Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Toy Box Tourist

In addition to visiting as many gorgeous castles and palaces as we could manage on our trip to Scotland, I had my own "doll tourist" agenda to follow.

When I lived in Edinburgh, the only doll source I was aware of was the toy section at the Jenners department store.  My favorite things to browse at this store were the beautiful Sasha dolls and the numerous Playmobil sets.  I also remember the realistic Beswick porcelain horses in the home department that I would admire while my parents were looking at dinnerware.

Before we left Edinburgh, I wanted to return to Jenners (now owned by House of Fraser) to see how the toy selection had changed over the years.  I also wanted to visit Smyths, because my online searches suggested that this store is similar to Toys R Us--one of my favorite Maine haunts.  In addition, I took Nealie's advice and stopped in at the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood to admire their collection of antique dolls and dollhouses.

I'll share some of what I found at all of these places with you, starting with one of my favorite little Scottish faces:

Flirty-eyed hard plastic Pedigree walking doll, c. 1950s
(Edinburgh Museum of Childhood).
I'll show you a few other antique dolls from the Museum of Childhood later, but let me start by describing my visit to the Jenners department store.

This store is located on Princes Street (the high-end shopping area) right across from the Sir Walter Scott monument.  Although House of Fraser bought the chain in 2005, the Jenners name still decorates this majestic building (thank goodness, otherwise I would not have remembered where it was).

Jenners from the Scott Monument
Looking down on the Jenners building from the top of the Scott Monument.
The toy section in this store is impressive.  A little Scottish girl who came in behind me described it perfectly when she exclaimed, "Oh Mummy, it's a toy wonderland!"  I remember feeling the same way when I was young.

The first thing that greeted me was this wall of Sylvanian Families toys:

Cropped from the bottom of this picture are the larger sets like the gorgeous
Regency Hotel (drool).
We have a decent selection of Calico Critters sets at the Toys R Us here in Maine, but it's nothing compared to this.  I was drawn to the medium-sized sets like the Seaside Restaurant:

And the adorable Nursery Double Decker Bus:

My favorite set in this size was the Fish and Chips Van, which I might have bought if there had been room for it in our suitcases:

Another deterrent to purchasing this van was the price: these sets were all £29.99 (about $50), which is a good $15 more than an equivalent Calico Critters truck set.

Around the corner from this display was another Sylvanian Families area that contained all of the animal families and the smaller playsets and accessories:

These smaller £6.99 (~$12) sets were very tempting, especially the TV (with interchangeable pictures) and the tiny fridge:

I also liked the Washing Machine set:

Even though I don't like to do the washing.
It's possible to find most of these pieces here in the United States among the Calico Critters collections.  These particular items are part of larger sets here, but are readily available nonetheless.

I thought that the best souvenir from this trip would be the little red phone booth set.  I haven't seen this toy in Maine, and the streets of Edinburgh still have functional, full-sized versions of these iconic structures:

Royal mail post box in Edinburgh with phone cell 01

Here are a few photographs of the Telephone Box set:

It doesn't come with the cute corgis.
It comes mostly assembled, with a few stickers to apply and a small phone directory accessory:

It's a fairly simple set, but the door opens and there's a detailed little phone inside:

There's a sticker with "useful village numbers" posted above the phone, and an additional message on the phone itself:

The numbers are all for other Sylvanian Families playset locations...including the Watermill Bakery!

The phone book is just a long piece of paper that can be folded to make a pamphlet.  It has some of the numbers that are posted in the booth, and some additional family numbers.  It also has a few ads and some instructions:

There's a slot to the right of the phone that holds the directory:

Heloise, the Pickleweed family mother, is a little cramped inside of this booth, and she can't hold the telephone receiver in her hand:

The telephone is just balanced between her hand and her dress.

My Li'l Woodzeez turtle mom is really cramped in there...mostly because of her large shell:

The older Littlest Pet Shop Blythe minis fit in this booth, but they have to duck their heads to get in and out:

Mind your head!
There's not a huge amount of play value with this set, but it is great as a display piece and would enhance several of the other Sylvanian Families or Calico Critters sets--particularly the small shops and restaurants.

Right next to the Sylvanian Families displays was a Steiff section with some beautiful stuffed animals:

This big bear in the middle of the display opens and closes his eyes, which made me jump in surprise the first time I noticed it.

Here are a few of the larger Steiff animals:

We actually saw a lot of real swans in Edinburgh!
This kangaroo was my favorite:

We did not see any real kangaroos in Edinburgh.

