Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE
Treasured heirlooms hold enormous sentimental value to those who become the recipients as they serve as a visual reminder of fond memories of the giver.
Charlotte Johnson of Clanton is creating such treasures for her family as she passes down her extensive doll collection a little at a time.
“I have enjoyed them for a long time, so I hope they enjoy them half as much as I have,” Johnson said.
Her collection has been growing for 40 years and at one time included about 500 dolls.
“I had always loved dolls and enjoyed buying them for my daughters, but I just didn’t think about collecting them for myself until my grandchildren came along, and I started giving them storybook dolls,” Johnson said.
The dolls portrayed different characters from classic fairy tales.
“They were excited,” Johnson said. “As far as I know, they still have them.”
Later, grandchildren started giving her similar dolls as gifts.
“I just started from there,” Johnson said.
Her collection began with Effanbee dolls patterned after people from around the world. She also began collecting the Effanbee storybook dolls. Johnson said after these dolls, she began collecting the celebrity dolls, such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, John Wayne, etc.
As Johnson saw different dolls she liked, her collection grew. She is especially fond of the realistic looking Annette Himstedt collection.
Many of these dolls Johnson found at Helen’s Antiques in Prattville.
“She had beautiful dolls and furniture and everything in her shop,” Johnson said.
It was in this store that Johnson saw her first Annette Himstedt doll.
Johnson’s collection also includes dolls that had been popular among children and serious collectors alike, such as Barbie and Cabbage Patch Dolls.
“I was not going to collect Barbies because I had so many other dolls, and I started on the Holiday Barbie,” Johnson said.
She started collecting them when the third one came out. Her Barbie collection now includes Gone with the Wind dolls, Marilyn Monroe dolls, My Fair Lady dolls and several Dolls of the World.
“My daughter-in-law loved Cabbage Patch Kids,” Johnson said. “I think she started me (collecting those) and gave me my first one.”
Over the years, Johnson’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren had begun asking for specific dolls that they have their eye on.
In 2016, Johnson decided she was ready to begin parting with her collection and passing it on to the next generations.
“They get to pick one for their birthday and for Christmas,” Johnson said.
Among these have been her Precious Moments collection and the first 3-foot Barbie to be released.
Her great-grandchildren are now enjoying the “My Size Barbie.”
Her collection includes dolls from Madame Alexander, Danbury Mint, Lee Middleton, Robin Woods, Hildegard Gunzel, Virginia Turner, Promenade Collection, Phyllis Parker, Rotraut Schrott, Yolanda Belles and Pamela Erff.
While she has never been a part of an organized club of doll collectors, Johnson said she has met several fellow collectors at doll shows. Johnson said she purchased some of her Madame Alexander dolls at a show in Prattville.
Johnson said even as she was building her collection she tried not to pay too much for any one doll.
Showing the collection to others is what Johnson has enjoyed the most.