Karen Hawkins-Trigg’s Sindy dolls mean much more to her than the money they’re worth.
The 56-year-old has around 400 Sindy dolls in her impressive collection, as well as roughly 300 other ‘fashion dolls’.
‘It’s nice because you’re giving the doll a new home,’ Karen tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Rather than it being chucked on a rubbish heap, it’s been recycled. It gives you a sense of satisfaction.
‘Another really lovely part is seeing how fashion has changed as the times have gone by – especially with Sindy.’
The collector also credits the dolls with helping her deal with the pain of her rheumatoid arthritis.
‘I’m disabled,’ Karen explains, ‘and Sindy has helped me deal with the pain and the problems that I have with my disability.
‘I can’t do the things I could do years ago, but still having the collection means an awful lot to me.’
This hobby started 34 years ago in 1989, when Karen – who lives in the Lincolnshire Wolds – was around 21 years old.
‘I’d bought my cousin, who was quite a bit younger than me, a Sindy doll,’ the counsellor and therapist recalls.
‘I would play with Sindy dolls as a child, and I saw this doll and thought to myself: “Actually, that’s quite nice, I want one as well.”‘
And the rest, as they say, was history.
When asked what it is about Sindy specifically that spoke to her back then, she tells us: ‘It brought back a lot of happy memories of my childhood.
‘Because my sister and I had played with Sindys quite a lot as children, it felt nice to have a doll in my hands again.
‘Since then, collecting dolls has become a massive thing, but I was doing it quite early on.’
Karen, who can’t work at the moment due to her disability, finds a lot of joy in sharing her collection and hearing about other collectors online.
‘When I first started all those years ago,’ she explains, ‘it was a very “in-the-closet” type of thing to do.
‘It was like “I’m not going to tell anybody I collect, or they’re going to think I’m a bit odd.”
‘But as time has gone on, it’s become something that, hundreds of thousands of people do across the world, and they’re really proud to share it. So it’s really nice to see that progression from having to not tell people to being quite happy and free to talk about it.
‘Social media gets its critics, but if you use it how you want to, it can be really helpful and enjoyable. And that’s what it’s done for me.’
Karen stores a lot of her dolls in cabinets outside of their original boxes, but she has far too many to be able to display them all, so the rest live in the attic.
‘I’d have the whole house covered in cabinets!’ she jokes.
‘I first started it was just collecting them because I could, and I enjoyed looking at them.’
Then, around 15 or 20 years ago, she says she started ‘going down the restoration route’.
She adds: ‘You get an old Sindy for a couple of pounds, and you renovate her.
‘You can give them new hair, and a lot of people give them new makeup – you can really put your own stamp on a doll.
‘Although, I can’t do it as much now because my hands are poorly.’
Taking photos of the dolls in different outfits and acting out scenes is also a popular way for collectors to have a bit of fun with their treasures. However, while Karen tries to take her own photos when she can, her arthritis makes that difficult too.
‘But I enjoy looking at other people’s Sindy dolls on Facebook and Instagram pages,’ the mum-of-two tells us. ‘And others as well – I don’t just collect Sindys.
‘They’re not as numerous as the Sindys – but, as many collectors find, you sort of branch off in a different direction sometimes.
‘I sort of started collecting Barbies in the early 90s, and just thought “wow, there are just so many, there’s no way I’m going to be able to collect all these.”
‘So I just concentrated on Sindy and the odd Barbie that caught my eye.’
But, of all the fashion dolls that Karen collects, Sindys are the ones that have a special place in her heart.
She’s even kept one of her original Sindys from when she was a child in 1977.
‘She’s what’s called an active Sindy, or a ballerina Sindy,’ explains Karen, ‘and she was a bit worn when I found her and got her out again.
‘Actually, a friend of mine who is a wedding dress designer (who is very much into Sindys too), gave her this beautiful ballerina outfit, which is very couture.
‘Another thing with this doll is that, when I was young, I decided to put my dad’s aftershave on her because I liked the smell. Well, she still smells of it all these years later – I don’t know how, but she does.
‘My dad’s got dementia sadly now, so it’s nice to have that memory.’
Also, sewing with her mother is another happy memory Karen has associated with Sindy dolls.
‘My mum used to sit at one end of the table on her sewing machine making clothes for my sister and me,’ she says, ‘and I used to sit at the other making Sindy clothes by hand.’
While she may sell the odd doll here and there, Karen’s got no plans to part with the whole collection.
‘I moved over to Australia in 2007,’ she recalls, ‘and I lived out there for about three years. I took them all with me – the whole doll collection.
‘And then in 2010, they all came back again. So they’re very well-travelled.’
These days Karen, who loves to share pictures of her collection on her Instagram, has got ‘really no idea’ how much her whole collection costs.
‘A few of the dolls are worth quite a bit of money’, she says, ‘but honestly, I don’t really think of it in monetary terms. That’s the thing to me.
‘They mean more than that – they bring such a lot of happiness.’
The Collectables is a Metro.co.uk original series where we spotlight collectors around the world and take a tour of their impressive collections.
We’ll witness standout pieces, get a glimpse of rare finds, and uncover more about what makes people start collecting in the first place.
Other pieces in the series to read:
Women with huge 150-piece vintage bag collection shares how she finds second-hand gems
Meet Charlie, the eight-year-old young carer who has 751 Hot Wheels cars
Now That’s What I Call A Collector: Man has every UK No. 1 single since 1952
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