Opposite the Steiff animals were some other plush toys, including Monchhichi monkeys.  I didn't realize they were still making these:

There was a small section with Anipets Disney electronic plush toys.  I had never seen these before.  I think they're new for 2013 and not marketed in the United States.  I would have loved the electronic 101 Dalmatian puppies when I was a kid:

Anipets Disney plush.
£7.99 (~$13)...with exciting animated ears!
I also thought that these Peter Rabbit characters were very nicely done and reasonably priced:

I was not as excited about the Bin Weevil stuffed characters.  Weevils are beetles that often parasitize crops and occasionally pop up as unwanted guests in your flour.  In Britain, "bin" means garbage can, so these guys are talking stuffed bugs that live in a garbage pail:

"Talking Clott."
The characters are based on an online virtual world that is apparently quite fun and popular.

"Talking Tink."
I love how these bugs were positioned next to Lola from the Charlie and Lola television series (I love that show).  Lola looks like she has something devious planned for Tink...

Behind the plush toy section were three aisles of dolls.  The first aisle had mostly baby dolls, predominantly Zapf Baby Born items and a few Nenuco (Famosa) dolls:

I was not impressed by this large gardening doll (that's too much hair for a baby)...

...but I did like these cute mini Baby Born sets:

For some reason the longer hair doesn't bother me here.
Her skirt has kissing pigs on it!

For £14.99 (~$25), I would have loved to purchase this little bald guy with his cute pony, but he was also too bulky to fit in our luggage:

Zapf My Mini Baby Born.
Opposite the Baby Born section, there was a collection of low-cost dolls that I have never seen before.  The brand name is "Dolls World," and these are made by Peterkin UK

There are a wide variety of dolls under this label, including medium-sized (16") cloth-bodied dolls with vinyl heads and arms:

"Poppy," £7.99.
Small 8" smiling bean-bodied babies like Holly:

And the "Today's Girl" collection of 14" vinyl dolls.  These were tucked into a little alcove at the end of one aisle and I almost missed them:

Dolls World "Today's Girl."
There were only two styles of this doll, a blonde ballerina:

And this pink-haired cutie:

14" Dolls World "Today's Girl" by Peterkin.
Despite her large size, this pink-haired doll actually did come home with me.  Her £9.99 price was hard to resist and I have never seen a doll like her in the States.  I will review her in a separate post.

The other dolls in this section that caught my eye were the Crib Life Baby Alive dolls.  These are still available online in the US, but they have been discontinued and no longer appear in any shops in my area:

Baby Born, Baby Alive and Nenuco.

Along the back wall of the store, there was a lot of non-princess Disney merchandise, including a few Famosa Minnie figures that I have seen online and been curious about.

Famosa's "I Love Minnie" doll.
There was a shelf covered in Monster High, Ever After High, Bratz, Bratzillaz and Moxie Girlz (including the Poopsie Pets).

It was nice to see so many Bratzillaz on the shelf, especially since they're disappearing around here.  They cost £24.99, though, which is about $42.  Yikes.

There were no Back to Magic dolls, but there were many Magic Night Out characters, including a Vampelina, who I had never seen on the shelf before:

She's very cool--much better than her pictures.
The Ever After High selection was not great (only regular and Legacy Day Briar):

The Monster High choices were good, with a lot of the "Frights, Camera, Action" dolls:

These were in the £20 range (so, about $35).
Opposite this wall were the Disney Princess dolls and the My Little Pony items.  Notice how small the Disney Princess section is.  At Target and Toys R Us in my area, the Disney Princesses take up at least one whole side of an aisle...if not more.

There weren't any My Little Pony items that I haven't seen around Maine, but it was fun to get a closer look at some of the Rainbow Rocks Equestria Girls:

The variety of My Little Pony products was not great at this store.  There were a few larger Pony figures, the Equestria Girls, and maybe one or two other products.  There were no gift sets, no playsets, no collectible figures, and no plush.

I found these funny "Pixie Punks" dolls on a top shelf, presumably an inexpensive Monster High/Equestria Girls copycat:

£16.99 for all four.
I am not excited about the new Littlest Pet Shop Blythe figures, but this store had a version that I have not seen here in Maine.  My local Toys R Us has had the girl on the left (below) for ages, but never the girl on the right in pink:

Littlest Pet Shop Blythe sets.
£9.99 (~$17) = too much for this small set!
I am skipping over a lot of things here, like the whole Barbie section, a lone Novi Stars doll, a nice Corolle selection and other miscellaneous things that are either very similar to what is here in the US or that just didn't grab my attention.  

There was one more group of toys that did catch my eye, though, just under the Pinypon...

