This article was printed in the August, 1991 issue of Collectors' Showcase magazine. The Collectors' Showcase magazine is no longer in print I've been told.

A Darling New Face in the Crowd
by Bernard C. Shine

My baby-faced buddy, renowned comic toy collector Mel Birnkrant, has created a line of dolls for Galoob Toy Company called "Baby Face." Mel is one of the pioneer collectors of comic character toys. He and his wife, Eunice, have converted a three-story schoolhouse in upstate New York into a home for themselves and their unusual and unparalleled collection of rare comic character toys. Mel's 25 year passion for what he calls "inanimate objects that embody life" (that's comic toys to the rest of us) has resulted in a lifestyle that is the envy of the chosen few who have seen this unbelievable collection and environment.

In addition to being a great collector, Mel is famous in the toy industry as a leading designer. He was Creative Director for Colorforms Toys for over 20 years where he conceived, developed and created a cornucopia of products, including the fabulous Mickey Mouse and Disney Colorforms toys.

In 1985, Mel entertained a partnership with Elam, Andy and Noah Kislevitz (otherwise known as Kiscom, Inc.) Mel invented toys and Kiscom sold them to various manufacturers. Last year Mel created what I believe is destined to become his greatest product success, the Baby Face doll line. Inspired by his admiration for dolls of yesteryear, including Betty Boop and Kewpie Dolls, Mel has brought his passion for the past into the future with these Baby Face dolls.

Mel originally sculpted three Baby Face dolls and produced a music video showing the dolls in a variety of outfits and poses. Kiscom chose the Galoob Toy Company as the first prospective manufacturer to see the presentation at the 1990 New York Toy Fair. Halfway through the two-and-a-half minute tape, David Galoob, president of the toy company, said "Turn off the tape!! I'll take them!" A deal was made on the spot and as the saying goes, "The rest is history."

A few days later, Kiscom went to San Francisco for the first product planning meeting, where they were amazed to find the toy industry's most illustrious doll makers: Judy Arthur and Ross Albert. It was the Alberts who are credited with turning Xaviar Roberts' soft sculpture creations into the fabulously successful dolls the world has come to know as the Cabbage Patch Kids. The Alberts liked what they saw and agreed to join the fast-forming Baby Face team.

Meanwhile, Mel played the role of Geppeto and continued sculpting a full line of Baby Face heads. Judy Albert created remarkable outfits for these new kids on the toys shelves. The response has been truly magical. Baby Face dolls have been top sellers among many retailers here and abroad. They have even been the number one selling doll as far away as Australia and Brazil and shipments are just now arriving in Europe. There are currently 10 different Baby Face dolls, each with its own unique look and expression. Not unlike Disney's Seven Dwarfs, each Baby Face has a name reflective of the character's expression and personality.

The dolls' names are "So Surprised Suzie," "So Happy Heidi," "So Sorry Sarah," "So Shy Sherry," "So Delightful DeeDee," "So Playful Penny," "So Innocent Cynthia," "So Loving Laura," "So Sweet Sandi" and "So Funny Natalie."

All the dolls have acrylic glass eyes and "real" eyelashes and are fully jointed and completely poseable, features formerly found only in expensive collector dolls. Each is so unique that choosing ones' favorite can be a difficult, if not impossible task. Many collectors will want them all and, at about $20 each, they can have them all for less than the price of one doll artist collector doll. Furthermore, six of the 10 have also been produced in black versions. An Asian and an Hispanic doll will soon be added to the line.

But anyone who wants all of the original Baby Face dolls had better hurry. Mel has been sculpting up a storm and new dolls with new expressions will be appearing soon and as each new face appears, a familiar face will disappear. Each new doll added to the line will replace one of the original ones. Thus, even though the basic Baby Face line will remain at a total of 10 or 12 different dolls at any given time, it will also be in a constant state of change and transformation.

As the line evolves, the slowest sellers will be the first to become extinct. Therefore, in terms of collectability, they are destined to become the rarest. Even now, the assortments are weighted to offer more of the dolls that proved most popular in testing and some of the original group are already exceedingly hard to find.

Collectors often ask me what they can buy that will be a collectible in the future. I believe these Baby Face dolls would be good bets. They are well designed by a collector with a fine grasp of what gives a toy lasting appeal. Not so terribly long ago, doll collectors could have purchased the first Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch dolls. The Baby Face dolls may offer doll collectors a second chance to be the first in line for what I believe is destined to become THE collector's dolls of tomorrow.


Collectors' Showcase follow-up in the September 1991 issue...
In our August issue, Bernard C. Shine of Shine Gallery and a collectable consultant, predicted that Galoob's Baby Face dolls designed by toy collector Mel Birnkrant could well become the next "Cabbage Patch" or "Barbie" in terms of collectability. It now looks like Bernie's prediction is already coming true!!

Last month, Baby Face made a spectacular appearance in the prestigious "Toy and Hobby World Toy Hit Parade," the toy industry's monthly list of the top 20 best selling toys. Baby Face was No. 11, well ahead of Cabbage Patch, No. 16. Mattel's popular Magic Nursery was No. 13. Among the 10 products ahead of Baby Face on the list, only two (Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, No. 3 and Barbie, No. 4) were "traditional" toys. The rest were either nintendo video games or video game software.

Anyone wishing to follow Bernie's advice and acquire one or all of the original edition of Baby Face dolls should not waste any time in doing so. Mel Birnkrant has informed us that in spite of the fact that the factories are on a full 24-hour production schedule, the dolls will be in short supply by Christmas.

Impressed by Bernie's visionary powers, Collectors' Showcase asked if he would offer any more predictions. "Yes," Bernie replied, "I predict that the Sine Gallery's October 19th video catalogue mail and telephone comic toy auction will be a history making event!"