Meet a Mega-collector of Annalee Dolls

We all collect something. Pieces of string, Pez dispensers or perhaps toxic relationships. Meet a mega-collector of Annalee Dolls, Madalyn Sprague, innocent and sweet, just like her collection. Walk into her place and be welcomed by the smell of baking cookies and the grinning faces of her dolls, all earnestly greeting you, intent on making a happy, positive impression. Each season she summons her holiday-themed, poseable troops to assemble on shelves, counters and the tables throughout her home, but Christmas is special. Joy can come from the simplest of things. Ask Sprague. Ask her friends too.

  • I have been collecting Annalee Dolls since 1992.
  • I liked the quality of the product and the fact that they were being made in New Hampshire.
  • I met Annalee Thorndike when I went on a Annalee day cruise on the M/S Mount Washington for collectors of her dolls. Her husband was also on the cruise, and they both signed a special doll for me.
  • Perhaps 400 Annalee Dolls are in my collection.
  • I have lost count.
  • They are a very good investment, but I do it because I enjoy it.
  • I buy new ones for the season and special releases. I also keep an eye out for sale items.
  • Collectibility depends on the doll’s rarity. Some are very rare and in high demand.
  • Many come in editions and have a limited number, perhaps 100 to 200.
  • Not all are on display in my house at one time. I store them by seasons in plastic containers in my basement.
  • Collecting gives me pleasure because it gives me something to check out with the new releases. There is always something fresh.
  • The faces of the Annalee Dolls are all different.
  • They look like they will come alive at some point.
  • I don’t hear them come alive at night or talking to each other ­— or me. They are, however, real easy to care for and they do not eat much. As far as getting along with each other, I do not find them bruised and on the floor after an argument.
  • They’re pretty good like that.
  • Bob, my husband, is really tolerant of my hobby and does not mind putting up with my displaying the
    collection. He’s willing to help, if need be. As I am getting along in age, I am sure that I will be slowing down on my collecting.

After their chicken farm in Meredith failed to raise enough scratch, Annalee Thorndike (left) and her husband decided to try something completely different. Annalee turned a chicken coop into a doll-making studio and began stitching and painting the small felt creatures that would become her namesake and legacy. Their business plan took hold in the 1980s, just as the country become infatuated with collectibles (remember Cabbage Patch dolls?) but Annalee (who died in 2002) chalked her success up to one thing: “It’s the ‘positive-ness’ of the face,” she said. “It’s the smile. If you smile, someone else has got to smile back.”

Categories: Guide to Holidays, Holiday decor and decorating, Q&A