Here's one of the sets:

These are called "Baby World," and they include a few naked baby figures with silly faces and some themed accessories.

My family thought that these were weird, but I smiled every time I looked at them:

Din Din and His Changing Table, £6.99.

The babies remind me of Fairyland Realpuki dolls:

I wanted to buy a playset, but settled for a £1.99 ($3.34) blister pack with three babies in it.

Some of the babies are identified on the back of the box.  They have silly names like "Boomerang," "Mumbles" and "Dino."

Nommer...as in nom nom?
The babies are made in China by Lanard.  I did visit the website to try and learn more about these funny little characters, but there's not much information there. 

My little set included three babies and a few small plastic accessories:

This baby is named Giggles and comes with a soft vinyl hat:

The hat is removable:

This guy reminds me of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.  I think his name is Blooper:

Here is Puzzles, a worried little fellow with green spectacles:

He doesn't stand up very well...
His green plastic glasses are removable and will fit on the other babies.

The other two accessories are a hard plastic squid:

That's an odd--but awesome--pet.
And this soft vinyl figure that I think is a spilled ice cream cone with a frowny face on it:

That's an even stranger pet.
I don't know why I find these little babies so appealing, but they're inexpensive and fun.  I think they'd be even more fun if they were sold in little surprise packages that didn't reveal which baby you were going to get.  Then I'd be in real trouble.

The toy department at Jenners also had a huge Lego section, Playmobil, board games, and many other fun things, but I stuck mainly to the doll areas...and I didn't even look at all of the dolls thoroughly.  As I was leaving the store, I noticed a huge wall of Lalaloopsy dolls that I had completely missed!

Before I compare this to what I found at Smyths, I'll take a break and share a few pictures from the Museum of Childhood.  Admission to this museum is free, so it was an easy, interesting way to spend part of an afternoon.  Thank you for the suggestion, Nealie!

The Museum of Childhood is housed in the old Salvation Army building on the Royal Mile, and it boasts numerous galleries full of childhood artifacts including toys, games, clothing, photographs, and daily necessities.  There is one whole gallery devoted to dolls and plush toys, and this is where I spent most of my time.

I didn't take a huge number of pictures, but I'll show you a few of my favorite dolls.  The first display I noticed was this little group of identical child dolls.  These were modeled after the famous Canadian Dionne quintuplets:

From left: Annette, Marie, Emilie, Cecile and Yvonne (age two).
I have come across several versions of Dionne quint dolls in my antique hunting, and it was fun to see a full set. These dolls were made by Madame Alexander in the 1930s.  Their dresses should be different colors, but have faded over the years. While the dolls are lovely, the actual life story of the Dionne girls is sad, since they were taken from their parents and their early lives were over-publicized.  

I stopped to look at the Peggy Nisbet costume dolls because I used to have a few of these when I was a child:

I loved looking at the wax doll cabinet.  My favorite doll in this group was a tall princess:

She has a wax over composition head and a jointed composition body.  Her eyes are glass and her hair is mohair.  

I think this Pierotti wax doll might have been in one of my Creepy-Ass Doll books!  I know some people find these dolls spooky, but I am fascinated by the wax faces.  Each strand of hair (including the eyelashes) is individually rooted into this girl's head:

Here's the 28" Pedigree doll I showed you at the top of the post.  Even though her face has yellowed, I just love her expression and her green woolen coat.  I think she might be a Brighton Belle doll, but I am not sure:

These two felt dolls were not labeled very well, but I like both of their fun expressions:

And, I am always attracted to the bisque-headed French and German dolls with their gorgeous eyes and sweet toothy smiles:

Bisque Jumeau doll with a composition body, late 1800s.

Simon and Halbig bisque doll, Germany.
I have a small Heinrich Halbig doll at home that needs some restoration, so perhaps these lovely girls will give me the inspiration I need to work on her!

There were some more modern dolls at this museum, too, like this set of Hasbro Charlie's Angels doll from 1977:

Never send a man to do a woman's job!
The museum had many other attractions besides these dolls.  My boys were fascinated by the old board games and building sets, displayed around this fun central playroom diorama with life sized mannequins:

We also all enjoyed the player piano and the penny slot toys that were displayed on the first floor.   

I think perhaps my favorite item in the whole museum wasn't a doll, though, but actually this pair of French papier mâché bull dog pull-alongs from 1910: 

I'll admit that they're a little strange...and way too thin, but I just love their caricatured faces and realistic glass eyes.

