“Sport” is an interesting word. It has both verb and noun usages – can even take the form of an adjective in its variations (sporty). But the primary definition most associated with this fascinating word identifies physical activity engaged in for pleasure, or a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in. Commonly known sports include such competitive athletic games like soccer and baseball, but it also includes mental games such as chess, and even mechanized competition as in car or boat racing. Professional poker can be viewed as a sport in gambling circles. Why even shopping is considered a sport by some – and that leads me to doll collecting as a sport.
I started writing this post last year, when a dear friend suggested the concept of doll collecting as a sport (thank you, Andrew!) – I was utterly fascinated with the concept. To place doll collecting as its own sport would truly raise some eyebrows at the Olympics – but that would be a disservice to those doll collectors that engage in sporting acquisition of their favorites – they are not all alike. And much as track and field competitions identify a common group of sports, doll collecting is no different.
However, if one is to better understand the concept of this hobby as a sport, one must fully embrace what it means to be a sport – so I present to you this post in two parts: The Sporting Elements of Doll Collecting, and the Events Best Represented During the Dollympics™ (I’m claiming commonlaw copyright on Dollympics™, dears) Start training, Dollympians™…it’s time to throw your Philip Treacy hat in the ring…
The Sporting Elements of Doll Collecting-
Athleticism- What? We’re athletic, okay? That doesn’t mean we are ripped flesh and bone sculptures that ride on an endless dose of steroid – no, dear – we’re stronger than that…
Competitiveness- Competitiveness arrives in many forms within doll collecting arenas. You have those that vie for the latest and greatest, some that sew better than others, the eyes of various doll photographers competing for your attention, bloggers that jump at the news of doll significantia to bring readers to their sites first – and the assmouth collectors who feel they have to establish their opinions in a more rudely opposing manner.
Competition is one of the most important aspects of doll collecting. Many don’t go out of their way to assess their collection as any more important than another; but you’d never know it by the way they relentlessly share walls upon walls of images showing just how vast their collection is. But sharing your collection doesn’t make you a bitch – it’s what we do in the absence of in-person gatherings and nearby doll collecting friends. It also happens to be amazingly educational when you look upon the hundreds of folks out there who don’t have that particular doll – they see it, and mentally add it to their list of wants. One can even compare this to athletes who observe their competitors – each seeking a technique or style to master within their own routine that will make them on par with others in their field.
Team Play- Teaming with other doll collectors is seen in a variety of events. From tablemates at a convention, to partners in an actual competition – the gathering of two or more collectors into a team makes for great dolly sporting. Think of the doll club who wants to be bigger, more visible to its favorite manufacturer (or manufacturers), thereby giving them ‘inner circle’ preference in the eyes of the doll maker.
Teaming in doll collecting is very difficult, however. Just as we see in sporting teams, the primary concept uniting the team is the ultimate goal. But considering doll collecting can be largely a selfish hobby – well, you can see where the challenge is. In this respect, it’s not unlike professional sports teams who tend to see one or two players singled out by the media for interviews or lucrative advertising contracts. Doll teaming is no different – you will always have the standouts that shadow the other teammates, but it’s how the standout handles such situations that makes them a compelling sportsman.
Fierceness- No, I don’t mean this definition of ‘fierce’. In the true vernacular, fierce isn’t a compliment – it is the ability of the competitor to embrace the violent aspects of a sport. Don’t believe me? Then you’ve obviously never been to a Tonner Factory Sale.
But just like the X-Men, learning to control your power can actually allow you to harness it in a way that can be used for good. Such is the case with fierceness. Doll collectors who are regularly active in online communities show fierceness to not only have their messages heard, their dolls seen, and their names known, but they also show a relentless aggressive desire to do so. I speak from firsthand experience on this one – in the late 1990s, I used the doll chat boards to carve out my space in the doll community. I also spent vulgar amounts of money to travel extensively to doll events – it’s not enough to be heard; one must also be seen. To this end, an ulterior definition of ‘fierce’ – as one of determination – can also be seen.
I think it’s more true of doll collectors to have fierce tongues rather than actual physically violent tendencies – but then hey, remember that factory sale analogy?
Strategic Coordination- One doesn’t simply happen upon strategy. It takes knowledge, skill and precision to establish. There must also be a clear goal, which is what doll collectors who have been in the hobby for some time can tell you. You don’t just go and buy anything – you set your sights on the most desired objects, you plan extensively (if not obsessively) how you will attain your goal, and you put it in motion.
Doll collectors always start somewhere, but it is the strategists that are always learning, and always incorporating new intel into their methods – if not at least knowing how to snipe bid on eBay.
