Friday, 31 October 2014

Updates and a rant


It's been a long time since I last posted (or showed any sign of life in the blog community). I was busy taking care of stuff before a trip with hubby in September and I barely had time to finish a draft post before leaving. Then I came back, but I've been sick all this time. We found some new dolls which I wanted to introduce. I wasn't happy with the last "shopping" post where I hurried to take pictures while some of the dolls were still unbrushed. Well, now I took my time to tweak each of them a little. I mean, who hasn't seen a basic Raven Queen out of the box? Old news. But have you seen mine? Anyway, doll pictures ahead!

I should start by saying I was going to take some creative pictures to go with the whole not-a-review feel. I didn't. I'm sorry. On top of all that was going on last week, hubby found this:


So, yesterday's photoshoot was less creativity and more rushing to get it done through heartbreaking cries and bitten toes. We're most likely keeping her though :)

What was I saying? Oh, the dolls. I finally caved and bought my first EAH. I was going to choose between Raven and Lizzie. Unsurprisingly, Lizzie didn't come to Europe yet, so I ended up with a first edition Raven Queen. I really hate the gradient eyebrows, but the cheapest store only had those. Hubby promised to help me repaint them. Speaking of repaint, I found some nice brushes in a board games store:


I love the names! "Detail" and "Insane detail". I can't wait to put them to use :) Raven's face reminds me of someone I dislike. I have some ideas for a repaint, but first of all, I wanted to take the hair down and hide the widow's peak and purple streaks. The lighting is unflattering, but in reality I like her much better like this!


After reading many reviews, I was prepared for a flood of hair glue. In spite of a pretty hard head, I was pleasantly surprised by the hair quality. It's nice and soft and completely glue-free, even after boiling.


I chose the basic doll because I love the outfit. I even like the plastic belt because it's nicely made and fits snugly, like a real cincher. One defect worth mentioning is that my doll had two right shoes. I can't believe I misplaced the picture, but it's exactly what it sounds like - there are two of the right shoe and none of the left. It's just as well, I don't like shoes with open toes and this will hopefully motivate me to cover them.

I wanted to see Raven and my j-doll side-by-side. They are both dark-haired fair dolls with purple eyes. The photo is pre-boil-washing.


The best thing about Raven's construction is her weight. It's a sturdy body that should hold up to play. J-doll's body is hollow and feels like it's made of egg shells. Still, she looks like the more expensive doll. The "skin" is translucent and has a natural delicate colour, while Raven's face looks like it's caked with cheap, one-shade-matches-most foundation. I like Raven's thighs and hips, but the torso is disproportionally short (another reason why I was leaning towards Lizzie) and poses problems when trying to swap clothes.

Raven sort of fits into J-doll's dress, if we ignore the gaping shoulders.


The only item of Raven's wardrobe that fits Lavalle is the belt. Overall, I'm pleased with the purchase.

I went to all stores in search of the Zombie Shake set, and instead I found Freaky Fusion Ghoulia, which hubby wanted to see in my collection. The store had a 50% off the second item, so I added the Barbie Style whose green trousers I wanted so badly. Each doll ended up costing 21 euro, which is as good as it can get in France.

Here's Barbie:


The hair had messy ends and some bald spots from the headband, so I straightened it. The trousers are very tight and the boots oversized. I was very tempted to give those to the j-doll after some manipulations on the waist.



I'm still thinking if I should do it, but meanwhile I did some shoe swapping and managed to improve all three outfits involved:


The long boots are being revamped at the moment, they'll look even better when I'm done.

On the day I swapped the shoes, I noticed I was quite fond of the new Barbie in spite of the sickening GG grin. The difference, it turns out, is the skintone. I don't know if it's a corporate decision or a batch thing, but my doll is lighter than all my previous Barbies/Summers/Teresa. It doesn't look like porn actress tan, it looks... normal.


