Monday, December 13, 2010

Grail Quest Part I

The most famous Grail in history was the cup alleged to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, before the Crucifixion. Most of Medieval Europe, including King Arthur and Monty Python, all the way to Indiana Jones in modern times, went crazy trying to find this cup. It led to a lot of wars and other upsetting events in this no-holds-barred Quest.

However, Grail, as doll collectors use the term, is a lot less grand, and usually does not lead to wars or other upsetting events. Well, unless one is being frustrated somehow in the Quest for said Grail. Then there is much teeth gnashing, desk thumping, and depending on the collector, the air is turning blue from all the naughty words being used. Roommates and spouses might be rolling their eyes, while small children are either hiding or giggling at the collector’s odd behavior.

Of course, doll collectors use the term “Grail” to describe a highly desired doll. This doll can be a Grail for many reasons.
  1. Collector had the doll as a child and wants in his or her collection.
  2. It's a very rare or limited edition.
  3. Another collector posts pictures of a gorgeous doll that the collector suddenly decides he or she must have now!
  4. The doll has simply taken the collector’s fancy, and is, for whatever reason, very hard, if not impossible to acquire.
Whatever the case, the grail doll is one that is highly desired by a collector or collectors. This is why I get so angry when I see a new doll being released in an edition of 200. I am usually the victim of my own Murphy’s Laws, and in the midst of paying off other highly desired dolls when something that might potentially become a Grail is released.

My current Grails list is about a mile long, and I am trying – and failing miserably, I might add – to convince myself that I don’t really need dolls that are long since out of production, or so far above my price range. I think many doll collectors feel that way.

So, now the collector has been infected with Grail fever. In my own experience, I see a great doll, and I decide I must have it. However, my Grail desire is tempered by budget limitations. I want that doll, but I also want to be able to get it for the best – i.e. lowest – price I can manage. At this point, I take a hard look at the photos of the Grail, and try to figure out if it is truly the whole deal I want: namely the doll in his or her original outfit, or if I just want the doll. Most of the time, I decide to just get the doll nude, because it is much cheaper that way. However, sometimes the whole deal is what I want, and then it gets a bit more complicated and expensive, depending upon the original release date.

Swept Away Tyler Wentworth, Tonner's Theater de la Mode collection,
who occupies the current top spot on my miles long list of Grails.
Photo property of Tonner Doll Company.
I have come to appreciate the internet age much more than I thought possible. Most, if not all, doll manufacturers have a website which features pictures of the dolls, outfits, and other accessories they have ever produced. Many of them also have links to retailers with whom they have sales agreements. This is a much beloved feature, since initiating a search using the manufacturer as a starting point is so much easier than using an internet search engine and hoping for the best.

I make a list with an Excel spreadsheet, listing the names of my grails, then a column for each retailer. I then check each site to see which, if any of the Grails in my Quest are available, and list the prices. I then do a comparison, and see which one has a particular Grail for a good price.

Another great feature of the internet age is boards and forums, such as Prego and MEF Forum, or Yahoo! groups such as Cheery About Agnes Dreary. There, I can chat with other collectors, and they can make recommendations or issue cautions of doing business with the retailers. It is through these communities that I have encountered such great retailers as Dreamcastle Dolls, Angelic Dreamz, Bearzabout Dolls and Bears, The Doll Market, and Cherished Friends. I have yet to read a single negative comment about any of these retailers, and my business with them has been very happy.

Sometimes, a collector on a Grail Quest can get lucky, and a manufacturer authorized retailer has their Grail! Then, life is simplified a great deal. Email or call the retailer, and purchase the Grail. Quest over, and there is a win-win situation; a happy collector’s Quest is over, Grail in hand, and the retailer has a sale.

Ah, if only life were always so easy for a collector!


  1. One of my grails as well. She is so lovely!

    I remember I saw Swept Away at a retailer for $50, and I nearly bought her. But that was in the time I was actually sticking to my doll budget religiously. I should have picked her up. (It was many, many years ago.)

    Wonderful read, Blue!

  2. Got a Grail for Christmas this year!
    Earlier this year I discovered that Sideshow Collectibles had done a pair of Dark Crystal dolls almost 10 years ago, and I had *missed it*.

    I discovered this when I saw the pair of them at a local antique mall, but didn't have anything like the budget I needed to make that happen.

    My sigificant other gave them to me for Christmas. He'd heard me talking to my friend about them and swept over to the antique mall, spent probably an hour looking for the poor things (It's a LARGE antique mall) and gave them to me for Christmas.

    Keep an eye on my Flickr account for pictures soon. They're completely AMAZING.

  3. From the original movie--with Jim Henson puppets? I cannot wait!!


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