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Dollhouse economics

When I was a kid, I “collected” Madame Alexander dolls. Which is to say that my mother indulged her adult desire for these frou-frou dolls that you weren’t actually allowed to touch or play with and said “it was all for my daughter.”

I hadn’t thought about those dolls in more than 20 years until the other day the American Girls catalog arrived (in the front door, to be ushered out the back and into the recycling bin without even pausing to warm up). The Girl on the cover sparked one of those long dead memories of my childhood.

I had four shelves on the wall opposite my bed, laden heavily with those dolls. Scarlett in her white dress and green sash from the opening scene of Gone With The Wind sat in the central spot of honor, I remember that much. I know I had about 20 of them, all sitting with their little beady doll eyes and little porcelain feet peeking out from their lace-filled skirts.

At night, as I was trying to sleep, I could see their lips moving. I knew it was an optical illusion… my dad explained it to me…. but I could see their lips moving. It was deeply creepy.

As I was looking at the $100+ price tag, I suddenly wondered just how much those Madame Alexandra dolls had cost? Five minutes on Google later and I was goggling at the price tags. The 10″ dolls (which I think I had) were going for $125, new. I can’t begin to figure out how much that is 1970s money, but let’s pretend that it’s about $50.

I had 20 of these things. Times $50, that’s $1,000. Let’s say my mom had dropped that into an interest bearing account that yielded 9 percent annually (that’s a lot, I know, but it makes the numbers easier.) Assuming she started when I was 7 years old, that would have given me $4,000 by the time I was 21. If she hadn’t mentioned it and let it keep going, that’s $16,000 she could hand me a check for RIGHT NOW.

Ask me which I’d rather have — a box full of mouldering, dusty, messed up dolls which I didn’t want when I was a kid and wasn’t allowed to play with, or $16,000 at the age of 35, with a mortgage, a kid, and a recession bearing down on me?

I know Mom loved the dolls. I know she wouldn’t have had the fiscal will to keep that money locked up in an account when she could be buying stuff. I know that we would have spent it when I was in college (when, incidentally, $4K would have come in handy). But every time I contemplate buying something ridiculously expensive and frou-frou and useless for The Child, I remember those dolls. And I think of what I could do with $16 grand.

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