In fact, now Raquelle, whose skintone seemed fresher to me, is the odd one out. LED light doesn't make it look that bad, but in sunlight she appears decidedly sunburnt. Fashionista Barbie is a shade too dark for a healthy white person. The newcomer is the best of the three.

As I was posing the doll I noticed a defect in the right elbow joint. It seems that something is coming out of something else and the whole thing is stretching apart. I'll give it a close look some other time.


Lastly, I had a good laugh out of this baffling inventory item:


It's a purse strap moulded to be perpetually folded like that. Oh well, another victim for repaint experiments!

The second doll from this store is Ghoulia. Her fangs went straight to the trash, but the rest of the stuff is nice. I took down the ponytails and steamed the kinks reeeeally carefully. Some of the ends still fried into that frizzy texture, but I managed to get most of the top layer reasonably flat without losing the silky feel. Yay!


I'm considering cutting the fringe in a V-shape, like Skull Shore Draculaura's. I'm not a fan of fringes in general, but this one might actually work. What do you think?

Finally, hubby insisted we buy another used doll from leboncoin.fr because he wanted to "work on his conversation skills". The doll we chose was an Operetta, like the previous one! The Roller Maze version.

During the mandatory mole removal, I changed the mouth contour a bit.
I like this doll more and more!

The hair is simply wet, it doesn't look like this now. Reviving an almost non-existent part, separating the front strands and convincing them to lie flat without disturbing the rest of the curls took many boil washes and I had no patience to wait for it to dry again. I wanted to soften the square hairline and this hairstyle was the best idea at the moment, but as soon as I was done with the pictures a better one came to me. I'll try to make it happen and show it in a different post with other hair alterations I performed.

This "budget" doll cost more than I expected, but the lady threw in an extra Operetta dress, bolero and purse. The dress is pretty cute.


Back at home, I kept searching for the elusive Zombie Shake pack. I contacted an intermediary for quotes on some dolls I'd like to get (meanwhile, the Zombie Shake was found and bought for me, I just have to figure out the delivery ^^). This is where the rant starts. Why can't I get reasonable prices on dolls? I asked about Barbie Basics, articulated S.I.S. dolls, Twilight Jasper and J-dolls. The results:
- Basics for 63-238$ (they cost 10-20$ on Barbiecollector.com! I could have them FedEx-ed over here for the price they are asking!)
- S.I.S. for 37-169$, depending on the clothes (all of which I don't care for). I'll think about letting go of 37$ for a Chandra (if she's even available for this price)
- j-dolls for 72$ and 80$

The only normal offer is Jasper for 28$ (never mind that he costs 10 in USA). The thing about Jasper is that he uses the same head and body sculpt as the Denim Basics Ken we really really like. The curls should provide some hair length after straightening and with a bit of work he could make a handsome Ken. His skintone is a bit odd, but at least he doesn't sparkle.

   

On the above pictures, Jasper (28$) is on the left and Ken (238$) on the right. I don't like the price discrepancy at all. How to bypass it? BarbieCollector doesn't ship outside their country. J-dolls, for some reason, are only found in USA as well. Middlemen take the lion's share when exporting these dolls. Non-American people, how do you find your dolls? Are you pleased with the variety offered by your local stores? What difficulties do you encounter when ordering dolls online? Is your second-hand market developped enough to provide dolls worth looking at? Share the good and the bad below!

The Black Kitty
(^^)~

12 comments:

