Doll Digest

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Charmin Chatty in an original custom outfit

Two hard to find African American Chatty Babies in original Mattel outfits

A rare Black Chatty Cathy in oroginal "Pink Peppermint" outfit.

Boxed blonde pigtail Chatty Cathy

Boxed Canadian Tiny Chatty Baby

Very rare blonde and brown-eyed Chatty Cathy

Stunning example of a Canadian Blonde Bob Chatty Cathy

 

Chatty Cathy The Talking Doll

Collector Melissa Gilkey Mince chats about her favorite childhood doll.

It's easy to understand why Mattel's "Chatty Cathy" was so popular when she was introduced in 1960. With her freckled cheeks, two prominent front teeth and little "pot belly" she looks like a real little girl. Add to this adorable combination a pull-string voice box that can say 11 phrases and you have a companion doll that is fondly remembered by many baby boomers. Her legend lives on even today with folks referring to a "chatter-box" person as a "Chatty Cathy". She has become a part of American popular language.

The many devoted collectors of this little 20" gal are just as passionate about her as they were as children. Like Mattel's Barbie, the other popular doll at that time, there are many production variations to keep collectors of her on the hunt. Differences in hair color, eye types, facial paints, voice box recordings and vinyl compounds used have produced many distinct 'types' of Chatty Cathy dolls. Many collectors also collect harder to find examples from countries like Canada and England. The foreign-marketed dolls are very desirable and can fetch high prices for rare or mint examples.

Melissa Gilkey Mince has been a fan of Chatty Cathy for many years. Her devotion to this area of doll collecting has led to her being the Editor in Chief of the Chatty Cathy Collectors Club Newsletter. This is the official organization recognized by Mattel and one of the collector's best resources of information on the doll, her clothes and history. An annual Chatty Club Luncheon brings together club members from all over to chat, swap, buy, sell and generally have fun with other friends and collectors. The 2000 Luncheon was held at Disney World the same weekend as the Disney World Doll and Teddy Bear Show and this year's event will be in Chicago during the Kane County shows.

I spent time with her at this year's festivities and had a chance to talk with her about her favorite doll.

MC: How did you first become interested in collecting Chatty and her family?

MGM: "I was a tom boy growing up and was never interested in dolls - except for Chatty Cathy. I begged my parents for her, and was crushed when I didn't get her for my fifth birthday. However, Santa Claus didn't let me down - and there was Chatty, waiting just for me under the Christmas tree. I loved her and took her everywhere with me. I was very careful not to pull her string too much, because I didn't want to wear out her voice. I learned to sew by making clothes for Chatty. For the next couple of birthdays and Christmases, I received more outfits for her. That speaks highly of Chatty's "lasting power." I don't think many toys today will hold a child's interest over a period of years. Many childhood toys were passed on to the preschool where my mother worked, but not Chatty. Even after my OLDER sister cut Chatty's hair (for reason's she'll not admit even to this day!), Chatty stayed with me all though childhood, and even managed to survive the frequent moves of my early adult working career. I'm one of the few collectors today who still has her childhood Chatty. One day, I was trolling antique malls looking for Breyer horses (my other passion) when I stumbled upon Don and Kathy Lewis' "Chatty Cathy Dolls." I never realized people collected Chatty Cathy! I bought the book and discovered a whole new world of Chatty Cathy. Chatty wasn't limited to the blue-eyed blonde pageboy I knew and loved - she had brown eyes, red hair, brunette hair, pigtails, pixie cuts - and the clothes and accessories! For the first time, I discovered that two of the outfits I had always believed were authentic Mattel creations were actually knockoffs! At first I was disappointed, but after collecting for so many years, I am thrilled to have the knockoffs, as I have never found them for sale otherwise. I discovered the Chatty Cathy Collectors Club and I have never looked back. My childhood Chatty has been joined by all of her Chatty Family members, their clothes, and accessories. "

MC: What do you find compelling about Chatty Cathy dolls?

MGM: "Chatty Cathy is a realistic looking doll. With her freckled nose, two teeth, knock knees, and protruding tummy, she looks like a real little five year old child. She is just the right size for a five to eight year old child to handle. She's easy to dress, fun to talk to - and, hey, she talks back! I love the variety. Chatty has three basic hair styles (pageboy, pixie and pigtail) Three hair colors: blonde, brunette, and auburn. But each hair color has variations. Then you have your American made dolls and your Canadian made dolls, each with her own variations. While there are only 11 basic outfits, there are subtle and much sought-after variations to each one. And let's not overlook the Black Chatty family members. Wow - no collection is complete without those precious dolls."

MC:Where are some of the places one can find Chatty Cathy dolls to add to a collection?

