I apologize for the interruption in story time, but with everything going on in my favorite hobby right now, I figured this was a good thing to share because not a lot of people are talking about this aspect of the hobby at the moment. See, one of the most frequent comments I receive on YouTube is… “I wish I could afford a BJD.”
I don’t blame anyone who sees the price tag of these dolls and feels discouraged. That was exactly how I felt back in 2004-2005 when I first came across Volks and fell in love with the Super Dollfie line. I thought I would NEVER be able to afford my own doll, and I was so sad! But if we fast forward to now… I own EIGHT dolls, and all of them are from expensive companies–Iplehouse, Fairyland, and LatiDoll. And before you start with the “Yeah, but…” let me tell you something: I only purchased one doll while I had a job. Every other BJD I have was purchased during periods of being unemployed and having no regular or guaranteed income. Despite that, I still managed to acquire seven of these eight dolls new from legitimate companies, and the last, Rhyllyn, a doll who has been discontinued for years, as a second-hand legitimate purchase complete with COA.
It’s not easy to save money, especially when you’re not working. But the unpleasant truth of the matter is that if you’re going to make it through life, you have to learn how to properly manage money. Many people starting with BJDs are young, in their teens and early twenties. It’s a perfect time to start learning how to scrape money together and keep it put aside. I had my savings shattered by emergencies plenty of times–cars breaking down, family issues that required me to travel halfway across the country, computers quitting–and two of those things happened while I was saving for Rune, my very first BJD. It’s hard. So to try and help encourage you, I’m going to tell you how I was able to afford my first BJD, even despite unemployment and problems that drained my savings multiple times. Here we go.
First, a few tips for saving:
- Try to put a portion of something away every time you have money that isn’t immediately spoken for. If it’s even a dollar a week, you might be able to get your first BJD at the end of a year. I’m serious! I’ll tell you more about that later.
- DON’T try to funnel every penny you get into doll savings. This works for some people, but not for me. Dolls can be very expensive, and saving every penny means you aren’t putting anything aside for a crisis and you will spend months starving yourself of special treats, which makes saving feel like a punishment.
- Treat yourself sometimes. This is related to the previous point. It’s a good idea to take a small amount of money now and then to give yourself something special. A new book, a favorite dessert, a cool notebook… okay, those are the kind of splurges I like. Just try to keep it small. Even a one dollar dessert once a month can help you feel like you still love yourself, even though you’re saving.
- Split your savings, if possible. There are two reasons for this. One, it lets you keep money aside specifically for emergencies. It slows down your saving overall, but it means you’re less likely to need to pull from your doll savings. Two, it makes it easier to justify spending the money on a doll at the end if you have extra savings somewhere else!
- Don’t be upset if emergencies happen and wipe out your savings. While I was saving for Rune, I had to empty my savings once to fly from the very coast of North Carolina to St. Louis. Then I had to empty my savings again to replace my computer when my 10-year-old machine stopped working. But There’s this crazy thing about money–even when you’re absolutely destitute, you have the entire rest of your life to earn more money, and near infinite ways to do it. I’ve been so poor I had nothing left after bills–and that was when I lived in a rent-controlled apartment that only cost $220/month. You can move up and onward no matter how tight things are. See what worked before and see if you can build on it.
Now for a bit about how I earned money for my first doll.
After cost of shipping, Rune was $735. He is a very expensive doll from a very expensive company. He was my first doll and I still have him and love him most. When I started saving for my first doll, I was newly married. We had one car, which my husband needed all the time, so a job wasn’t possible. I had a computer and an internet connection, so it was time to get creative.
- I started with $22 in my wallet, which my parents had given me for my birthday. A dollar for each year of my life.
- My first bit of income came from selling used books on Amazon. I started with my college text books from the prior semester. Then I sold any valuable books I didn’t think I’d read again.
- I sold other things on Amazon, too! It was a better guarantee than eBay and had lower fees in some categories. I sold old electronics I didn’t use anymore, then hunted for bargains at the local antique/junk shop that I thought I could flip for a profit. Sometimes the profit was only a few dollars, but it made a difference.
- I broke out my craft supplies and determined things I could make. I had supplies for basic jewelry from when I was a teenager. I opened an Etsy shop and sold inexpensive jewelry.
- I found websites that offered paid surveys. Sometimes they paid no more than a quarter, but they added up. Just be careful to research them well before you start—make sure they’re legitimate.
- I took commissions. Not just for art, but for hand-sewn plushies. Making plushies required me to invest in a little fabric with the money from my savings I’d scraped together, but the first plushie sold covered the expense and it was profit from there.
- I babysat. Probably the most difficult thing on the list, if I’m being honest!
Rinse and repeat through unexpected needs, and it took me 16 months to save up enough money for my first doll. But considering I was unemployed the whole time, and had to shell out hundreds of dollars for a flight once and a computer another time, that’s not that bad. Contrary to what is a popular belief in the doll hobby—that most women who don’t work get their doll money from their husbands—my husband did not give me one cent toward the cost of my doll, because he thought they were stupid and an enormous waste of money. Fortunately, he has changed his opinion after seeing how much joy my collection brings me.
So what about my other dolls? I’ll list them all—including those I no longer have.
- My second doll, a ResinSoul Bei, was purchased with proceeds from my Etsy shop.