  1. Hi and congratulations on the new kitten!
    I'm a brit in france and I get most of my dolls on ebay.fr or ebay.co.uk second-hand because the regular prices (in real stores and online stores like toysrus.fr) are insane. It means waiting and hunting for quite a while, as well as learning how to fix used/slightly damaged dolls but I just can't afford 30€ a doll and it stings too hard knowing that if I was in the USA, that doll would be $15 (or $10 with whatever sale they often have). I'm not paying $20 extra to Giochi Preziozi or whoever imported the doll !!! It's a shakedown!
    J-dolls are currently for sale in the US at Tuesday Morning stores at 20$, I don't collect them but there is a special TM buy/trade thread going on at dollymarket.net http://forums.dollymarket.net/showthread.php?tid=7258016 which is another place I purchase dolls because doll collectors are so much more honest about the state of their dolls (defects, etc).
    Toysrus.com ships to europe but it costs around $30 so that's a no.
    Amazon.co.uk has semi reasonable shipping prices to france if it's amazon themselves not an affiliate selling the doll. That's how I got my Bratzillaz Victoria Antique.
    If you're in france, there is also priceminister.fr (second hand) and ebay.com occasionally has chinese sellers selling factory reject heads for monster high or barbie (search for doll head -case -wig -plush with worldwide and free shipping ticked and under $10)
    You might need the hola.com unblocker for firefox to avoid the stupid ebay.fr error messages.
    There are several Thai sellers who list barbie heads in unusual hair colours and rare face molds, the heads need boil washing on arrival because they may have glue in the hair for the hairstyling but that how I got a few of my favourite barbies (after buying a batch of cheap damaged faced barbies for their bodies on ebay.fr - http://www.ebay.fr/usr/gillette37 )
    http://www.ebay.com/usr/handmade-ooak ; http://www.ebay.com/usr/ooak-handmade; http://www.ebay.com/usr/sawai2011 ; http://www.ebay.com/usr/zawai2012

    To be honest, at the moment, when I really want a doll, I usually offer custom dolls or reroot service in exchange for someone in the right country buying + shipping it for me! It's been the most reliable way to get non damaged, non "wonky face paint" new dolls.
    Feel free to contact me if you'd like a list of ebay france searches

    hugs,
    Saffy (longtime lurker)

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    1. Hi Saffy, thanks for the long and useful comment! It had so many links I thought it was spam at first =) Luckily Blogger didn't think so.
      I didn't even know I had a longtime lurker :D You're welcome to come by more often, I promise to be more prompt with my replies!

      That was a very comprehensive list you gave me, I'll be returning to it in the future. I don't live in France, I have some contacts there but their schedule doesn't allow them to handle mail problems, so if I want something delivered, I better be there to sort it out myself.
      It's useful to know that amazon.fr's warehouse is in Orleans. Depending on your distance from it, you know when to expect your purchase. One time we had to go there and ordered a doll in advance, because we were almost certain they couldn't screw up a delivery in the same city (they didn't) :) The doll (MH GNO) cost only 17 euro.
      I'm ashamed to say I did pay 30 euro for a doll on several occasions, and shopped at Toysrus too. In my defence, all those dolls were a lot more expensive (or unavailable) in my country.
      I also know about the Chinese factory rejects, fakes and steals. I bought one such doll through aliexpress.com (15$) and now I'm waiting for some original shoes. Too bad their Barbie assortment is bland...

      I'll try to arrange some ebay purchases, thanks for the recommendations! And for you Flickr link, you have a beautiful collection (^^)~
      Thanks again for stopping by!

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  2. Congrats on the new kitten! You're right about Raven's "skin" - I've never thought about it, but "caked foundation" is a spot-on description! It's very ...compact, somehow.
    My Dreamhouse Midge has the exact same elbow defect, although it's never really interfered with her articulation. Just given her arms slightly different range. You could take the arm apart and check (apparetly they're meant to come apart, but unlike with MH you need to soften them first so I haven't tried it yet. Good to know about the difference in skin tones too.

    And doll prices... I was just about to post my own rant on the subject. amazon.co.uk was pretty good before they stopped offering free shipping. Ebay.co.uk and ebay.de is another alternative to buying from the US. Sometimes you make incredible, unexpected finds in thrift stores. Or I just tell myself I'll but it when I get rich. :)

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    1. Thanks, Mrs. Anderson! I'm thinking about buffing Raven's face a little - I noticed that Barbie faces, who look more lifelike, are slightly shinier. Seeing how the colour range in the two doll lines is similar, this must be it.

      Thanks for the tip on the elbow, I tried once to disassemble a Barbie arm (unsuccessfully), next time I'll try heat.

