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Monday, Sep 25, 2023


By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter Harold Feldman’s been doing hand transplants for years. For the delicate procedure, he imports hands from around the country and world to his Sherman Oaks shop hands of the porcelain and glass variety, that is. Feldman offers a one-stop shop for doll repair, collecting, appraising and decorating dolls that are shipped to him from around the country. Since opening the Doll Shoppe with his daughter eight years ago, Feldman has expanded to include more than 15,000 dolls, dollhouses, and other doll paraphernalia. In July, the Doll Shoppe quadrupled in space when it moved to a storefront on Fulton Avenue and Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks. Feldman’s Doll Shoppe is one of a wide variety of businesses around the country cashing in on baby boomer nostalgia. Nearly 8 million American adults collect dolls, said Bessie Nostoras, assistant editor of Dolls: A Collectors Magazine based in New York. “I think doll collecting has always been pretty popular, and now with home shopping networks and E-bay, it’s gotten easier,” Nostoras said. Dolls can range in price from $100 to $10,000 for a one-of-a-kind, Nostoras said. At Feldman’s shop, dolls cost up to $3,000. They date back to the early 1800s, and most were made in Western Europe. But there are also Barbie dolls and other more recent American dolls such as Chatty Cathy. The most expensive doll he’s ever seen? Several years ago at a doll convention, he saw an antique German doll sell for $240,000. Feldman declines to reveal the shop’s annual revenues. “I thought I would be able to run the business and occasionally go fishing,” Feldman said. “It’s gotten to be a full-time thing.” While many enter the doll business first as collectors, for Feldman and his wife Ruth, it was “by accident.” A former law enforcement officer, Feldman began his second career when his daughter was in need of a job. “One of my daughters was out of work and getting depressed, and I figured we’d start a business,” Feldman said. His daughter chose the doll theme. But a few months after the shop opened on Ventura Boulevard, she got a job offer she couldn’t resist. “I said, ‘take it, I’m going to have fun with the doll shop,’ ” Feldman recalls. Since then, he and his wife have become doll aficionados of sorts. A few years ago he took a class on fixing dolls, and since then the repair side of business has boomed. In the store basement, rag dolls, wax dolls and even glass dolls are lined up on a workbench with missing arms, eyes and an assortment of other ailments. Repairs can range in cost from $5 to $500, depending on the age and type of doll. Feldman replaces glass eyes, sews on torn appendages and even repaints faces. The Feldmans scour doll hospitals throughout the country and estate sales for doll repair parts. Because of its location, the Doll Shoppe also gets business from film and television studios. Some dolls have appeared in movies and commercials as props. Several years ago, the Doll Shoppe branched onto the Internet, which has been one source of the recent growth in the doll business. Feldman now fields questions from around the world about such things as doll inventory and prices. Some customers come to the shop with no idea of the real value of their dolls. “This one lady came in with two small dolls to get repaired, she wanted to let her grandchildren play with them,” Feldman said. “I said, ‘I don’t think you want your grandchildren playing with these. They’re worth about $800 each.’ ” The older dolls, such as French Jumeaux dolls and some German bisque dolls, can cost thousands. Newer dolls that have gained popularity such as Alexander dolls tend to range in the hundreds, Feldman said. There are also the more unusual dolls, jack-in-the-box dolls and celebrity dolls that start out in the hundreds. Not all dolls have kept their value through the years. The rage over Cabbage Patch Kids has pretty much ended, and the dolls are now only seen in Feldman’s basement. As for Feldman, he says he’ll be in business until it’s no longer fun. “I plan to do it for awhile,” he said. “With this type of product, most people are in a good mood. There’s nothing in here anybody needs. It’s impulse buying, strictly pleasure.”

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