The very last adventure I had in Edinburgh was to hop on a bus and visit Smyths, a toy store chain found throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Smyths is very similar in concept to Toys R Us.  It has a big box type layout and an equivalent inventory.  I visited mostly to see what differences there might be between this store and comparable locations in the United States.  There was actually a Toys R Us in this same shopping area, but I was eager to see a more local chain. 

The first difference I noticed was in the layout of the store.  My Toys R Us is big and stuffed full of toys, but it has short aisles with low shelves that I have no trouble reaching.  In contrast, this Smyths has huge, long aisles with towering shelves:

The layout meant that there was only one doll aisle.  This simplified things, but I did stroll up and down that one aisle about fifty times, taking in all of the choices.

I didn't snap any pictures during my first few passes, I just looked at everything and tried to get an overall sense of the place.  I was on the lookout for a special doll that might stand out above all of the others and be a good souvenir.

I actually found my special doll right away.  The Zapf doll section is larger and more varied at Smyths than it is at my Toys R Us, and so I spent a lot of time browsing in this area.  Most of the Zapf dolls are babies, but there were two 63cm (24") toddlers called "Best Friends" that I had never seen before.  The girl doll, Sally, was ok:

24" Zapf "Best Friend Sally."
But Sam, the little boy, stole my heart immediately:

One of the Sam dolls on a lower shelf had rumpled hair, and I found him to be the most endearing of all:

24" Zapf "Best Friend Sam."
Despite their size, these dolls weren't too expensive.  They cost £22.99 ($38) each, which seemed fair to me for such a large doll.  I scooped the scruffy Sam right up, but then realized that there would be absolutely no way to get him home with me.  This made me pretty sad.  I tried out all kinds of crazy packing scenarios in my head to see if I could find a way to make things work, but he was just too big.  I reluctantly moved on to see what else I could find.

Mixed in with the Zapf babies was this styling head that I have never seen before.  The store had a lot of these heads, and they were on sale for £18.99 (~$32).

"Princess Coralie" styling head.

I don't really like styling heads in general, but this one had such a pretty face that I had to pause and get a picture.  She has features that make her look like a Zapf doll to me, but she's made by Klein.

These heads are actually available in the United States for about the same price.

Opposite the Zapf dolls was a wall of Berenguer (JC Toys) babies.  These are beautiful, affordable dolls and I've never seen anything like this kind of selection here in the States.

This is just a small section of the display.
Berenguer "Lots to Love" baby in carry seat.
I love the faces on the Berenguer Li'l Cutesies.  I have seen similar dolls at Toys R Us before, but the selection at Smyths was better and included the 8.5" straight-legged ballerinas:

Li'l Cutesies Ballerina, "Bibi."
Li'l Cutesies Ballerina, "Lulu."
Li'l Cutesies Ballerina, "Mimi."
The variety of baby dolls was very high at Smyths, dominated by Zapf and Bereguer products.  American stores seem to have fewer baby dolls overall, with more Cabbage Patch Kids, Circo, and store brands like Little Mommy and You and Me.  

Many of the sections at Smyths looked just like stores in Maine.  There were Jakks Pacific Winxs dolls (mostly Bloom...just like here):

There was a great wall of Monster High dolls. I have never seen this many Monster High dolls in one place before, but the newest dolls available were the "Frights, Camera, Action" crew.

There were also tons of Ever After High dolls (no Cupid, Cerise, Getting Fairest, Cedar or Blondie, though):

And plenty of Mattel's Musical Magic Anna dolls (no Elsa in sight):

Some of the Barbie Summer Dreamhouse girls were in stock (I hadn't seen these yet--love Kira!)

Barbie Summer Dreamhouse girls.
There were Moxie Girlz and Bratzillaz:

Mostly Back to Magic and basic Bratzillaz.
Including these Moxie Girlz Magic Hair styling heads that are available in the US, but I have never seen:

There were even Zelfs, which one of you (anonymously) told me were no longer going to be sold at Toys R Us.  These little cuties were getting quite a lot of attention from the younger girls who visited Smyths while I was there.  I would say that Zelfs and My Little Pony figures were the most popular attractions during my two hour visit.

Once again, though, the My Little Pony variety was very low.  Smyths had a few more options than Jenners, but nowhere near the number of different products that cram the shelves at my local Toys R Us.

The Lalaloopsy selection in Scotland was very good--both at Jenners and at Smyths.  They had more of the larger dolls than I have seen at any one store here in Maine.  In addition, they had these medium-sized dolls called Silly Singers that will sing notes from a song and flop their legs and arms when you push a button on their belly:

Lalaloopsy Silly Singers "Pillow Featherbed."
These dolls are strung with string and remind me of the segmented wooden toys that flop when you push the base of their stand.

