What a doll!: Sibley woman auctions her collection to benefit museumSIBLEY, Iowa — Dolores Fink is feeling a bit lonely these days. Many of her longtime companions have moved to temporary quarters at the McCallum Museum. Dolores has donated 65 dolls — from a collection that is just slightly larger than that — to be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Sibley historical site.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
SIBLEY, Iowa — Dolores Fink is feeling a bit lonely these days. Many of her longtime companions have moved to temporary quarters at the McCallum Museum.
Dolores has donated 65 dolls — from a collection that is just slightly larger than that — to be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Sibley historical site. Her children picked out a few to keep, and there were a couple others that Dolores just couldn’t part with, but the bulk of her menagerie will go to the highest bidder on Nov. 12.
“It looks very empty,” said Dolores about her house, sans dolls. “I used to get company, and they’d ask me where they were supposed to sit. Not any of them were packed away.”
Doll collecting is more of a recent passion for Dolores, rather than a lifetime pursuit.
“I liked dolls as a kid, but I always kept myself so busy,” she explained. “For years, I worked in restaurants, before I even graduated from school. Then I was a telephone operator in Rock Rapids.”
Dolores grew up in Rock Rapids, Iowa, but when she married Eldon Fink, she became a farmer’s wife and lived in rural Sibley. She found a career quite by accident when a friend who worked in the bank recommended her for what was supposed to be a temporary position in 1968.
“I got a letter from a gentleman asking me to come in and help at the courthouse for three weeks,” recalled Dolores. “It was doing utility bills, which I didn’t know anything about, but I learned a little more, a little bit more, and kept on working. … The woman who I was filling in for never came back. He semi-retired, and basically I was doing the whole job. … That’s how I got to be city clerk for 27 years. I’ve been retired now for 21 years.”
When she became city clerk, the Finks moved into Sibley, and there Dolores has stayed ever since. Eldon passed away 27 years ago.
Although she’s not exactly sure of the exact year she bought her first collectible doll, Dolores thinks it was probably about 20 years ago. Her inspiration to collect — and eventually to donate her own collection — came from a doll auction she attended in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“My aunt used to live in Sioux Falls. She’s passed away now, but she used to do a lot of volunteer work, and one of the places she volunteered was at the Children’s Home Society,” explained Dolores. “This lady (Helen Hagen Pringle) grew up in the orphanage there, and to return the kindness, she decided to give all her dolls to the Children’s Home Society.”
Pringle’s collection was quite extensive — 1,300 dolls — but Dolores wasn’t able to acquire even one of them at the Sioux Falls charity event.
“There were doctors and lawyers there, paying $1,000 for them,” she related.
But Dolores did make a new friend at the auction, a woman named Mavis from Rock Valley, Iowa, who was also a volunteer at the Children’s Home Society. They both became interested in dolls at the auction and eventually formed a doll club with members from several northwest Iowa counties.
Although her collection includes Holiday Barbie, baby dolls, wooden figures and dolls from several foreign countries, Dolores is particularly fond of collectibles created by a German artist, Annette Himstedt.
“She models all her dolls after children she sees on the street, people she knows. They look so natural,” said Dolores, who ordered many of the dolls through friend Mavis. “She would have a picture of one, and I’d fall for it, and she’d order it for me. I was pretty weak there.”
Each Himstedt doll is named, and Dolores knows many of them off the top of her head, plus she compiled an inventory for museum curator Jan Stofferan. Because of the collectible value, Dolores kept each doll’s original box and in most cases still has the mailing boxes, too.
As she looks around the museum, Dolores points out some of the more unique dolls, such as a “postage stamp doll” whose image was featured on a stamp; a Shirley Temple reproduction; a group of dolls that are posed with Coca-Cola toys; a Tanya Tucker doll decked out in Western gear; and dolls from such faraway places as Corsica, Russia, Bali and Germany.
“This is the one from Russia,” she said, pointing to a nearby standing figure. “She needs her hair combed.”
Also an avid quilter and sewer, the dolls that Dolores chose to keep are models for her handiwork.
“There’s a doll that I put together and dressed. … I couldn’t part with that,” she explained. “And there’s another one that I made a dress for. I couldn’t part with that one either.”
While Dolores obviously still enjoys her dolls, the timing was right, she said, to downsize. She’d rather see the museum benefit from her gift now, and she hopes the dolls will bring more money at a benefit auction than they would at an estate sale.
“I don’t know where else I’d donate them to,” she said.
“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Stofferan about Dolores’ unique gift. “I thought so much of Dolores’ idea that I sent it to our museum association, and they sent it out to their membership.”
Dolores Fink’s dolls are on display from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Sunday in August at the McCallum Museum, located in Sibley’s Central Park. The collection will be auctioned beginning at 11 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Sibley Senior Center, 612 Eight St., with proceeds going to the museum.