Debbie Garrett – a Tonner History of Black Doll Collecting

As our Tonner Blog circle grows we discover more and more devoted and talented doll bloggers, many of them we share with you here. One of these is Debbie Garrett who we first introduced here: Black Doll Collecting Blog – Robert Tonner Dolls of Color. When we talked with her she told us that she had been planning a blog post series on Robert Tonner dolls for a long time, and she said it was just around the corner. We suggest to you all you view this wonderful 3 part blog series. She spent a week compiling this series and it is so nice to see all the Tonner dolls together, and feel her history with them. Thank you Debbie!

Debbie Garrett Shares Tonner Black Doll History


As Debbie tell us the first two parts of her blog series – Part I and Part II are devoted mostly to collecting itself, the identification of dolls included in her first two comprehensive books, though the personal touch is definitely present as you can feel how closely she connects to their art and beauty. It is great to have the Tonner dolls of color selected out like this for easy reference and to see the detail with which she describes them. In the final part – Part III – she draws on her third book and focuses on the blogging she had done in the voice of the dolls.

Some snippets below, but definitely go and read all of them:

From Part I (read the rest here):

First dolls first, Magic Attic Keisha, initially sold by Georgetown in 1995, is my first Robert Tonner-sculpted doll.  I was and still am thoroughly impressed with the essence of little girl innocence captured by Tonner in Keisha’s three-dimensional vinyl doll form.  I especially love the texture of Keisha’s hair, which I describe as being similar to “warm combed” African American hair in an effort to loosen its natural coil.  Keisha’s Kanekalon wig achieves this effect beautifully.

Dolls often allow their owners to relive positive past events.  Keisha does this for me.  After age 10 or so, I spent countless Saturday mornings either seated in a kitchen chair near the stove as my mother “ran a warm straightening comb through my hair,” or at a beauty salon where Mrs. Idella “Dell” Weddington did this professionally.  Usually the latter occurred on an every-two-week basis.  I recall begging my mother to allow me to have my hair straightened for the first time; finally, after much resistance, she relented.   After a warm comb was “run through it,” my hair was quite similar in texture to Magic Attic Keisha’s.

From Part II (read the rest here):

The doll that would be my favorite Tonner doll for quite some time (and still is among my favorites), the lovely and very tall (22in/55.88cm) American Models Basic African American appears on page 135 in Book 2.  The doll has a striking resemblance to my late brother who coincidentally passed away in 2007, the year of her release.  I named my doll Rihanna and also featured her on pages 369 and 370 dressed in authentic American Model fashions.  A close-up image of Rihanna on page 384 in Book 2 illustrates her undeniably gorgeous face.  (Ronald I still miss you, and yes, I am still collecting dolls.)

From Part III (read the rest here):

My now most favorite Tonner doll, Antoinette Spice (I love her body, articulation, and auburn hair… oh, and her complexion is beautiful, too) blogged her experiences on pages 188-189 and again on page 271.  A portion of her page-271 entry, written on Thursday, December 17, 2009, reads:

…Debbie enjoys posing and redressing me.  I am one of her favorite doll purchases for 2009 and of all dolls by Robert Tonner, I am her absolute favorite.  That gives me great pleasure.  It’s both exciting and flattering to know I am highly favored.

With love,

Antoinette Spice

Debbie Garrett’s Books

If interested in reading more on Black Dolls, their collection, their history, their value be sure to check out Debbie’s author page where she describes all three, and their forms of availability:

The Doll Blogs, When Dolls Speak I Listen (2010) – as an ebook or limited paper.

Black Dolls A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion (2008)

The Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls (2003)


If any of our collectors have Tonner dolls of color stories to share with us, please do! If you blog about it yourself, or if you’d like to write guest article here please let us know. Just email us at


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