Valley of the dolls: Huge Saugerties collection to be auctioned

Parts of the collection (photos by Christina Coulter)

What they don’t tell you about a collection of 2,000 dolls: the 4,000 peering glass eyes, all looking at you at once.

Saugertiesian Marguerite Singer said that before her mother, May Goodrich, passed away on March 11 at age 79, she was unaware of the sheer magnitude of her mother’s doll collection. Not just limited to shelves, the collection spans over several rooms, with entire walls covered with them. Represented in the accumulation: the entire cast of Popeye; Mr. Magoo, surrounded by a posse of Shirley Temple dolls; dolls dressed and painted in the likeness of geishas, alongside those representing Latin American cultures and dozens of other ethnically-themed dolls (Goodrich had apparently only traveled as far as the Carolinas in her lifetime). There’s a whole corner of small brides, adorned in snow-white dresses; dolls in the likeness of James Brown, Donald Trump and Bender of Futurama fame, as well as dolls made of atypical materials, like papier-mâché.

The collection is complemented by baseball cards, CDs, toys and costume jewelry. Singer said she was relieved that her mother didn’t have access to a computer and thus auction sites like eBay, so she was limited to estate sales and antique shops. The only things that Singer has wrested from the mass to keep for herself: an Elvis doll and jewelry that she suspects her mother bought for her and forgot to gift.


“I think she was trapped,” said Singer of her mother. “You couldn’t let go of it because it was worth something, but you couldn’t move around because of all of the stuff.”

Singer said that she wasn’t quite sure why her mother collected dolls in particular, or to the degree that she did, only that she may have thought they’d ultimately be worth something. “That would’ve been a really good question, to ask why. I just assumed she liked them a lot.”

Currently, the home is in a bit of a state of disarray as the Singers attempt to organize the clutter; however, Singer said, her mother was passionate about maintaining a clean home. A professional clothing presser by trade, Goodrich was employed with the former Miranda’s Dress Factory in Saugerties. Singer said that her mother was “some dresser,” and had over 80 pairs of shoes and a passion for color-coordinated outfits. A hard worker, Goodrich mowed all of her neighbors’ lawns along with her own before her health began to decline. Singer recalled her mother’s knack for getting a good deal, recalling an instance where she managed to exchange a 10-year-old vacuum for one that was brand new.

Singer, who feels that life is “too short to spend on eBay,” called in professionals early in the process. Jonathan Bartone of Access Estate Sales fears that his team “may hit a wall selling dolls” at an estate sale, scheduled for June 20 through June 22.

“Things, especially dolls, they aren’t worth as much as they used to be,” said Bartone. “A lot of people who used to collect that stuff aren’t really collecting it anymore. People who collect them are passing on, and their collections are available on the market. The younger generation just doesn’t have $800 [to spend on] a doll.”

Bartone predicted that “every doll collector in the capital region” would be in attendance. Employees of the estate company have already brought a spate of tables to the home — how the doll aggregate will be displayed remains to be seen.

Holding an estate sale for an extreme collector is, apparently, not for the faint of heart. Singer and Bartone offered advice for who inherit a mass of objects from a relative.

“I borrowed an estate book from the library and I wish I had gotten that beforehand,” said Singer. “There’s so much to know about how to process stuff.”

Given the opportunity to go through the process again, Singer said she would have pursued a “life estate” — a way to organize an estate so that, upon one owner’s death, the property will transfer to another named person — for her mother’s home and belongings. She also wishes that she had sought out power of attorney when her mother’s health began to decline, and started the probate process (the act of gathering a deceased person’s belongings, paying outstanding taxes and debts and distributing the estate to inheritors) earlier. 

“A lot of people, a lot of times they get overwhelmed and they don’t know what to do,” said Bartone. “Sometimes people panic and start giving stuff away and start picking at it little by little. Next thing you know it will be two or three years since the person has passed away, and you have the house that you have to pay bills on. Eventually they end up calling someone like me. The best way to handle it is to call someone like me or someone who runs an auction service in the beginning and let us come over — it’s what we do. They’re making it a lot harder on themselves than they have to. A lot of people don’t realize that there are companies like us that handle entire estates. You wouldn’t believe how many people that we meet that have never heard of an estate sale before.”