It turns out that these dolls are available here in the United States (for around $10), but I haven't seen them on the shelves yet.

Lalaloopsy Silly Singers "Peanut Big Top."
Let me show you just a few more of the dolls that I found at Smyths that I have never seen in the United States and that I don't believe are readily available here.

First, there was this vinyl play doll named Emma by Giochi Preziosi.  She's about the same size as the 14" pink-haired Dolls World doll that I bought at Jenners:

Giochi Preziosi "Emma Loves Pets."
She is also £9.99 and was on a "two for £15" sale.  There are several differently-themed Emma dolls, but this was the only one available at Smyths that day.  She's called "Emma Loves Pets" and comes with two small plastic teddy bears.  That's a strange kind of pet.  Anyway--she was tempting, but a bit too similar to the doll I already bought.

Another toy I had never seen before was displayed (appropriately) right next to the Pinkie Cooper dolls (of which there were many):

Pinkie Cooper dolls with hats!  On sale for £11.99 ($20).
These are ~5 inch tall vinyl dog figures with colorful rooted hair.  They're called "Vip Pets" and are made by IMC Toys.

Vip Pets "Gwen."
Smyths had four different dogs to choose from that day, but there are four more characters that were not in stock.  There's Lady Gigi, the party girl:

The clothes are painted on, not removable.
Lilith the goth:

Vip Pets "Lilith."
And Nyla, the yoga expert:

She was my favorite, but her hair looks really tangle-prone.
These were on sale for £6.99 (~$12) down from £9.99.  They are available at the US Amazon, but they cost over $20.  I bought Gwen (the rock star) at Smyths, and I will review her separately.

Here's a type of baby doll that I have definitely never seen before: they're called Yogurtinis and are 8" scented vinyl babies stored in clear plastic (oversized) yogurt cartons.  They're made by Giochi Preziosi.

Giochi Preziosi "Yogurtini" babies.
The babies have names that include a yogurt flavor.  For example, this little guy is called John Lemon:

And presumably he smells like a lemon.
John Lemon's carton had been opened, so I could peek in and get a better look at him:

I wanna hold your hands!
Some of the other characters (like Cher Pear) also seem to be named after a famous person.  Many of the names (Anna Banana, Charlie Coconut, Nicole Pineapple) aren't linked to a celebrity at all though...or at least not anyone I know.  I like these little babies.  They cost £14.99 (~$25).  *Update: I just found these on the American Toys R Us website for $12.99.

This last doll really had me fooled.  From a distance, I thought I was seeing a new La Dee Da doll and got pretty excited:

As it turns out, these are La Dee Da copycats called "Sweetyz."  On closer inspection, they aren't that cute.  They have a funny, vacant-bordering-on-crazy look in their eyes:

I couldn't tell much about the articulation, but these dolls don't have many visible joints.  Their legs could have internal joints or wires.  Unlike La Dee Da dolls, the Sweetyz have huge, rounded feet with painted shoes.

Sweetyz doll
The clothes looked like the best things about these dolls.  They are made out of interesting, colorful fabrics and have a fun style:

This dress looks like a Cutie Pops dress...
but the decorations aren't removable.
I almost bought one of these out of curiosity, but the packages were big, and I didn't feel very excited about supporting another copycat doll company...so I left them behind.  

In fact, I didn't see a single La Dee Da doll in Edinburgh, nor did I see any Cutie Pops, Mystixx Vampires, Fairy Tale High dolls, Once Upon a Zombie dolls, Beatrix Girls, Strawberry Shortcake, Kawaii Crush, or any sort of 18" play doll.

I left Smyths with a basic Bratzillaz doll, a Rainbow Power Rainbow Dash, and a small HexBug Aquabot robotic fish for my kids.  As I walked back to the hotel, though, I got increasingly sad about leaving little Zapf Sam behind.  I had the sense that he would be impossible to find in Maine, and perhaps prohibitively expensive to order online.  He didn't strike me as a very high quality doll--but I saw a lot of potential in him and his freckled face and tousled hair were just so endearing:

I'm pretty stubborn, so later that night I searched and searched and managed to find this same version of Sam on eBay for a semi-reasonable price.  In a few days he'll meet me here in Maine, and I will be able to review him for you.  I might just have to mess his hair up a little bit first, though.