• Vahn (SID Claude), my third doll, was purchased while I was working.
• Firal (F65 Chloe), my fourth, was purchased with money earned from publishing my first book and from selling my ResinSoul Bei.
• Lillibelle (PukiPuki Ante), my fifth, was initially paid for by my dad—I paid him back with money earned by making doll clothing that was sold in a brick-and-mortar store.
• Lumia (Littlefee Chloe), my sixth, was purchased with money from selling doll clothing and the event head that came with Firal.
• Wren and Lark (SleepingElf Bracken and Moona), my seventh and eighth, were purchased with my birthday money. More on that in a second.
• Arrios and Laele (SID Omar and nYID Aria), my ninth and tenth, were purchased with money from book royalties, commissions, selling doll clothing, and selling Wren and Lark.
• Sophie (Mystic Kids Lillian), my eleventh, was purchased with money from Etsy.
• Rhyllyn (LatiDoll Rei Cristopher), my twelfth, was purchased with the money I got from selling Sophie.
All of these were original, legitimate dolls, either purchased second-hand from reputable collectors or directly from the doll company.
My most expensive doll is Arrios, who was over $900. My least expensive doll is a tie between my SleepingElf Bracken and Moona, who I purchased at a local doll show from a collector doing some hardcore downsizing. She wasn’t worried about money and sold them to me for $40 each.
Rune, Vahn, Firal, Lillibelle, Lumia, Arrios, and Laele were all purchased new from their respective companies. My RS Bei, Wren, Lark, Sophie, and Rhyllyn were purchased second-hand.
Purchasing legitimate dolls second-hand is a great way for people to get started in the hobby.
My ResinSoul Bei was $75, but came with extra wigs and eyes. Since they weren’t a style I wanted for that doll, I sold them, recouping $40 of what I spent. So at the end of the day, all I had invested in Bei herself was $35.
A lot of people claim that buying dolls second-hand doesn’t do anything to aid the original artists, but I don’t think that’s the case. I purchased my Bei second-hand, but it introduced me to the overall quality of ResinSoul’s dolls. While they aren’t perfect for everyone, it showed me that the company met my needs and expectations despite the lower price point. Just this month I ordered custom parts from ResinSoul because of this great experience, and I look forward to their arrival.
Many other companies, such as Iplehouse, might have a lot of dolls for sale second-hand, but they offer a lot of optional parts like hands in alternate poses, which can be very appealing to someone who already got a bargain on a preowned doll. Their dolls also have very unique bodies, which typically only fit in clothing made by Iplehouse. This means they stand to gain business even from second-hand purchases.
There’s also the fact that someone bought that doll directly from the artist in the first place, so they’ve been fairly compensated for their work for that specific doll they brought into existence. Many doll makers will also allow purchase of replacement parts for second-hand dolls, so long as the owner has a certificate of authenticity to prove it was an original, legitimate doll. If the artists themselves frowned on second-hand sale, they would offer no such thing.
If that’s the case, why didn’t I buy all my dolls second-hand?
I wanted specific dolls in specific resin colors, none of which were available second-hand when I was looking for them. And while I did see an Iplehouse Aria second-hand while I was shopping for Laele, she was on the SID body, and I wanted the nYID body. That’s the price you pay for being picky!
But if you’re patient, any doll will eventually come up on the market, even those that were extremely limited or discontinued long ago. Rhyllyn, my LatiDoll Blue Rei Cristopher, had been discontinued for the better part of a decade. I’d been watching for a couple years, but never saw him. Then one afternoon, a friend sent me a text message, letting me know one had just come up in a Facebook doll sales group. He arrived at my doorstep a week later.
I’m an artist. I support doll artists, too.
That’s why, despite the massive price tag on some of them, I only buy legitimate dolls new from the company, whenever they are available. As much as I love my dolls, they are a luxury item and if I can’t get the exact doll I want because it’s no longer available… well, those are the breaks. I want a 1969 Shelby fastback, too, but I can live without it. I can’t live without food or creating art, which is a vital piece of who I am—and neither can the artists I choose to support as they turn their passion into a career. A doll I buy from one of these small studios puts food on their tables, and it lets me feel good about having what some people consider a frivolous hobby.
And because I normally write about books, let me tell you a short true story.
Two or so years ago, a friend of mine discovered that one of her books had been stolen. While her book was only available on Amazon, someone had published it to iTunes without her consent, and it was selling at a steady pace. She’d spent years laboring over this book and was excited to finally reap the rewards. Except now some stranger had stolen that effort and put it up for sale, reaping hundreds of dollars that should have rightfully been hers.
The book was taken down after she reported it to iTunes, but the damage was already done. Hundreds of dollars had been paid out to someone who never lifted a finger in the creation process, stealing her effort and selling her work under her name without her consent—at a cheaper price than she offered it on Amazon, too, which meant many customers spent their money on the cheaper version available from iTunes instead of her version on Amazon.
I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that this situation is outrageous. Nobody deserves to have their work stolen. If you’ve ever created anything, it will probably, unfortunately, happen to you. I’ve had photos and drawings stolen. I’ve had people try to steal characters I’ve created, too. I’ve had my books pirated, robbing me of money I needed to pay my bills and crushing my hopes of ever supporting my family with my work.
But this situation isn’t unique to books, is it?
Just some food for thought.