MANKATO – When she was a child, Pat Stoeckel was not really a doll. Instead, she spent her formative years riding her father’s horses.
It wasn’t until the age of 20 that a fascination with dolls began to take hold.
“When I was just married, a friend of my parents, his wife passed away,” said Stoeckel, 95, of Faribault.
“He said to my sister and me, ‘I want you to come to my place and choose something you would like to have to remember my wife.’ So we went over there and looked around.
One doll in particular caught his eye, and Stoeckel’s mother suggested they take it home and fix it. maybe Stoeckel could pass it on to his daughter when she has children one day.
“We have a wig for that; we had shoes and stockings and my mom made a dress for it, ”Stoeckel recalls. “Finally, one day I looked at this doll and thought, ‘Maybe I should buy a doll to go with it.’ I bought not only one doll, but several dolls. It eventually ended up where I was in the doll business.
In 1966, Stoeckel and a friend traveled to Chicago to attend the United Federation of Doll Clubs national convention. It was an experience that will lead her to a long-standing passion for collecting dolls of all sizes and shapes, from antiques to current releases, and founding the Lady Slipper Doll Club Chapter 48 years ago with her based friend. in Mankato, she went to the convention with.
“It was just a new experience,” Stoeckel said. “Not only local, but they came from France, Germany, Italy, all over the world. So we met a lot of interesting people. That’s when we decided to launch our own doll show, and it’s been a success every year.
For almost 50 years, the Lady Slipper Doll Club has put Mankato on the map as a regional actor – hosting doll shows every year – including Sunday’s event at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near the mall. River Hills.
The show featured 23 Midwestern vendors showcasing thousands of dolls of all shapes, ages, and sizes; from dolls intact in their packaging to antique porcelain relics from the 1920s that had been passed down as heirlooms.
Carolyn Christopherson, co-chair and treasurer of the Lady Slipper Doll Club, said Stoeckel had a wealth of knowledge, having hosted the Mankato doll show for nearly 50 years.
“She restores, she assesses, she knows dolls because she’s been doing them for over 60 years some years,” said Christopherson, of Belle Plaine, a member of the club for 20 years.
Typically, the half-dozen-member club meets about six times a year, although the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on how often they were able to meet this year. Along with planning for the annual doll show in Mankato, Stoeckel invited dealers and collectors to share their knowledge of the seemingly endless array of doll styles and trends over the past century.
As with Stoeckel, Christopherson said his interest in dolls came long after his childhood.
“I was a tomboy,” Christopherson said. “I didn’t have time for dolls until my aunt started sending me souvenir dolls because she traveled all over the world.”
She thanks her aunt and Stoeckel for helping her find her niche.
“I collect Kewpies,” Christopherson said. “I wasn’t a big doll collector, but Pat and my aunt taught me that someday a doll would talk to you and the Kewpies would talk to me.”
The Kewpies, a brand of dolls inspired by cartoonist Rose O’Neil’s 1909 comic book, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, resembling Cupid, the ancient Roman god of love.
Many collectors specialize in a certain style, brand or era. For club president Jan Madonna, his niche is the Barbies, the dolls of his childhood. But, as a collector, she often buys in bulk, which can produce unique and rare models, including a WWI doll made from straw and gunpowder.
“It looked more like a burlap sack around them with straw and then they were filled with gunpowder because that’s what they were supposed to do with these dolls,” Madonna said. “When you buy a collection you are surprised because there are all these different things that come with it. “
The value of a doll increases depending on its condition, creator, rarity and age. After Christopherson started attending doll shows in the 1980s, she came across a doll priced at $ 10,000. It was one of many high end antique dolls on display and for sale at this show.
“There were people who came across this doll show who didn’t blink,” she said.
Sunday’s event was Chris Wilson’s first doll show in Mankato, although Fridley’s wife regularly assesses the dolls in the Twin Cities during shows.
“A lot of people will come with something they got from their parents and just want to know what they’re worth,” Wilson said, as she replaced the elastic string on a modern porcelain doll for her. can stand up on her own.
When evaluating a doll, she seeks to find out who made it, its age and size to determine its value.
“Most of the people who bring them in have an idea,” she said. “Sometimes they’re disappointed, sometimes they’re pleasantly surprised. It’s a mixed bag, but I think it’s fun just to see what other people have.
This included an Italian felt doll from the 1920s that she had never seen before.
For Nancy Kokesch, a 34-year New Ulm-based dealer, the 48th Annual Lady Slipper Doll Club Show is a chance to learn and connect with like-minded people. She said that vintage dolls in particular have the ability to spark memories of a simpler time.
A pair of siblings, a 70-year-old brother and sister who collect toys and dolls, told her how dolls bring them back to their childhood and how they felt back then.
“It was just carefree and we didn’t have the internet,” Kokesch said. “It was a simpler life.
Until just a few years ago, Stoeckel saved money almost every year to pay for accommodation and travel to attend national conventions, which have been held in several American cities over the years. Like the others, she thus acquired a wealth of knowledge and lifelong friendships.
“It has been an interesting experience,” she said. “I enjoyed it and learned a lot.