Meet the woman behind Ireland's biggest Barbie doll collection

TVBy Daragh Keany
Glenda Taylor and her collection
Glenda Taylor and her collection

IF GLENDA TAYLOR gets her way next year when she marries her fiancé Stuart, there will be a entire table at her wedding just for her favourite Barbie dolls.

Amazingly, it’s not Stuart, her family, friends or even the hotel standing in her way of inviting her dream guests to her upcoming nuptials, it is herself.

“Everyone says I should do it but I am a bit particular about my dolls; I couldn’t let anyone else set them out so I would have to take time out of my wedding day to do it, and that might not be possible,” the 31-year-old Sligo woman tells Magazine+.

When RTE told Magazine+ about Glenda Taylor taking part in their new documentary The Collectors (tonight on RTE One at 9pm), we wholeheartedly believed she was completely bonkers.

We weren’t completely wrong, as she admits herself, but she is far more normal than you would expect. “Of course I am a little bonkers,” she says, almost with pride. “I have 650 dolls at home and I want to bring them to my wedding next year.

“But it is just a harmless hobby and everyone knows me as the Barbie lady. It has become the one thing that de­fines me. That is why when I mention to people about a table at my wedding for the dolls no one bats an eyelid.

“I don’t smoke and I drink very little. This is my thing. Yes – it is an addiction but it is controlled by the mere fact that I don’t have the money to go completely nuts. I have spent a lot of money on dolls through the years but I know what I am looking for and when they come up for sale I do everything in my power to get it.”

Jokingly she admits that her fiancé knew exactly what he was getting himself in for when he started going out with her. “I didn’t hide the addiction. I told him straight out and he was fine with it. He may not have known the full extent of my hobby then, but he does now.”

Picking her favourite is NOT like a parent choosing between her children because when I ask the Optical Assistant I get a distant and instant: “My Medusa. She is the most valuable one I have too. I bought her for £124 sterling a few years ago and I think she is just stunning.

“That was a lot of money for me to spend on one doll. There have been huge sales of collectable Barbie dolls through the years where I have spent €700-€800 at a time on dozens of dolls but my Medusa is my most valuable individual doll.”

Surely £124 is merely a drop in the ocean compared to what fans can spend on the rarest dolls in the world. “Oh you would be shocked at what people are paying. I’m only a small player in this Barbie world. Genuinely.

“There are people with over 15,000 dolls in their house. There are people who have spent up to $18,000 on a single

 doll. There are people who completely obsess about them and believe they are real people. I know I am a little bonkers but there are some really weird people out there.”

Such is Glenda’s interest in Barbie dolls that she is not interested in the “mass-produced” versions that are available in every toy shop all over the world. “They are fine for what they do but I am a collector so I am only interested in limited editions, collectables or vintage dolls.

“Everyone around me knows not to buy me Barbie dolls because I am very particular. Stuart once bought me a doll in the United States but that is it. So, I am not that easy to buy presents for. Leave the purchasing to me. It’s part of the fun.”

The Barbie-mad blonde, who will appear in tonight's documentary alongside collectors of Lego, Dinky cars, comics, porcelain dolls and Coca-Cola merchandise, continues: “Preferably they will be boxed and if they are I leave them there. I am not one to take them out and play with them or make them clothes or even mix and match the parts. They are far more valuable in their boxes and I can still enjoy them from the outside.”

Unfortunately for Taylor, the only time she gets a chance to show them off is at the annual Riverstown Vintage Show in her home town. “It’s a great chance to get them appreciated but it is hard work too.

“I would love them to be on show somewhere but I just don’t have the space for it. Maybe down the line I will but for now they are hidden away.”

The bubbly collector admits that the obsessive gene comes from her dad, who collects coins, stamps and Yeats/ Sligo memorabilia. “I was destined to do this, considering my dad’s knack for hoarding,” she says.

“There was a long period of my life when I wasn’t obsessed with them. I was a normal teenager. Then around the age of 20 I discovered eBay and I got myself a credit card and my fascination with them was kicked off again.”

So when does she stop? “I don’t know. Probably never. I still want more. I have collections that are not complete and there are always new additions so I will continue my love affair with Barbie for as long as I can and as long as those around me are happy that I do so.”

Speaking of affairs, before we let her go Magazine+ wanted to know did she ever have a fling with another branded doll? “I hate to say it, but I did. But in my defence I was very young. I had a few Cindy dolls and they were fine for a while, but they are not the same.

“It was just a fling,” she laughs. “I’ve been loyal to Barbie ever since.” :

The Collectors airs tonight on RTE One at 9.35pm