It was really fun to be a doll tourist in another country.  I can't draw many conclusions after only visiting two stores in Edinburgh, but I did notice some variations with inventory that make me curious about how doll preferences might differ from country to country.  For example, there seemed to be more baby dolls in Edinburgh than what I tend to see here.  With the bounty of Zapf and Berenguer products, I would also argue that the baby doll selection was better in the UK.  In contrast, there are many 18" play doll options at the toy stores in this country (Our Generation, My Life As, Journey Girls), a scale of doll that I didn't see at all in my Scottish shopping excursions.  I noticed differences in the stock of specific product lines, too.  For instance, Disney Princess merchandise can easily take over an entire aisle (or two) here in the States, but this type of toy was fairly scarce in the Edinburgh stores I visited (there is an official Disney Store in Edinburgh, though).  In a reverse situation, Sylvanian Families products were a focal point at both Jenners and Smyths, with massive displays and a diversity of options that I have never found with the Calico Critters here in the States.

The neatest thing about my shopping experience was that even in this internet-connected world, there were a few dolls in the UK that I had never seen or heard of before. The standouts in this category were the Peterkin "Dolls World" dolls, the Vip Pet dog characters, and of course the Zapf Best Friend toddler dolls like sweet Sam.  I feel very fortunate to have added these British treasures to my collection, and hope to review them for you soon.


  1. I've saw those Sam and Sally dolls :) in the uk we have "Argos" and they have they're own range called Rory and roxy :). The only difference is the clothes and Rory is a platinum blonde . I found the dolls fairly attractive but the least attractive aspect was the price £39.99 !!

    1. Hi Eoin! :) I almost went into an Argos while I was in Edinburgh--we walked right past one! Now I wish I had. Roxy and Rory are quite a bit more expensive, wow! I am going to go see if I can find pictures of them online. Thank you for mentioning them!

  2. I finally watched "Frozen"! I can see why you were exclaiming over it so much, it's wonderful! I can also see why Elsa dolls are so hard to find, she seems like she'd be everyone's favorite character. I wonder what Chapters has in the way of dolls? Except for the American Girl dolls that are soon to be invading. Anyway, it seems like you enjoyed yourselves, and the pictures you took are definitely enjoyable. Thanks for packing us in your suitcase!

    1. I am so glad you liked "Frozen," too! Anna is a fantastic character, but there's something special about Elsa, isn't there? As a parent, I love to see her break free of her worries and find her true self. :)

      Is Chapters getting the full-sized American Girls? That would be impressive! Our Barnes and Noble has the minis (or used to), but that's it. It would certainly make sense if some of the larger bookstores started carrying "Frozen" merchandise.

      Thank you for coming along on the trip with me! It was wonderful to be able to share everything I saw.

    2. Indigo and Chapters are both going to be hosts to smaller American Girl boutiques very soon--I'm very glad for Canadian fans of the brand.


    3. only one chapters in vancouver and one indigo in toronto are going to have american girl boutiques in them, so its not like its every chapters and indigo.

  3. Thanks for all of the wonderful photos, Emily! It's so interesting to see what's more readily available in other places. I really like the VIP Pets--I hope that's a line we'll be seeing on shelves in the US sooner or later.

    1. Hi Holly! Aren't the VIPs fun? I hope the hair is nice because it's a very cute idea!

  4. Such a funny report! I loved all the pics from the museum and it's always interesting to see what kind of dolls are sold abroad (I wish I had stores like those around here... I could spend hours wandering around the aisles.)
    The Baby Worlds dolls look eerily like some critters I used to collect back in the '80s, when I was little... they were called "Paciocchini", sold in surprise packages and produced by GIG (now owned by Giochi Preziosi, I think).
    Sam is a wonderful doll and I can't wait for your review! He has such a cutie face.

    Totally unrelated: that petite Blythe doll in your pic (and her gym shoes!) stole my heart and now I want one. :D

    1. I also thought I remembered a similar toy to the Baby World doll, but not any play sets that went with them. I also don't think they were as realistic or well made?

      The Baby World expressions are adorable and I love that they have removable accessories.

      I also really liked the Yogurtinis. Super cute for something that sounds so gimmicky.

      Thanks for sharing your trip Emily!

    2. The dolls like the Baby World doll are probably Oodles. Don't remember what company made them but they were sculpted by a guy named Mel Birnkrant.

    3. The Paciocchini were really sold in surprise packages? That's so cool! I looked them up online and they seem cute.

      Those older LPS Blythes are wonderful, aren't they? I think that particular doll is called "Sightseeing Cute" and she came in a package with a red cardboard telephone box, so I figured she'd be a good model for the Sylvanian Families set. :) She's still easy to find and not too expensive (under $20).

