowballed into a collection. I’m fond of this type of figure because having them in my room makes me seem eccentric and macabre, but in truth I just think they’re pretty.
I’m fairly certain none of them are haunted.
KATE WINSLET (left): An authentic Franklin Mint porcelain figure of Rose from James Cameron’s Titanic, priced at roughly USD $350 online. I paid $15. Beautifully constructed; delicate face; good attention to detail (I especially like her tiny necklace and earrings). Her hair holds together well. What strikes me is the realistic proportions: she is an adult woman, more human than cartoon, and she towers over the rest of my collection (save for Big Pink.) Her arm bows out at an odd angle where she once held a shawl.
I have never seen Titanic. Upon seeing her, my cousin started walking around the house asking family members to identify the face and costume. After some frantic Googling I found an Ebay listing of an identical doll at 23 times the price, which made me feel like those men from Pawn Stars even though I don’t plan on selling her.
My personal favourite and objectively the best doll in my collection. 10/10, what a steal.
BIG PINK (right): A gift from my nan. In contrast to Kate she is a pudding-faced toddler. Her dress is constructed out of an unidentified glossy synthetic fabric with a row of bobbles. She reminds me of a cabbage patch kid. 5/10.
THE BALLERINA: Another gift. Oddly slender arms. The top half of her dress is made out of a similar fabric to Big Pink’s but I greatly prefer hers. I like the puffy, lacy sleeves. She is perpetually doing the splits. 6/10.
THE BABY: The only infant in my collection. Well-made and, in my opinion, very cute, with a delicate little face. It was probably meant to lie down in a miniature cot but I stand it upright in a pose not unlike a vampire rising out of its coffin. Funnily enough the Baby is chronologically the oldest of my dolls, the only genuine vintage. I love the rosy little cheeks. 8/10.
Editor's note: For reasons that'll soon become clear, I refuse to publish images of the next doll on this website
JULIA JONES: No relation to the actress. Acquired in a now-defunct thrift store down the road from where I live.
Julia has a storied history. She was the first doll I bought for myself, sparking my interest in collecting them. Initially she wore a plain blue dress and sneakers which I have since removed and lost. A fake vintage: the style of plastic shoes she wore indicated she was made fairly recently but her dress was meant to resemble something from the 1950s. One of the bigger dolls, roughly the size of Kate and Big Pink. In her original state I would have given her a 7/10.
Since then I have made several modifications. I tore off her wig and placed it on my Vivec funko pop and then, out of curiosity, removed the plastic cap of her skull (I had the idea of using her hollowed-out head as a flowerpot). I undressed her with the intent of using her bare cloth body as a dummy to make miniature test-runs of clothes I would sew. Neither of these ideas came to fruition. I once took her to school as she is now to use as a prop for drama class and seriously frightened some unfortunate girls in the library. In her current state I would give her an objective 2/10, but she does have sentimental value. I’m sorry I did this to you, Julia.
I keep her under the desk in my bedroom, away from the others. If Toy Story was real she would resent me.
PRINCESS: Part of the original eight. At the time I received them she was my favourite one, because I liked her little white dress. She is the smallest doll; I can fit her inside of Julia’s hollow head. 8/10.
COUNTRY BUMPKIN: Another original and the ugly duckling of my collection. For some reason she was my least favourite of the dolls as a child but I’ve since warmed up to her. I like her dress but it’s badly stained. 7/10.
THE TWINS: Rescued alongside Kate in Toowoomba, Australia, from a Saint Vincent’s. They go together because I bought them at the same time and they were probably made as a pair. Oddly proportioned and barrel-chested, the closest this kind of doll can come to being muscular. My cousin said they looked ‘russian or something.’ 6/10.
THE GIRLS: I lump these dolls together because they have no noteworthy attributes. Common features include: matted hair, smooth faces (likely re-cast from more expensive dolls), straw hats and striped dresses with lace frills. 5/10, completely average.
TAXES (AND SON): Taxes The Clown was a gift from my partner, who evidently knows my tastes better than I do. His son was purchased at a two-dollar store.
Objectively Taxes is rough around the edges and his offspring is cheaply-made and immensely gaudy, which places them collectively at a 3/10. Personally, I would give them a 10.
Ceramic dolls are the quintessential collector’s item. They can be expertly crafted or outstandingly gaudy; newly purchased or thrifted after years of love; cheap or expensive with all the distinctive thrill that comes with negotiating prices over Ebay. There exist enough unique dolls in the world for no one collection to contain them all. One can specialise in a particular category- celebrity likenesses, antiques or clowns- or simply obtain as many as they can, regardless of quality or type.
They represent the kind of enthusiastic kitsch only grandmothers with an affinity for brown shag carpets and clairvoyant scam artists running séances out of their homes can appreciate in earnest. The general public sees them as they see little girls in victorian dresses: horror fiction has run the trope of the haunted doll so far into the ground that collecting them because you like them, because they’re fun little porcelain people with cute faces, is an act of subversion.
Like I said, none of them are haunted, but the Vehk Funko Pop definitely is.