A lot sure has changed from back when I first started selling dolls, and doll clothes and accessories on eBay. Of course, back then I didn’t look at it as a business, it was just a side hustle, a way to make a few extra bucks. I would buy almost all of my supplies at the Dollar Tree; several trips a month to stock up on tissue paper for wrapping up items, Ziploc bags to place outfits and other loose items in, and I believe I even purchased shipping tape there as well. At some point along the juncture, I upgraded to shopping for most of my supplies at Wal-Mart (insert crazy, laughing, smiley face), whatever funky color of foam board they had in stock is what I would use when that needed replaced; I’ve gone from blue to golden to the now infamous pink. I would make trips down to my local post office and get free priority mailing boxes, whatever they had in stock I would gladly take. I didn’t offer first class shipping back then, outfits and other small items would ship in a small Priority flat rate box and dolls that did not have their original boxes which ship in the larger shirt size Priority boxes. I do not recall how much time passed before realizing I could order these USPS supplies online, but that was one of my first real game changers. Eventually I started ordering other shipping supplies in bulk from online wholesalers; large sheets of packing paper, bubble envelopes to ship outfits in, shipping tape, and jumbo poly bags for larger, combined items. And there are no more trips to the post office, well very rarely anyways. I now schedule my pick-ups and my mail carrier, currently a lovely young lady named Amanda, keeps me stocked in giant, indestructible mailbags and picks up all of my outgoing mail whenever needed. As I’m sure you can imagine, Mondays present a heavy load; usually three or four of these very large mailbags filled to the brim. Tuesday’s can sometimes fill one mailbag full and then the rest of the week I usually have just a handful of stragglers. I am very grateful to all of my buyers who pay right away, It’s nice having one long day of shipping so that I can use the rest of the week to sort, photograph, and do another round of listings. And what does that look like, you may ask… I pull out my bright pink foam board that has become a known visual for my items (and is often copied) and the dolly photo shoot begins. I have a notebook that I keep all of my records in (yes, I am still old school that way); client’s name and auction ending date go at the top of the page followed by a list of all the items that I am selling for them in consecutive order as I take the photos of each item. This keeps everything in a systematic order for when I sit down to do my listings. After photographing, items get placed in large plastic storage containers and items that are in their original boxes are placed on top. Sort, photograph, list, ship… Rinse and repeat.
A typical Monday at the "brodam" home office!
As the dolls came to me to be sold the temptation was often great to offer to buy one out-right to keep for my own. There were so many that caught my eye and many of the fashions very much inspired me and made me start thinking about my own wardrobe and how I could put pieces together to mimic some of the character’s outfits. To have a collection of these chic and opulent dolls lined up on a shelf to look at all of the time would be great inspiration; but each time I resisted, telling myself that I needed the extra money more so that I could get myself home for the holidays, or Mother’s Day, or any other moment when I was missing my family. My mom and my sister, along with her two children, still lived in West Virginia, in the house that I grew up in. My dad had passed away from lung cancer; he was diagnosed in the early part of December 1998 and died on Valentine’s Day 1999. They first diagnosed him with pneumonia but I had a strong gut feeling that it was much more serious and upon arriving at the hospital from my home in Ohio, the second time my mom took him to the emergency room, I demanded that they run certain tests. Within 24–48 hours we were delivered the news, devastating to my mom and my sister but not as shocking for me, somehow I had already prepared myself for the C word. My dad was a mailman; I sometimes wonder what he would have to say about all of the packages that I ship on a weekly basis. And so, after a few months of the inner battle with buying a doll for myself or selling it to have the extra money to do the extra things in life, I came to the conclusion that there was a way to have my cake and eat it too… I DO have a doll collection; it is a continuous and constant rotating collection, each week I get to marvel and soak in the beauty of a whole different array of dolls and doll clothes from a variety of eras and makers. There are still times when I desire to have one in my possession for a bit longer but I let it go, sending it off with a thank you for the time that it influenced and/or brought joy to my life in some small way.
“How many of these dolls did you say you have?” Wow… who knew! I don’t recall the exact amount but that handful of dolls and outfits put an extra couple hundred dollars in my pocket and I was more shocked and surprised than I was when my $35 sketching sold for $700+. And so I found myself with a new part-time job, every so often I would be given a handful of dolls and in my spare time I would undress them, photograph and list; always the same formula of starting at $9.99 and running for five days. I would check my listings every night when I got home from work, gobsmacked at the amount of bids and bidders trying their luck at all of the dolly treasures I was offering. Back then (2006) eBay didn’t have a shipping label system so I would hand-write all of my address labels. Packages were shipped all over the world, there was a multi-copy carbon customs form that needed to be filled out with every international package, which I also did by hand. Eventually I was smart enough to grab a handful of these forms to take home so that I could have them ready when I brought the packages to the mail clerk window. My local, postage-stamp-sized post office was located right next door to my apartment building… yes, I realize how convenient this really was. I would walk my packages down and stand in line as the clerk weighed and calculated every single package one at a time. After a few weeks of this I started to feel like they probably hated to see me coming because of all of the work they knew they were going to have to do; but I always smiled and showed sincere appreciation and when the holidays came rolling around I would give them gifts to say thank you. They actually ended up coming to rely on my business and shared with me that they feared if I ever stopped or moved away their tiny little postage-stamp-sized post office would close down and be obsolete. After several rounds of listings I started becoming familiar with all of the different Tyler and friends faces and names and eventually I was introduced to Kitty Collier, Tiny Kitty, Betsy McCall and many others. It fascinated me, every evening that I had auctions ending, and I started noticing the same eBay usernames popping up time and time again and I would wonder who that person was and what their doll collection looked like. Isn’t it enchanting how a plastic, miniature human look-alike can bring so many people together? “Could I become a doll collector?”