    4. Hi Kristy--I really like the Yogurtinis, too! They are growing on me. I worry a bit about the smell, but the opened carton at Smyths didn't smell at all, so maybe it's a mild scent. They are certainly gimmicky, but I agree that it's well-done. They have a unique look to them--not a copycat by any means. I'll be on the lookout for more of those!

    5. Rachael--I looked up Oodles, too. Yet another kind of naked baby figurine! They also look cute and very expressive. I had no idea about any of these other babies--thank you for telling us about them!!

    6. Rachael, Kristy -- exactly! Fun to see they were marketed abroad as well, I wasn't 100% sure; guess GIG simply switched the name with a more appealing one for the italian market. They weren't as detailed as these new little critters, but cute and funny nonetheless. I noticed they had painted details in their "Oodles" incarnation - the dolls from my childhood were just chunks of flesh-colored plastic, I feel cheated now... *laughs*

      Emily -- Thanks! I saw her on Amazon and she's on my wishlist now. She's so jaunty!

  5. This post was a ton of fun for me, as I lived in the UK for about 8 years before moving to the States. There wasn't a Smyths in Kingston upon Thames, and I relied on Argos, Bentalls (a department store) and a smallish toy store called The Entertainer for all my dolly needs, but the atmosphere is similar enough to make me feel rather nostalgic!

    I may be wrong, but the felt doll with the tousled blonde hair and what looks like a 5 label on the wall next to her looks like a Lenci doll to me. The side-glancing eyes and worried expression are very Lenci XD

    1. I think you're right about the Lenci doll, Sarah! Thank you! That's familiar to me, but I couldn't always tell which label went with which doll at this museum. It was a bit like a treasure hunt.

      Now I am really sad I didn't go into an Argos! Seems like that would have been an excellent choice. Kingston upon Thames looks magical, by the way. How wonderful that you had a chance to live there! I bet there were a lot of swans on the Thames, too. ;)

    2. I'm not sure if actually going into Argos would have been much fun. They have some stuff on display but they're catalogue based which means you write down the code, pay and then someone fetches it from the warehouse area out back. It does mean that stock can be sporadic between bigger and smaller stores and you can't generally choose if there's multiple options/designs. Although I have known people who have had luck with asking staff for a specific item e.g. a particular Monster High doll from the selection available.

    3. Oh, I'm glad I could help you identify her! :)
      This book was my doll reference for years:
      http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Doll-Book-Caroline-Goodfellow/dp/1586632345 and I had no idea that the photos were all from the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood in London. When I went there, it was an incredible experience, seeing those same dolls in person. I really recommend the museum, next time you're in the UK, and Pollock's Toy Museum as well (which has an ancient Egyptian wooden mouse toy!)

      I actually find the looking up the item and then waiting part of the Argos experience to be quite fun, in that it builds anticipation. But then, the Kingston store is huge. I remember after I moved to London, being very disappointed in the city Argoses and having to hunt up and down to find a Dawn of the Dance Lagoona!

      Kingston is really magical, and I'm really excited to be going back there this summer. It's not at all far from London and great for a day trip. If you're ever heading that way, Emily, let me know and I can recommend some places :)

  6. Really enjoyed this post. Especially seeing the Pedigree doll that had yellowed - all the ones I've ever seen have faded and have a skin tone like bleached bone.
    Just had a look at Sam and Sally on the Zapf website. The first paragraph of Sam's description reads "Auweia - now let's get out! Sam is a real bully ... to impose the bed sheets and scare woman Hegemann of opposite, of course, was once again grown on his cr*p. But you would never betray someone!". . . I suspect something was lost in translation! He is adorable though.

    1. OMG!!! Rachael! That had me in hysterics! I never thought to look at the Zapf site! Poor Sam! I mean, he might be a little rambunctious, but I'm sure he's not a bully! :D I hope you don't mind if I add that into the review. It should not be missed!!

      I know exactly what you mean about the white Pedigree walkers! All of the ones I searched online were white, too. In fact, I wasn't exactly certain about the identification of the Scottish girl, and looking online confused me even more because of the coloring. Her yellowed head looks more like celluloid than plastic. Her eyes, hands and mouth make me pretty sure she's a Pedigree, though.

  7. Yeah, we just have no My Little Pony here in the UK! It's the same all over, there's just no stock! It's actually turned me off collecting them for the moment (I've been collecting for ten years) to focus on dolls. Good for my doll collection, but bad for my wallet, since dolls are more expensive! :s

    1. That's a shame, especially since the Ponies that were in stock seemed so popular to the kids who were shopping! On the other hand, sometimes when I look at the MLP aisles at my local Toys R Us, it's just overwhelming...almost off-putting. The toys don't seem as special when they're crowded together and spilling off the shelves. Some happy medium would be nice in both locations, I guess.

