Wednesday, August 31, 2011

191. SPOTTING SHIRLEY: A Darling of a Doll at the Greenhills Antique Fair

I didn’t even know that the famous Greenhills Antique Fair was already under way since last week; I had earlier texted a dealer for an appointment, and he texted back—asking me to meet him instead at his stall at Greenhills. Apparently, it’s that time of the year again for this longest-running antiques and collectibles show which I have been attending since the mid 90s. I think its history goes even further than that.

For 4 weeks, Manila’s antique dealers, segunda mano shops, numismatists, deltiologists, philatelists, collectors, “junkies” and kibitzers congregate near the fountain area of the Greenhills Shopping Center for a full day of wheeling, dealing, trading and swapping. Anything of value is sold here---the term ‘antique fair’ is not quite accurate as there are more repros being sold than the real thing.

Thus, Greenhills is not for buying quality century old santos; instead, it is for rummaging and scrounging around for collectibles of all sorts—not too old, mostly vintage, but still capable of invoking nostalgia, that hard-to-explain longing for a connection to the past, which many collectors like me experience in the presence of anything old, passé and defunct.

Toys, softdrink bottles, old product packaging, medals, stamps, 1950s magazines, schoolbooks, clocks, pens, pinback buttons, vinyl records, prints—name it, the Greenhills Fair has it—well, almost.

Supply seems to decline over the year judging from the number of participating dealers this year. This did not deter me from rushing over at Greenhills on one Sunday afternoon, ready to jostle with the thick weekend crowd in the hope of unearthing a ‘find’.

But the old reliables are still there—my tocayo, Alex Villaflor, is still at it, peddling ephemera, artworks and kitsch with his partner Sonny Benitez. Alex founded the first pop culture collectible shop in the country—Circa—back in the 80s at Creekside. He used to have a fne array of Bakelite radio and Coca Cola memorabilia, but those are long gone. Instead, he had these nice Flora de Filipinas botanical prints (called ‘Blanco prints” by collectors), ready for framing.

George Bonsai also has one or two stalls here, but unfortunately, he was still setting up.

Jun Macaro had a fine display of medals and coins, but I was after his old photos, which he failed to bring, to my disappointment. I’ve have had lots of luck with June—I found my small ivory Sto. Entierro complete with his wooden calandra in his Aurora Blvd. junkyard and I also bought most of his old photos from the estate of Jorge Pineda.

I just hopped from stall to stall—the antique shops from Tiendesitas are in full force—but they carried mostly reproduction santos dressed in gaudy clothes—they looked more like overdecorated dolls.

Talking about dolls--it was at Mike’s stand that I saw, lying on the bottom-most shelf of his glass display—an old cardboard box that had a large doll inside.

The box was wrapped in plastic, but it took only one look for me to recognize the moppet with curly golden locks tucked inside, which even had a cardboard leg separator and head support.

This is a large composition Shirley Temple Doll from Ideal Novelty Inc, perhaps the most popular doll in the world based on the likeness of the top child star of the 30s, at the time of its release in 1937.

Today, early Shirley Temple dolls are highly prized by doll collectors and Shirleyana enthusiasts; only large pre-War emporiums had Shirley dolls in stock as the prices were prohibitive. This is just the second Shirley Temple doll I have seen so far here in the Philippines.

The first ever Shirley Temple I have seen here was an 8 inch compo that was sold to me by person whose name I have forgotten while looking for old toys at Makati Cinema Square. She had overheard me while talking to a shop owner and made small talk with me after, telling me of a Shirley doll which had once belonged to his lola. To make the long story short, she sold me the doll.

But Mike’s Shirley Temple doll was a big one—all of 22 inches tall. It came in its original cardboard box with a paper label that clearly identified it as an authorized doll made by Ideal Novelty Corp.

The name “Shirley Temple” was scrawled in the familiar signature of the child star, just 10 years old in 1938. He told me the doll was sold to him by an 80++ year old grandmother, who had barely played with it in her childhood, hence, the almost pristine state of the doll.

Almost perfect—one finger was nicked which I quickly repaired using clay epoxy. The face had some crazing, a typical problem of old painted composition dolls which were made of pulp, sawdust, paper and binder. The paint and the composition contracted at different rates with every change in temperature, hence the crazing, but the condition has since stabilized. When I have the time, I intend to further clean the doll with Wipe-Out and give it a single coating of clear paste wax to condition the composition material.

When I got the doll, I thought the open-shut eye mechanism had been damaged or had rusted, but when I carefully pried the eyelashes which had adhered to the lower lid, the eyes popped open. I just had to swab clean the glass eyes with a glass –cleaning solution using a cotton bud.

The trademark golden curly locks of mohair are as curly as the day the doll came out of the factory, even after 73 years! The red ribbon on her hair however, is full of pin-prick holes.

The original party dress, undergarments, socks and shoes are intact, although moth-eaten and tattered in some places.

What’s more, the metal pinback button is still with the doll—“World’s Darling, Shirley Temple” the button proclaims, made to be proudly worn by the owner. In auctions, these Shirley Temple pinbacks are sold separately, some commanding as much as 40-50$! Interestingly, 3 heart shaped buttons are also included as part of the doll’s extras.

Of course, I just had to have this rare Shirley doll! I needled Mike into giving it to me for the best price—and for less than the price of a 15 in. antique santo the world’s darling was mine!

A quick survey of antique and collectible price guides as well as online auctions put the price of this doll in the $385 to $800 range. Given the good, unplayed with condition and the presence of its original packaging and accessories, this Shirley should be worth about $900, at least!.

I haven’t figured out what to do with Shirley, whether to put it in my cabinet of old toys or display it at home—but one thing for sure, she will be treasured and handled with lots of TLC, befitting the stature of a child star who once animated the silver screen with her precocious talent, captivating the imagination of movie audiences and earning a place in heir hearts as the world’s darling!


  1. this is a small treasure.... Congrats Alex.

  2. Such a great find! Those buttons go right down the front of her dress---originally they were sewn on with light green thread. That's the "Heart dress" and you can google to find pictures.