Mental Stamina- No, no…I didn’t say mental stability – that would disqualify most of us. No, my dear – mental stamina is not the same thing. To have such stamina as a doll collector, this is a true testament of endurance. Think of how you took the news of a favorite doll being discontinued, think of how 2008’s economic downfall turned your collecting habits into a bad make-out session with Pink Label Barbie and the like – think of how divisions within our own community play this grand mind fuck with your loyalties. Yes…enduring such mental assaults has nothing to do with stability – it’s all about stamina, because there will be another in a week or two. Like death and taxes – it is most certain in our world.
Patience- If you skipped to the closing paragraphs of this post, then you don’t have it. Patience is a virtue; and it is critcal in doll collecting, what with manufacturers who still show dolls months in advance of actual availability, and forget that impulse is stronger than brand loyalty.
Patience is at its most tested in situations where a new collection is revealed, your dolly dollars are stretched thin, and you’re not seeing a new doll that just begs you to buy it. Do you wait for the next factory sale, or the next new collection? You are after all, only as relevant as the last doll you bought, correct? No? Well, be patient a little longer, because you’ll soon see something new that will shine in your collection for about three seconds before it’s vanquished to the back of the shelf.
It’s holding the ability to jump at just the right time that makes you a contender. After all, how long did you wait online for Superdoll’s last Goddess? If you answered, ‘long enough’ – then you already show signs of an athlete extraordinaire.
Networking Ideals- To network within the doll community is a must for anyone who wishes to effectively compete in the sport. You must know a variety of top retailers well (and buy from them, too – just knowing them might get you a cocktail buddy at convention; but that’s about it, Puddings). You will also need to be on every email list imaginable, get your ass away from the keyboard and actually get out there to meet people in person, and have your finger on doll collecting media (both online and print).
Networking brings you a wealth of resources at your fingertips – and it seems almost naïve that few actually do this, relying on their opinions, rather than fact or extensive experience – for such naiveté brings little gold at the end of your game.
Good Sportsmanship- So you didn’t get Eira – boo hoo hoo. Get over it, and refocus for your next game – don’t bitch, whine and moan about it to others – it’s silly and amateurish.
Celebrate the victories of your competitors, for it could have been you – and I think you’d like to see that, now wouldn’t you? It’s the agony of defeat, Dollympians – your ability to recover places you ahead of those who can’t.
Fair Play- I think this goes without saying, but because this is my blog, we’ll have to discuss it. I’m not talking about the loyal customers who have cleared a competitive advantage via retailers or manufacturers – they’ve probably earned it. No, fair play comes more into perspective under the helm of conspiracy theorists, gossipers and fools that detract from the game in ways that test one’s mental stamina (see above).
Some retailers don’ help in this vile act – they play upon your emotions and loyalties, spilling all kinds of woe their businesses experience, only to use you to advance their game, while blatantly lying in order to make that sale. Retailers that make no active interest in educating their customers in a variety of doll types and makers, simply have no business being in business. They don’t care about the dolls, they care about making money (or funding their own collection of a particular doll).
The internet hasn’t made the field of fair play any easier – either someone has figured out loopholes in a doll maker’s website, or they have stronger and faster ways to connect – the mere idea of fair is clearly driven by technology’s whim.
Keen Understanding- How can you play (or play fair) if you don’t know the rules? But it’s not just the rules of play, it’s everything that your hobby embraces. There is no room for stupidity or assumptions in this sport. Most certainly, there are exponential resources available for people to learn as much as they can about their game. So why is it that so many are just horrifically stupid when it comes to dolls and doll collecting? Laziness is no badge of honor, dear – and those that claim to be experts (our ‘sportscasters’, so to speak), when they know and understand little about our world – well, they are rather obvious when you truly examine their testaments of ignorance that litter blogs and online community discussions internet-wide. Knowledge is your rally cry toward victory – and being lazy about it will cost you that prize.
Rigorous Training- No, it won’t help you to open a bag of Funyuns and wash it down with a Diet Coke while you read the latest rant online by some mental patient that doesn’t really know why they are ranting in the first place.
To be competitive in doll collecting, you must have the hands of a pianist, the mind of a chess strategist, and the ability to stand for long periods while you wait in this or that line.
As with keen understanding (see above), your training begins with simple skills: removing a doll from her box cleanly and effectively; knowing how to brush hair without making it frizz even larger than it already is; mastery of doll posing; and dressing and re-dressing dolls in every type of doll clothing and accessory (while understanding little tricks like placing plastic baggies over hands, and jewelry-making tools to assist with closures).