A couple of weeks pass and I find myself armed with about a dozen dolls and a page of handwritten notes explaining who the dolls are, their backstory, how to undress them and sell the outfit separately, how long to list them for, and a starting price. The world of doll collecting... I had never given it any thought until this day and was completely unaware of exactly how many people there are out there that collect them. But isn’t that the way, if you’re not personally into something you are, more than likely, completely oblivious to the fact that such a niche hobby/interest exists. To this day when I meet someone new and get asked what I do for a living they are in awe and seem to have difficulty grasping that I could actually make a living selling such things. They don’t get it, and at the time I didn’t either; I just looked at it as something to do in my spare time and a way to earn a little pocket money. I took the dozen or so dolls home with me to photograph and list; if my memory serves me correctly they were all Tonner brand, and all or most of them were from the Tyler Wentworth collection. They were BEAUTIFUL and as I undressed each one I admired every little intricate detail; their gorgeous hairstyles, the life-like sparkle in their eyes, the array of fine materials used for their clothing, the embroidery and beadwork, their little matching shoes, and... pantyhose? Pantyhose under a floor-length gown, pantyhose under a skirt, pantyhose under pants, pantyhose with a bodysuit... Tyler and her posse of friends are all modern girls living in the modern world, not the 70s! “You have perfect legs my little friends, let them breathe, let them be free”, but I digress. The nude dolls and their matching outfits were all listed for five days with a starting auction bid price of $9.99, the market would decide the selling price. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this but five days later I found myself picking my jaw up off of the floor.
I had been living in my apartment for about a year, I was good and settled and had everything in its place. I had a box of miscellaneous items that didn’t seem to find a “place” in my life so I decided to sell them on eBay, these items just no longer served me or spoke to who I had become. One of the items was a framed sketching, like a pencil drawing; it was of two older ladies sitting at a table having, what looked to be, an intense conversation. I always thought that they reminded me of a couple of witches from a fairytale chatting about a concoction for their next spell. I had purchased this framed sketching at a flea market, somewhere in Ohio, years earlier for $35. I had a hard time making out the name from the signature but did my best to translate what I thought I saw and took lots of detailed photos for the listing. My handful of auctions ran for 7 days and ended late one night while I was working a shift at the restaurant as a bartender. All of my coworkers were going out afterwards but I chose to go home so that I could see what all of my items had sold for. I sat down at my computer and pulled up my eBay account, I was flabbergasted! That framed sketching sold for over $700, I had to do a double take, but it was true! My next fear was that it wouldn’t get paid for but, as luck would have it, the winning bidder paid for it immediately. I was so excited that I jumped in my car and drove to the hang-out where all of my coworkers had gone, once there I bought everyone a drink to celebrate along with me. I don’t recall all of the exact details of the order but the item did go to someone internationally. I was a nervous wreck packing that thing up properly and prayed for the next few weeks that it would get there safely and the person wouldn’t want to return it for some reason. The next day, back at the restaurant to do another evening shift, I spoke of my exciting eBay sale to a few other coworkers who had not been around the night before. One of them asked… “You know how to sell stuff on eBay?” - “Yeah” I replied. “Would you help me sell a doll collection?” - “Sure!” I replied. Little did I know what this was going to lead to.
The following summer, 2006, my little hamlet of High Falls organized it’s very first annual pet show contest that would be a part of the annual High Falls Fair Day, a small-town mini festival that took place every year. There was a recent changeover of committee members and with the new energy came lots of new activities to make it more appealing to locals and tourists alike. I decided that Henry needed to be in the contest, I figured “why not”… I was living in the center of the hamlet and getting to know the locals, and Henry was adorable. I placed him inside of the backpack pet carrier that my boss had given me as a gift the Christmas before, he thought that I would be taking Henry with me when I went to visit my family in West Virginia for the holidays, I had no intentions of doing that… I hired an in-house pet-sitter instead. The backpack pet carrier was finally coming in handy! I loaded him onto my back and we walked over to the local churchyard where the pet show was being held. I signed him up and got a number. We waited until it was our turn to go before the judges in a small grassy area under a tree a little bit away from all of the barking dogs. This was the first time Henry had ever been out of my apartment, and the first time he was ever around any other animals. I had no idea how he would react… and you know how cats can be! He was such as good boy; he just sat on my lap and looked around at everything that was going on. I kept the pet carrier open and very close by, ready for any instance that I might need to place him in there and zip it up. Henry was the ONLY cat that was entered into the contest; I figured he was a shoo-in if there was a cat category (which there wasn’t, by the way). Our number was called and we went before the judges, I held him in my arms and I took one of his little paws and waved at the judges as we walked past each one. We went back to our grassy area where I had left the backpack pet carrier and waited for them to announce the winners. Well, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear… Henry took home a blue ribbon and was proclaimed “Mr. High Falls 2006”!