  8. Now this interesting article to read, an american person looking on uk toys. Shame DS Elsa is still sold out these, I'm glad I have her before the frozen was released in cinema

  9. Great post. You are right, there is no 18" doll market in the UK- there has been no doll culture here for many years- since Sasha?? The toy shops stock baby dolls and dolls remain the reserve of the very young children. The toys have to be cheap to sell. Things are changing though. A few years ago Argos bought the Chad Valley dolls and named them Designafriend - these dolls are the same as Journey Girl dolls. Lots of brands have expressed an interest in the European doll market and this year Our Generation has done it! Their line will appear in Smyths soon. Adora's baby dolls are now CE tested for Europe and are in shops but they're unsure about bringing their 18" dolls. Gotz dolls have always been popular but they are expensive for shops to stock. Perhaps changing doll times would be a good reason to come back to the UK in a couple of years time; it might be quite different!

  10. Thanks-loved the museum & shop combo of this store. I swear the 3rd photo of the wax princess' eye's moved!

  11. What an amazing journey you just took us on! Thanks so much for all the photos, highlights and insights. I would have been happy to spend hours in that museum.

  12. Looks like you had a great time!! :) I want to do the reverse some time, and be a dolly tourist in the states - everything seems so much cheaper on your side of the pond, but I've never yet managed to buy a doll from the US and not get hit with customs.

  13. I have seen those Baby World toys at Ocean State Job Lots (I think they have them in Maine too). I wish I could find the VIP Pets here in the states.

    Also that rumor about The Zelfs being discontinued is false. It's just the first wave that is no longer being made.

  14. I was actually relieved that in the end you bought a Sam! He's so cute. I think I would have deboxed him and stuffed him in my suitcase if I had been you. Which brings me to the question: Do you keep your doll packaging? Also,I love the red phone box, but as anyone familiar with British telephone boxes knows, it's missing something:pee. But I guess then nobody would buy it...

  15. Thanks wow the shops look similar to us in SA.

    I wanted to say did u know DollDiaries is doing a Liv doll throwback this Thursday and I know u love (this site is I think where I first saw liv dolls). Please send some pictures from a reader of both sites (DD and TBP).

  16. I hope you had an amazing time on your trip! I went to Japan two weeks ago with my mom and dad. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to look at dolls, but they did have American ones on the military base we stayed at. :)

  17. Some toys I recommend are Labbits (I got mine at Barnes & Noble, and they are cute bunnyish things with mustaches), Zelfs (I know you know about them,but they have random draw bags- or pots!), and the Webkinz hedgehog (I melted when I got him, he is adorable and his name is Buttons!)
    - Laura

  18. I loved this review. I think that your conclusions are pretty accurate for most of the UK. Baby dolls are way more popular than 18" dolls here. I rarely see a child with a large doll but they appear to be cropping up more in shops, so perhaps that is changing. Are Sulvanian Families marketed under a different name in the US? I love Smyths but don't have any near me. I have been in Ireland and find their selection to be amazing!! I would just love to go to the US to do my own comparisons. No doubt I would need to get an extra suitcase for all the new dolls ;)

  19. Great post, the Edinburgh Smyths has a bigger range of dolls than the one here in Liverpool, great to see Jenners still going strong and having Steiff etc, I used to love admiring their range of high end dolls back in the 90s when i was a student in Scotland, still wish I'd had the money to splurge even though I was a bear collector then rather than a doll fan. Glad you liked Sam and managed to find one, Argos do a slightly smaller but similar toddler boy doll named Ollie who I have, he's got an even cuter face I think.

    As to the plethora of baby dolls vs few 18" dolls I find it quite frustrating, though at least more online doll shops are springing up selling not only the expensive Gotz etc ranges but also Our Generation. I don't think Disney is marketing many of their Princess range over here btw, again believeing there's no call for 18" dolls, though I'm hoping that's due to change, certainly the Argos Chad Valley dolls are popular, even if Toys R Us Journey Girls don't seem to have caught on (stocking issues haven't helped...)

    I'm impressed with your restraint on buying, don't forget you could have posted Sam or whatever doll to yourself if needs be..

  20. What a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. So many choices; I'd be in big trouble. :)

  21. I thought the quint dolls were adollable-but their story is appalling.

  22. When my parents went to Europe for two months, they just posted two huge boxes back and one full of books.