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Sue's Sewing Machine: Doll collector says ceramic friends remind her of childhood

Posted at 7:26 PM, May 18, 2024

BILLINGS — The Heritage Doll Guild of the Yellowstone hosted its 2024 Billings Doll Show and Sale on Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club.

“People here today are selling their dolls so they can turn around and buy another one," said Birdie Dapples, the president of the guild.

Doll sellers and collectors said, despite the trope of the "creepy doll," these antiques and collectibles are often reflections of culture.

“That’s why a lot of people collect – you’re buying back part of your childhood," said Brian Mogren, owner and operator of Rediscoveries in Butte.

Sue Sandbak said her love for dolls began when she was a tomboyish child and her mother gifted her a Toni Ideal doll.

“I am from the era when we all had homemade dresses," said Sandbak, "Every time (my mom) sewed me an outfit, she sewed an outfit for Toni and that’s how she got me hooked.”

The 78-year-old said after being married, moving away from her home city of Polson, and her kids growing up, she became lonely but found comfort with dolls.

"I had my kids back and these are my kids," said Sandbak about her dolls.

She said when she now looks at a doll she thinks of her mother who "made life bigger than life."

“Mother always said, ‘make the best of whatever happens to yah,'" said Sandbak, amid running her hand cranked miniature sewing machine at the show, "This is kind of the end. Us, ol’ gray haired ladies, are probably the end of (doll collecting).”