I have collected many dolls from various sources, but I do not think of myself as a collector. To me, a collector is a person mostly concerned with the acquisition of things, amassing a comprehensive array of stuff in a certain category. Collectors may display some of their stuff, but, in my mind, they are less interested in the objects themselves than they are the very fact of owning the objects. Having a complete set of something or a rare exemplar of something provides more satisfaction to collectors than the actual objects themselves. In fact, the objects themselves are immaterial; for example, people may collect experiences, less for the experiences themselves than for the thrill of pursuit and the sense of accomplishment derived from creating a complete set of something.
I do collect things, but not dolls. For me, dolls aren’t just physical objects, but confluences of several of my interests, talents and hobbies. They are kind of like lenses that allow me to focus my skills in writing, photography, set construction, painting, figure customization, sewing [?!], etc. I have a lot of them because I have a lot of characters. I’m not collecting a full set; I’m making a cast so I can play with them.
In contrast to a collector of dolls, I would call myself a user of dolls, in the same way that collectors of computers may be contrasted to users of computers. While collectors may fetishize completeness and the concept of certain objects, users fetishize interactivity. They debox; they customize; they pose; they photograph their dolls. They use them as dressmakers’ dummies, stress relief, story characters, construction experiments, etc. They may have lots of dolls, but they don’t think that they have collections; instead, they think of their dolls as works in progress. They can always develop a character’s personality or find a better outfit or repaint or re-pose…. To an untrained observer, a doll user looks pretty much like a doll collector, when, in actuality, the doll collector’s dolls don’t move, while the doll user’s dolls are constantly fidgeting.