Graduate to medium-level skills: Know how to remove a vinyl doll head; understand stringing ball-jointed dolls and replacing their eyes; practice stain removal from a variety of mediums, both new and vintage; set hair styles using cold-set methods; take exceptional doll photography, and excel at repairing little factory anomalies like missed stitches, broken jewelry links and/or clasps, and inadequately sewn hook/eyes/snaps.
Advance to the big girl party skills: sewing, repainting, boil perms, doll repair, and refraining from commenting on stupid online discussions.
You’re now ready for the Dollympics™, Puddings…
Events Best Represented During the Dollympics™-
Cheerleading – Competitors will be judged on verbal and non-verbal forms of joyous expression without physically harming other competitors. Perfumes or other body aromas may serve as grounds for disqualification.
Sewing – Competitors will be judged in various hand and machine techniques; including, but not limited to, hand-embellishments, inset sleeves, linings, sewing on natural and synthetic fabrics, pressing, and pattern drafting.
Hair Styling – Competitors will be tested with various means of cold and hot set techniques on various natural and synthetic wig fibers. Melted synthetic fibers will be grounds for immediate disqualification.
Head Removal – Competitors will be judged on their ability to identify head materials, the attachment process, and removal of the head from the body without breakage. In addition to cumulative scoring, judging of technique and creativity will be added to the final scoring.
Stringing – Competitors will be judged on stringing various types of doll parts made from various materials, using technique and time as limiting factors. Additional scoring will be provided during the Clea Bella stringing where the duration of the doll’s stringing stays intact before it breaks under the duress of the resin material weight; and a test of time during dis-assembly of a Betsy McCall doll before it explodes.
Stain Removal – Competitors will be tested on the ability to identify the doll material, the staining, and effectively removing it. Additional points will be awarded based on length of time needed to fully remove the stain from any given material.
Internet Buying – Competitors will be given a variety of dolls to acquire within a set budget over a set period of time. Judging will be based on creativity, endurance and use of resources (such as trading, prostitution and children’s college funds). Obtaining additional credit cards is grounds for disqualification.
Factory Sale Buying – Competitors will be tested with various sprinting distances, number of items acquired in a single run, blocking others, and standing in line waiting for check out. In addition to cumulative scoring, judging of technique and creativity will be added to the final scoring.
Doll Posing – Competitors will be tasked with posing creativity for dolls of various materials and articulation. Judging is based on recognition of a doll’s natural ability to hold a pose, creativity and use of unconventional resources, and ability to capture motion/movement without using a moving subject. Dolls that are permanently or semi-permanently altered to achieve a particular pose may be disqualified. No underarms ball joints must be visible – ever.
Display – Expanding on doll posing, competitors will be judged on creating visually stimulating miniature displays using dolls as the primary subject. Judges may impose restrictions on certain props to further challenge the competitors into not relying on other shit to capture their gain.
Photography – Competitors are judged on portraits and full body photography using both one and more-than-one doll. One category will restrict photographers from using Photoshop, or any other method of making a doll look prettier than it really is.
Dusting – Competitors are tasked with various tests involving the effective removal of dust from dolls, doll hair, fur, lace, beading, and microsequins. Creative technique is rewarded with a free-style category.
Deboxing – Pristine techniques are tested when competitors are given a variety of boxed dolls, and asked to remove them within a given timeframe, using only their hands and/or teeth. Use of mechanical tools may subject a competitor to disqualification, or lowered score based on advantage gained.
Repair – Competitors will be judged on repair of various dolls and doll parts, of various materials. Both time and technique categories are included.
Packing – Competitors are judged at the effective and creative forms of protective storage packing of dolls and doll-related accessories using acid-free tissue and cedar chests. Desiccants will not be allowed in synthetic form, and competitors will be judged on creative use of natural materials that absorb excess air moisture. Additional points will be award for the doll’s overall comfort level during its exile.
Bullshit Recognition – Competitors will be judged while evaluating various forms of writing such as marketing materials, articles, blog posts and collectors’ online rants to determine the level of bullshit detected within a given message. Creativity will earn additional scoring for those that can align the bullshit with a particular type of doll collector, and his/her given situation. There is a freestyle category using evaluation techniques of body language and non-verbal forms of communication.
Doll Intelligentsia – Competitors are tested on subtle, basic and advanced forms of doll collecting knowledge spanning different types of history, genres and minutiae. Both time and quantity events will encompass the final score.
In the end, doll collecting is a sport – or rather, a collection of sporting events that brings elation to many of us. Most can consider themselves athletes in this forum, much in the same way that chess, car racing and gambling can be considered sports. Though not primarily defined by its athleticism, there can be no denying the physical nature of many doll collecting activities. It stands as one of the most sporting collector hobbies out there. So, Dollympian™, what’s your thrill of victory?