Bisque doll

Porcelain doll collection passed on to new “keepers” |

As a real estate agent, local professional Ed Hamilton was recently faced with a new situation that was a first for him in his chosen job.

And these are expensive and sometimes rare porcelain dolls.

Hamilton said he was hired by the family of Ms Barbara Bigenho to organize the sale of his home in the Meridian subdivision after his recent death.

And while it can be a long and stressful job for family members in a similar situation, Hamilton found that one of the big parts of that job was Bigenho’s porcelain doll collection.

“She had about 2,000 at home; and had turned a room in the house into her “doll’s room,” Hamilton said. “She had them posted on shelves all around the room; and had a table with a sewing machine in the center of the room.

Bigenho’s son Kevin, a Kerrville resident and business owner, agreed to work with Hamilton to come up with a plan on what to do with all the dolls, knowing their ultimate goal was to clear the house. from her mother to prepare her for sale.

“He told me his mother said she started collecting these porcelain dolls when she was little and some of them were between 50 and 70 years old,” Hamilton said. “He said she told him the dolls were all museum quality and had never been played with.” Some were from Madame Alexander and four or five other doll makers.

So here’s the plan the two came up with.

Hamilton found a place to store the entire collection, as best they could both; and take the dolls out of the house, whether or not they are in their boxes. It helped on the potential home sale plan.

Then the two men agreed to find worthy recipients or organizations; and donate about 700 dolls, in groups. They started this process about two months ago.

The two of them chose groups of dolls; and sent them to places such as the Appalachians, the Medina Children’s Home, and about 10 churches across Kerrville.

“We stressed to them that we wanted the dolls to be given to girls 12 and under. And we’ve sent between 35 and 70 dolls to each of those locations, ”Hamilton said. “Some of the free items were delivered to them; or someone came to our house to pick them up, from some of the other groups.

They also tried to send a letter about each doll and its source from the Bigenho collection, calling it “Mrs. Dollhouse B. And they specified that each of the valuable dolls should be placed on an exhibition shelf. – and not played with as a toy – then finally passed on by the new owner as a “family heirloom”.

Hamilton and Bigenho also chose a bunch of dolls from the collection to give to every Kerrville Police Department officer who has daughters 12 and under; and another set of dolls to give to Kerr County Sheriff’s Department MPs who are parents of girls 12 and under.


The variety among all the dolls is amazing whether or not the viewer knows a story or details. Some were presented with a chair or high chair or with a cradle or bed; while others have their own metal brackets and are meant to be displayed upright.

Their height varies from four to six inches, up to some exotic “Barbie” dolls; to larger porcelain baby dolls; to many up to 18 inches or more in height.

At least one Shirley Temple doll wears a replica of her own costume from an old movie identified on the tag around her wrist. And some still have their Madame Alexander badge certifying their origin and authenticity.

Most of the dolls are female characters, and their costumes range from nightgowns adorned with ruffles and lace, to costumes from specific countries, including some Japanese or Chinese “ladies”, to fancy dress, including wedding dresses. , hats, pants and shoes.

Hamilton said he was told that the hair on many of them was real human hair; and it was attached to each doll and arranged in fancy curls or loops.

Among the relatively few boy dolls is a Scottish bagpiper in a checkered kilt; a forester, babydolls and a soldier from the Revolutionary War.

Some dolls are still in their original boxes; and Hamilton and Bigenho’s son did his best to stack them securely in part of the storage space.

Future possibilities

Hamilton said he was ready to discuss future decisions on where more dolls could be distributed.

He said his office phone number is 257-4020; and people can call that number and leave their contact details. He will return their calls.

He pointed out that the overall doll collection probably came from five famous doll makers; and many of them were originally priced at $ 500-600 each.

Another special collection of dolls that Hamilton had pictures of on his phone was not displayed on the shelves in this storage area. He described it – from its original exhibit in Bigenho’s “Doll Room” – as a specific collection of dolls depicting the wives of US presidents, from Martha Washington to Patricia Nixon. Each “First Lady” doll was dressed in clothing representing the period of American history in which she lived.

Memories of sons

Kevin Bigenho said his mother collected most of the dolls in the last 10 to 15 years of her life, after she and her father moved to Kerrville around 2003.

“They lived in a house of about 3,000 square feet, and I remember you couldn’t see the fireplace for the dolls. She started to put them in one room, but they really took over the whole house. I think there were between 2,000 and 3,000.

He said that sometimes she also collected Native American dolls on some of her trips.

“I kept it all. They are the ones I really remember.

He said his late sister also had one of the original Barbie dolls.

“My dad would buy them at auction or on eBay. And he also had a collection of trains.

Bigenho said he did not have any children to “gift” with any of the dolls.

“My mother also collected Santas from all over the world, including Russia and Germany. I kept all that too.

He said he was happy that he and Ed Hamilton had the idea to give a lot to the little girls.

“We thought of other places to donate them as a collection, but people would have needed cases to display them.”

Bigenho lived in Kerrville for about eight years; and owns “Southern Traditional Furniture” here at 1600 Water St.