MGM: "It's easier today to find Chatty dolls than it was when I first began collecting, thanks to the Internet. There are many websites, on-line auctions, and of course, the Chatty Cathy Collectors Club. When I first began my Chatty quest, I had to beat the bushes to find dolls. I made business cards and gave them to every doll dealer begging for Chatty dolls. I haunted doll shops, doll shows, ran ads in the newspaper, and scoured all the collector's magazines, looking for Chattys for sale. While the Internet drove up the price of Chatty dolls, it also opened a huge universe of leads! My collection certainly would not be as comprehensive today as it is, if it were not for the Internet. Chatty was only produced for five years, but Mattel managed to create enough variations to keep even the most experienced collectors looking for "one more doll."

MC: As a collector, what do you look for when deciding to make a purchase?

MGM: "At this point in my collecting, I look for rarity and value. I know that at some point, I will have to sell an item to free up cash for something else I want, and I need to make sure I can get my money back! But if an item is truly rare, then my pocket deepens and I'll do whatever I can to acquire that item. Mind you, there are not many "rare" Chatty items. Many are hard to find, and commend a steep price, but that does not make them "rare." Right now, I am focusing on accessories, Mint in Pack clothes, and Canadian made dolls."

MC: What do you consider the hardest to locate items?

MGM:"Well, the easy answer is: whatever I don't already own! Store display boxes are very hard to find. MIP clothes are becoming scarce, as well as boxed accessories, such as Chatty jewelry, her pencil post bed and her chiffarobe. Rumor has it that a Chatty Cathy costume, lunchbox and bedroom lamp exists. I'd love to have those items!"

MC: Do you have any favorite items in your own collection?

MGM: "Naturally, my Childhood Chatty is my favorite doll. A very dear friend recreated my favorite childhood outfits for Chatty, and I treasure those. If a fire broke out in my home, I would grab her, her childhood clothes, and two Breyer horses. Everything else, including my "one of five known experimental Chattys," could be replaced. "

MC: Has the Internet changed the way you collect? How so?

MGM: "Oh, yes! The Internet has been a boon to collecting, as well as the bane of my existence! First, the Internet auction drove the price of Chatty and accessories sky-high and nearly drove me to the poorhouse. Even a run of the mill, blonde-blue eyed Chatty was out of reach. That was depressing . . . But on the other hand, I could buy Canadian Chattys and hard to find accessories any day of the week. My collection has been expanded and refined, thanks to the Internet. The downside of on-line buying is far outweighed by the benefits to my collection. Access to instant knowledge is the greatest benefit. I can log on anytime, pose a question to the Chatty Club members, and someone will answer me within minutes."

MC: Can you offer any advice to new folks interested in starting a collection of Chatty Cathy dolls? Any pitfalls to watch out for?

MGM: "The best advice I can give the novice collector is to arm yourself with as much information from a reliable source as possible. The original Chatty Cathy Collectors Club provides a haven of sound information. The members are willing to share their knowledge; the Newsletter provides the most up-to-date information as far as prices, restoration tips, variations, dolls, clothes, and accessories. I hear one complaint from newbies over and over again: "Oh, if ONLY I had known . . .". This extends in two directions - first , the newbie who blithely by-passes a very hard to find item because he didn't know it was HTF - and consequently, didn't wish to pay the asking price; or the newbie who paid a high price for a forged item. Certain dolls are rare: the brown-eyed blonde; Spanish or French speaking Chatty dolls to name some examples. There are unscrupulous people who are adept at swapping eyes and records to "create" a rarity. There are telltale signs of tampering, but the novice collector will be fooled into paying hundreds of dollars for a fake. I have had the unhappy task of breaking the bad news to collectors. It breaks my heart, because an enthusiastic Chatty lover is now soured on the hobby; and each forgery cheapens the fun. Many, many articles of clothing, as well as dolls, are now being reproduced and foisted off on unsuspecting collectors as "authentic vintage." Okay, enough of my soapbox, but it is my self -appointed mission in life to educate Chatty collectors so they can make informed decisions about Chatty and her clothing. I encourage everyone to join the Chatty Cathy Collectors Club and subscribe to the bimonthly newsletter. The Club can be reached at ChattyNme@aol.com or Chatty Cathy Collectors Club, PO Box 4426, Seminole FL 33775. Subscriptions are $32.00 per year in the US; $35.00 in Canada and $38.00 over seas. The website is www.ttinet.com/chattycathy. It will soon change to www.chattycathyclub.com"

 

Tiny Chatty Brother in his original outfit.

Melissa Gilkey Mince swings into high gear at the Chatty Cathy Collectors Club auction.

 

Chatty dolls galore at the annual luncheon auction