Ashton Drake Marketplace
Author: Jayne Cremasco
27 years ago, my shop was one of the first shops to get onboard when the Bradford Exchange decided to open a “Dealer Division” in Canada. I am sure there was no one who had looked in a magazine in 1980, and not seen “Matthew”. People who had never owned a doll, or even considered owning a doll, were falling in love with the idea of doll collecting as well as falling in love with Matthew. Yes there were dolls before Matthew, but in my mind, he was the one that really blew the doll market wide open.
These new collectors, then wanted to complete the earlier dolls in the set, and prices on the premier issue “Jason” went crazy. I remember people paying up to $2500. to have the first issue in the Picture Perfect Babies Collection, Jason, and hundreds to obtain Heather and Jennifer as well.
So where did it all go wrong? Today’s market on these and other older Ashton Drake Dolls, is so soft I would not dream of selling.
It is my opinion that Ashton Drake Galleries simply made too many dolls. From their original 2-3 different series back in the early days, to having so many different sets of dolls it was nearly impossible for collectors to know what doll belonged in what series.
I heard over and over as sales dwindled that there is “only so much room in my house for dolls”.
Many other collectors had entered the marketplace to simply purchase dolls as an investment, and as the market continued to be flooded with new dolls and new series of dolls, these collectors changed their buying habits. These dolls have never been displayed, and have been carefully stored for the past 20 years. Add their numbers to those sold to private collectors and you will begin to see the larger picture.
For myself as a dealer, the final blow came when I received an informal letter in the mail, saying my sales were no longer high enough to qualify for dealer status, and I would not be able to purchase dolls for resale in the future. This was the quality of customer service given to a retailer of their product for over 20 years and having sold hundreds of their dolls over the years and generating thousands of dollars in revenue for them. For a company struggling to maintain a collector base, this business decision by the Dealer Division alienated a large portion of their small retailer foundation.
Now you have collectors tiring of the product and upset because their “investment” did not work out, and you also have your retailers upset over being treated so poorly.
I have many lovely dolls in my own collection. I am a Diana Effner fan, but have others as well. I am not planning to sell, so their retail value is of little importance to me, but I certainly would call this the end of an era for a once flourishing company.
I hope that in the future these dolls will once again be recognized as the quality collectible that they are, and once again be sought after and treasured.