      I check European ebay stores sometimes, but my paypal is blocked (they caught me using it from the wrong country >.<) and I have to jump through many hoops to make a purchase. Even when I do, it's rare to find a seller that will ship to me. Your last sentence is probably the most appropriate for me :)

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  3. Hello Blackkitty - congratulations on the dolls - and the cat :)

    Buying dolls - I get by as best I can. I find that the best (often the only) chance to buy new, collector-level dolls comes 3 - 9 months after the American release, when prices suddenly drop. As you say, there's still a pretty big mark-up though, so mostly I don't do it any more, I love playline stuff and older second-hand dolls (which I get from car boot sales and eBay) anyway, so I don't feel massively deprived most of the time.

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    1. Thank you, Barbiebeauties!
      I'm an avid follower of your blog and I know about your incredible boot sale finds :) Even though you share our frustration of not getting THE dolls you want for a reasonable price, you can console yourself with the unique dolls you find once in a while.

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  4. OMG!!! I'm choking over those prices!!! We are so spoiled in the US. I have so many SIS dolls because most only cost me 8 USD in the local stores!!! The most expensive were the Baby Phat SIS dolls, priced at 14$ at Walmart. That Ken doll on the right originally sold for $20 as was most of the Barbie Basics line. I just don't understand why these dolls cost so much in Europe. After all...they're all made in China!

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    1. Most Americans are shocked when they hear the doll prices in Europe :) I just recently drooled at 50 euro "Barbie Look"s. As you say, it can't be a logistics problem. I hope American toy companies will think about expanding to other continents because their products still sell here, but they could get more profit by cutting the middleman. I'm not an economist though so there must be other reasons why they don't do that...

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  5. You're very good with styling the dolls' hair. Personally, when I buy a doll I can't wait to take pictures of hair and sometimes her hair is a complete mess. One of my last dolls, Coffin Bean Toralei, had such a messy hair that even such an impacient person as me gave her a super quick boil perm (being very carefull not to touch her scalp, because it was a river of glue). I want to try on doing a reroot at some point, but I havent found the doll or the time to do it.

    Good luck with your next doll hunt.

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    1. Thank you! When I did my first boil-wash, I thought I'd never do it again because it was so annoying (I actually said these words in an old post)! And now it's just routine. I got used to it. I already have most Mattel characters I like so I cut down my purchases from them; now I try to work on the dolls I have and look for other doll lines or old, pre-glue Mattel dolls.

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  6. if you get frizzy hair after a boil wash, watered down fabric softener spritzed onto it works great (for most play line barbies and soft haired monster high dolls this works - the ones with kanekalone hair), and if you have one of the saran haired ones, it restores lost shine. I haven't tested it against other types of hair yet, but I found that it is a great hair saver. I use a cheap spray bottle from the dollar store, fill it about 1/5 to 1/4 with fabric softener (unscented) and the rest of the way with water. just spray the doll's hair with it and lightly brush it in. that usually does the trick (and you don't wash it out). if you put it on straight, the fabric softener makes the hair clump a little, like wet hair.


    if shipping wasn't so expensive to send things overseas, I would offer to get the dolls you want and mail them to you. sadly, it is very expensive to mail things internationally (it can cost more then the price of the doll to ship!).If you do buy from the US, what I would do is ask the seller the weight of what you are buying. then go to USPS.com and check to see how much shipping should be. That should at least keep you from being gouged too much by shipping, since you will know approximately how much it costs to ship. most MH dolls in their box weigh close to 1lb, if that helps.

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    1. I do the fabric softener trick. I use tiny spray bottles from a breath freshener. It doesn't help the "crimped" look, but it's a great detangler and antistatic. I wish we had unscented softener, I always look for "sensitive" and "baby" varieties but the smell always makes me nauseous.
      Thanks for the shipping tips! Some dolls are so overpriced that it costs less to Fedex them from the USA than buy them the regular way. J-dolls, for example.

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