the lady with a PhD in doll TLC
by Heather Berry
many emergency room doctors, Margie Campbell sees her share of trauma — fractured
skulls, broken necks and severed hands and feet. Most of her patients
are in such bad condition they are brought to her in boxes or bags.
Campbell, the owner of Delsey’s Dolls in Hannibal, loves
bringing dolls back to life.
Her oldest patient
was nearly 150 years old and came to Margie in 18 pieces. But that’s no trouble for Margie. She’s
a doll doctor.
can bring virtually any doll back to life. Got a doll that needs a
head? Is your favorite childhood doll limbless? No problem. Margie
does transplants and implants if needed.
doll was a beautiful 32-inch tall bisque (unglazed white porcelain)
doll made in Germany,” says Margie, 75. “The lady said
it was her grandmother’s and that it had been stored in a barn. I nearly
Four months later,
doll doctor Margie returned the heirloom to its owner.
“She was unbelievably happy when she saw it,” Margie says. “The
restored doll is now worth between $2,000 to $3,000.”
Not bad for
the $125 bill to repair the antique.
only been in the doll doctoring business for a dozen years, Margie
is well-trained in doll repair. Her mother was an antique doll collector
and restored all types of dolls.
“That was back
when a new bisque or porcelain doll might have been only $6 to $8.
If you can find a bisque doll for under $300 now you’re very
lucky because they’re over 100 years old,” she says.
named her Hannibal shop Delsey’s Dolls after her only child,
Del Ann, who she nicknamed Delsey when she was little.
her doll shop in the early '90s when she retired from a 35-year
career as a psychiatric social worker. She wanted to do something
she enjoyed and restoring dolls was her second career choice.
she’s not doing reconstructive surgery, Margie sells new and
old dolls in her shop. Many of her new dolls are from famous makers
such as Lee Middleton. Middleton was a minister who began sculpting
dolls at her kitchen table. She passed away in 1997, but her factory
in Ohio continues to make the collectible dolls.
Alexander Karen ballerina doll will be worth $675 once an original
outfit is found. Margie can sew new outfits, but collectors prefer
doll to collect, whether new or used, is the Madame Alexander line.
One 60-year-old Karen ballerina doll Margie has from that line
is worth quite a bit restored.
refinished her, but I’m still looking for the right clothes,” says
Margie. “She’s worth about $675 in her original
While this Ralls
County Electric Cooperative member says she has a soft spot for all
dolls, she especially loves the older dolls which need her special
attention. Her mission is to return them to their former beauty.
more original you leave a doll, the more valuable it is as it grows
older,” Margie says. “When I’m working
on a doll, I do research and do everything possible
to return it to its original form.”
Margie has to make new pieces for dolls. She has
a ceramics kiln and can usually find an arm, leg or face
mold in the original style of a doll.
most of the time people just want the doll dressed in their favorite
color, but she does have customers who want original outfits and
hunt the world over to find one if that’s
what they want.
People usually ask
Margie to repair their dolls because they have sentimental value.
Often, it’s the best way to remember their
“One lady brought
in her father’s
old overalls and denim shirt and wanted me
to make an identical outfit for her son’s
childhood doll,” says
Margie. “They had both passed away and
this was a special way she could commemorate
Margie has about
30 dolls in her personal collection, but one holds a special
place in her heart.
“This is the
only doll I have of my mother’s,” says
stately Martha Washington doll wears a beautiful light pink period
gown with 75-year-old lace and champagne
bead and pearl detailing. Her mother bought the bisque doll, piece
by piece, and put her together. It’s
worth about $1,500, but Margie wouldn’t
think of parting with it.
be handed down to my daughter one day,” she
The other two dolls
she loves are newer collectibles from the 1960s
Cathy and Mrs. Beasley dolls are two highly
sought after dolls, especially
if they still talk.”
An average doll repair will cost less than $60. Some collectable
dolls bring more than $1,000.
Margie says those
two dolls will stay in her family, too, although
she is restoring a couple for sale.
She’s had people tell her to ignore the cost, just make
the doll look like it did when
they first got it.
“Money is usually
no object,” she says.
An average doll repair
runs between $20 and $60 depending on the work Margie must do. “I
have customers who bring their dolls all the way from Chicago because
my work is affordable and they know I’ll do a good job.”
she has about 65 dolls to work on. That may
seem like a lot, but the work
usually goes quickly, according
ever had a little girl or boy in their household usually has a doll
that needs repair,” she says.
While many dolls
are restored for girls, boys have dolls in
need of TLC, too. “I
can’t tell you
how many GI Joes I’ve
repaired. Usually it’s
from a dog chewing
on them,” Margie
good condition, the
older ones can be worth
up to $200, so they’re
well worth restoring.”
restoring is an old
Kewpie doll, based
by Missourian Rose O’Neill
for the Ladies’ Home
Journal in 1909.
the dolls Margie
repairs could talk,
they would probably
thank her for the effort she
puts into bringing them back
“It’s so rewarding to have something like this which can
be passed on to your loved ones to enjoy.”
For more information
call Margie Campbell at (573) 221-1846 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Delsey’s
Dolls is located at 4101 Red Devil Road, Hannibal, MO 63401. Call for
shop hours or to make an appointment.