Barbie's "I Confess, I Collect" Winner Interview

By: Rick Andreoli
11.21.2011

This summer Gay.net hosted Boys Love Barbie, Too, a section dedicated to our favorite Malibu blond bombshell and her hunky boyfriend Ken. During those months we presented a ton of behind-the-scenes features and interviews, as well as a contest called "I Confess, I Collect," where Barbie fans sent in photos and essays saying why they should be voted the biggest Barbie fan. The winner was Dan Campbell from Southern California, and this past weekend his prize package of 30 Barbies arrived.

Dan sent us a photo of that, as well as a recreation of the image that helped him win the contest, so we took a minute to chat with him about collecting and what it means to be a Barbie fan.

How long did you collect as a child?
I don't know that I technically "collected" as a child. Mom (pictured here in Dan's doll room) says I REALLY wanted Barbie that Christmas of 1962, and I suspect that Mattel's new advertising campaign had something to do with that.  I was very lucky to have both a mother and a dear aunt who made made Barbie's clothes for me. And luckily I still have everything from back then as part of my collection. I definitely spent many hours playing with Barbie, Ken, Midge, Allan and everyone else. The only thing I am missing from my childhood collection is Ken's Hot Rod. God, I loved that car. I still have yet to replace it, because I want one in really nice shape and they are tough to come by!

Why and when did you stop collecting?
I think I was fairly typical and stopped playing with dolls when I got a little older and started finding other interests. I remember being very interested when Mattel brought out the dolls with the bending knees, which would have been 1965, but I wasn't interested enough to want to go get one. Besides, back then you had one Barbie, not tons, and I would never have been disloyal enough to get a different Barbie to play with. Barbie and I had spent all that time together, I couldn't just toss her aside!

I also remember in 1967 Mattel had a promotion where you could take your "old" Barbie and trade it in (with $1.50) for a new model. Even though I was not playing with her anymore, I remember just being appalled at the very idea of that!

What got you back into collecting Barbie again?
In about 1989, maybe a little earlier, my friend Jaye showed me her Barbie collection. I told her that the next time I went home to Kansas [from] Los Angeles I would bring my childhood dolls back to show her. So that Christmas when I came back, I brought them with me, and from that I got hooked. I got an identification book and initially thought I would just collect Kens with rooted hair, because there were relatively few of them at that point (now there are tons). But that didn't last very long.

Now I mainly focus on the dolls that were made from 1959 to about 1967. In 1967 Mattel changed Barbie's face to be more "mod," and I can't relate to that face the same way I do to the face from my childhood.

I remember the first all-Barbie doll [collector's] show Jaye and I went to. Neither one of us could sleep the night before!  What a delight that was to see all those vintage dolls in one place.  And there were a LOT!

Do you know how many Barbies you have in your collection?
Kind of... I have an inventory, and every time I get something new, I add it to the inventory before I take it into the doll room; otherwise, I will never be able to keep track of everything. I have tried doing a line count of the inventory to get an idea of the total (I have the dolls cataloged separately from the outfits) but am never sure it is right. I "guesstimate" it is in the 2,000 range. Not everything I have is in the doll room. The boxed dolls I have are in a cabinet to keep them as nice as possible.

Do you have a favorite?
That is a tough question. I have favorites within categories, but if I had to grab a couple in a fire or earthquake (and I actually did the latter once), it would be my childhood doll and my #1: the first model of Barbie Mattel ever produced.

What are some of the rarest Barbies in your collection?
The #1 is probably the rarest, and one of my prides and joys. I have a beautiful #3 in the box that was never played with. I have the Barbie and Ken from the Little Theatre Gift Set that were never removed from their boxes and that I just love. I have about 10 #3's at this point, and though they are the easiest to find of the first 3 models of Barbie, they are still tough to come by, and I am always delighted when I find one.

You had a lot of support from friends in the doll collecting community—people from eBay forums and elsewhere voting for you. Can you talk about that community?
I am floored by the outpouring of support I got for this contest. It's really humbling and incredibly flattering. 

Having started collecting before the internet was what it is today, I NEVER really thought I'd be making friends in the Barbie community, which I didn't even know existed— I just wanted to go out and find dolls! But man, have I been blessed by the people I have met through collecting. The local collectors are so much fun to meet up with at doll shows. We'll shop a while, go have lunch, then go back to the sale and make sure we didn't miss anything.

The online community, which for me mainly consists of people I have met on the eBay Doll Discussion Board, has been just a treat to get to know. I have made some truly dear friends through that venue, some of whom I have been lucky enough to meet in person, many of whom I haven't. But even the ones I haven't met in the flesh are dear to me and have been so kind and supportive. And I have even gotten to meet some online friends from other countries in person at the Barbie Conventions. My pals Elisabeth from Germany and Toni from Canada are two of the "foreign" friends I have met that I have so much fun with. And I do miss my dear friend Mike Bloxom, who was an avid Ken collector and who passed away a few years ago. He was such a Ken fan that he had his sister Tonya (also a dear friend) and I spread his ashes at this year's Convention, which was dedicated to Ken's 50th anniversary. 

But I can't discount the support I got from outside the Barbie community, too! I am one of the regulars on a board that discusses the soap One Life to Live, and the folks there were also anxious to lend their time and votes to the contest. The friends I have made throughout my life also jumped right in. I am an actor who has lived in Kansas, New York and Los Angeles, and worked in many theaters around the country, and a LOT of those friends made a point of helping me win the contest. I've been very blessed with a large number of friends I truly cherish, and they have also been helpful in finding dolls to add to my collection! For example, my high school drama teacher found another teacher in the school who was wanting to sell her Barbie and hooked us up. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine found a #3 in her mother's things and I was able to buy that from he, and my mother has found some truly amazing things for me at estate sales throughout the years. She started this whole escapade back in 1962!

I really feel like the luckiest boy for all the love and support I get from everyone I know, not just in my collecting but in my life in general.

Any final words you have for the people who competed against you and the readers who voted for you?
My advice to other collectors is let everyone know that you collect. You will be surprised how many times that will lead to some addition to your collection!

But let's face it: there is no single Barbie's Biggest Fan. From what I read of everyone else's entries, we all collect in different ways and for different reasons, and are huge Barbie fans, one and all. Just look at the pictures and you will see how we all differ in that way. I have the feeling if we all got together, we would have a blast!

Dan sits with his prize package from Mattel.

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