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Lincoln Mold Company - Exclusive Distributor of the Betty Bailey Originals Molds


© 1989, Philadelphia Daily News
Used by permission

She's Not Playing Around

[October 9, 1989]  Betty Bailey says her doll manufacturing company, Betty Bailey Originals, is "very small." It is, in fact, just Betty Bailey making dolls in the basement of her Hatfield, Montgomery County, home.

But Bailey's latest product - a 15 inch porcelain charmer known as "Katy... Proud to Be Irish" - is one of five finalists for Doll of the Year in a national doll design competition sponsored by Doll Reader magazine. This is a competition entered by the biggest doll companies in America - Mattell (of Barbie fame), Hasbro and World Doll to name just a few.

"Katy" is a finalist in the "direct purchase division" of the contest - meaning dolls that are displayed in print advertisements and ordered through the mail. The other finalists include two dolls created for Franklin Heirloom Dolls, a subsidiary of the Franklin Mint, near Media. The Franklin dolls are "The Victoria and Albert Bride" and "Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara." Two dolls created for the Georgetown Collection, a subsidiary of Arcadia Trading of Portland, Maine, also are finalists.

A Franklin Heirloom Doll, "The Gibson Bride," won the direct purchase prize last year, and that fact is announced in all its ads.

In short, this is heady company to keep - as Bailey is well aware. "When I heard [Katy, Proud to Be Irish] was a finalist," she said "it took me two weeks to stop smiling."

Bailey's business is just six years old. "I started out as a doll collector," she said. "And then, when my two boys were grown - my youngest is now a senior in college - I decided to turn my interest in dolls and in art into a business. I first draw the doll, then make plaster molds of the head and other parts, then cast all the pieces in fine porcelain." Bailey handpaints the doll's face and designs and sews the clothing herself.

Katy, who is jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips, is dressed to go off to school. She wears a sweater and box-pleated skirt, topped by a coat and knit cap. She carries a pocketbook. Unseen are panties and a lace-trimmed slip.

She costs $525.

"I know that some people have collected all my dolls," said Bailey. There are 14 so far. Bailey produces only a limited number of each doll. In the past, she has sold 25 or fewer of each, but she plans to produce 250 of Katy. She markets her work by advertising in doll collector magazines and making appearances at doll fairs.

Although most of the dolls sold in America (475 million were produced last year, according to the Toy Manufacturers Association) are baby dolls, fashion dolls and plush animals sold to little kids, dolls designed for collectors are an important segment of the market. Collectors are willing to pay more for what they buy, and thus it is not unusual for a doll artist operating on a small scale to target them.

And, of course, it has happened in the past that a doll-artist operating alone is "discovered" by one of the mass-market companies. The best known example of that is Xavier Roberts, a Georgia gift-shop proprietor, who hand-stitched and personally sold stuffed dolls known as Cabbage Patch Kids. Coleco mass-marketed Roberts' designs and made him a millionaire.

So far, Betty Bailey Originals hasn't "taken off," according to Bailey, "but it's doing fine."

Most of the dolls Bailey has designed are; like Katy, figures of children. "They are just kids I see or kids I know." Bailey said she was inspired to draw Katy by a picture she saw in a magazine. Not all the dolls are Irish. In fact, they cut across ethnic and racial lines.

The finalists for the Doll of the Year awards are selected by a group known as the International Doll Academy from hundreds of dolls entered by doll manufacturers. Members of the IDA include retailers, museum curators, artists and historians with a special interest in dolls.

The public gets to choose the final winners. In 1988, according to Charles Gill, spokesman for Doll Reader magazine, 82,600 consumers cast ballots at retail ballot centers, doll shows and the like. This year, that number is expected to grow because Disney World in Florida has mounted an exhibit of the finalists and has invited visitors to vote. The winners, in each of 10 categories (popularly priced baby doll, premium priced baby doll, collectible vinyl doll and such), will be announced in December.

By Rose DeWolf
Daily News Staff Writer

© 1989, Philadelphia Daily News
Used by permission


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