Barbie dolls are his passion. To date, he has spent roughly $500,000 on the 9,000 dolls in his collection – and it is still growing.
Jian Yang, 33 is an avid Barbie doll collector. I interviewed the Director of Strategy, Omnicom Media Group Singapore, to find out more about his interest in Barbie dolls and how such an unusual hobby was ignited in him.
What made you interested in collecting Barbie dolls?
No particular reason. I just liked her. Before I knew what social norms were, I decided I had wanted a Barbie. This was in 1984 when you just innocently see the Barbie TV ads among the He-Man, Transformers and G.I Joe ones.
When did you begin your Barbie doll collection?
I blame the Scarlett O’Hara (From Gone with the Wind) doll. She was one of the first collectible dolls that caught my eye back in 1994. It went all downhill from there, I guess.
What is your favourite Barbie in your collection?
There isn’t a favourite. Every time I get a new one, she becomes my favourite. But I do have a penchant for the African American dolls as a whole. Something about their faces and exotic skin tones, speaks to me.
What type of Barbies are your favourites?
I’d have to say the fashion-themed ones. I recently had to fight with the people from Coach to let me buy two Coach Barbies. She’s the first doll in history to come with a mini handbag made of real leather – so I decided that I wanted her in my collection.
I feel fashion-themed dolls mark time in history. I also like the fact that they look good together in a set – like a little runway.
What is the most expensive Barbie in your collection and how much did that one cost?
Frankly, it’s a hard question. There are dolls I paid $10 for, which are now worth thousands. And there are those I paid thousands for, which are now worthless. The most I’ve paid is SGD3,600 for an auction doll. I like auction dolls because they support a charity. Local charities are a bonus.
What is your most rare Barbie doll?
Too many to name. I did find a Comme Des Garcons Barbie though – which I consider rare because even fans don’t know about her existence. But I also have an auction piece from the Island Shop (Singaporean brand) which is a one-off. So I consider that rare.
What do your family and friends think of your Barbie doll collection?
Everyone’s gotten used to it. My friends don’t even flinch when they come to my house anymore. My family sometimes calls me long distance from a Target shop or similar to ask “do you have the XX doll?”
During my birthdays, it is always amazing because my close friends actually know what I’ve been eyeing, and somehow the dolls appear with a big ribbon around them. I’ve got good friends.
Do you usually buy your Barbie dolls online or from shops?
Shops almost exclusively. I like to see a doll before I buy it.
What comments or remarks have you received from people, about your Barbie doll collection?
Seeing the kind of comments on the online forums based on the recent Reuters’ coverage, I’m actually horrified. There have been very positive ones though, like “what an amazing collection.” But you also get the more expected hater comments. Not that I care, really. But I’d like to state that I’m really normal. To the point that I’m actually boring.
How many Barbie dolls are in your collection now and how do you have so much space for them all?
I have about 9,000 dolls at the last count, out of which about 6,000 are Barbie branded. Most of the collection is in my new house – a 1,500sqft terrace. The rest are at my parents’ house – simply because I’ve already run out of space.
How much have you spent so far, on Barbie dolls?
A rough estimate is about SGD500,000.
I understand that some of your girlfriends have felt threatened by your Barbie collection. Why?
I’d rather not answer this, because I’ve already gotten into trouble with a couple of my ex-girlfriends after their reading of the recent (Reuters’) article. It’s sufficient to say that when your boyfriend collects dolls, the relationship is doomed to failure anyway.
What tips would you have for interested Barbie doll collectors?
Watch the humidity.
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