This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on September 30, 2001.

Keeping Ken   Ken News Feature Archive


Headshot photos from the personal collection of Yvette Newsom-Jones "Mad Deboxer and Crazed Fashion Doll Collector".

As the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life".  For loose Ken doll collectors, the spice is not always present in the recipe.  

The loose Ken doll collector can be found lurking and buying from many different sources.  They will also fit into unique categories which are:

  • Doll Artist-(transformers)
  • Doll Restorer-(revivers)
  • Doll Parts Person-(destroyers)
  • NRFB Collector-(doublers)
  • Doll Fashioner-(designers or dressers)

Whichever category you fit in (or not), its not hard to realize that loose Ken doll collectors are just as important as NRFB Ken collectors.  The loose collector releases Ken from damaged or new boxes and will select him from garage sale bins, or in groups on online auctions.  The latter is an act of saving him for posterity, while adding him to an already captive audience put on display for viewing pleasure.  With Ken free from the grip of his Pink Box City (or city landfill), he is free to express himself (in whatever manner his new owner chooses).  He can also be examined, fixed, used or most importantly, played with.

The most friendly group of loose Ken doll collectors are the "Doll Fashioners", because they have Ken doll's spirit at heart.  They are also more likely to keep the doll and add it to their personal collection.  They don't want to change him or fix him, they just want to play with him.  Less talented fashioners use loose Ken dolls to showcase Vintage, Mod or current Ken Fashions.  It feels good to collect piece-by-piece a Vintage outfit and then dress a Vintage Ken doll.  And who cares if he has some hair paint missing or a cracked arm hole.

With the passion the fashioner brings, variety becomes key.  Most fashioners like to achieve interesting and different looks to their collections, which will include other male fashion dolls that are also in lots or sale bins.  Eclectic by nature, variety becomes the spice of a loose doll collection.  Probably because of his longevity, Ken becomes the "model" for other male fashion dolls.  Face it, he has the most of everything from fashion, fashion accessories and fashion patterns.  His frame becomes the base for most fashion creations.  On the flip-side, with the limited number of Ken head molds created, the loose doll collector must resource to add a different look to their collection.  This is where discount action figures or discount male fashion dolls come into play.

While many times we meet these dolls at garage sales, bargains can be found right on the store shelf or online.  Here we can find ethnic diversity as well as all shapes and sizes.  This feature will explore where you can find relatively inexpensive dolls that will still fit your 12" scale.

Big Lots/Close Outs/Toy Liquidators

Probably the most interesting place to find 12" action figures is at these types of stores for around $8-$10.  With head mold variety that rivals major toy manufacturers, you will usually find a pretty normal looking head mold sans any "grimaces" or "tough guy" appearances.  I found a complete line of "Power Team Elite" figures distributed by M & C Toy Centre LTD (Hong Kong) and made in China.  For $8, these dolls are equipped with great accessories, costuming and variety.  I found five different head molds within one series.  The hands on these dolls are not Ken fashion friendly for long sleeve shirts, but I found they could easily be removed and replaced.  In my opinion, these dolls are perfect for redressing because they are not overly built and have great flexibility.  They were the easiest to transform from "action" to "fashion".  While some of the head molds appear young, some appear older.  

The "Power Team" dolls were represented in three lines.  Two military themes (pictured above) and as Firefighters (pictured top).


For one stop loose doll shopping on the internet, look no further than Small Blue Planet.  They supply whatever you are looking for...and more.  From their website (look in the "loose" category) you can find everything from complete nude dolls, heads and hands from manufactures like 21st Century Toys, Dragon and Hasbro.  You can also find loose accessories like pants, shirts shoes and complete outfits if you sift through all the military themed items.  By far, Small Blue Planet is the best resource for providing the "bits and pieces" that loose doll collectors live for!

They also sell the best selection of popular Action Figures and a few Barbie dolls too!  

Right: (Left) 99 Walkie Talkie from the CID 'Wai Sir' Figure. (Right) 99 Pager from the Michael Chan G4 Figure. This accessory can also be found in the DML Law Patrick Boxed figure. This product is made by Dragon Models, Ltd.


Above: (Left) $2.99 Hand Cuffs with case From the CID 'Wai Sir' Figure. This accessory can also be found in the DML Law Detective Chow and NYPD Sniper Winona Boxed sets. This product is manufactured by Dragon Models LTD. (Right) $2.99  From the WWII 2nd Anniversary Rudolf Figure. This head can be used with most 12 inch action figures and has two removable cigarettes. This product is made by Dragon Models, Ltd.


Know mostly for their small scale action figures "The Corps", Lanard Toys, Inc. also makes 12" Action figures called "Ultra Corps".  You can expect to pay around $10-$13 for a complete set with one 12" doll and accessories.  The $13 set is usually more themed.   If that wasn't a good enough deal, you can go to Wal-Mart or Target and buy shop their "generic" toy isles.  Here you will find bigger sets that usually include two dolls and more accessories for $10-$15!

Below:  Two Ultra Corps head molds.

Above:  Lanard brand "complete set" Ultra Corps "Police Patrol" is one of my favorites and is $12.99 on the Small Blue Planet website.  Below:  Example of a Target store generic brand Ultra Corps set $9.99.




Soldiers Of The World

Hey, for $7 and some change, the Soldiers of the World line can't be beat for value.  Not only is there a massive variety of military themes, the costumes make these guys shine.  I was surprised to find that each doll has a coat, shirt, pants, socks, shoes and usually a hat.  Plus you get at least two accessories with each doll.  AND...a doll stand.  You will also find many different head molds...even US Presidents.  I tend to buy from the "Classic Collection" because of the variety of costuming and head molds.

Right:  SOTW British Royal Navy Captain.  This version even has an attached vest and "Pilgrim" shoes.  The detailing on the cuffs is amazing!  This outfit looks outstanding on Ken and replaces him in time to 1775.

Of course there are other action men out there.  21st Century Toys has some great carded figures for around $10, but most of their items are pricey, and we're talking "discount".  Also, one notable doll can be found in gift sets at TRU and at the Big Lots/Close Outs/Toy Liquidators stores.  He is only know as "Dad" at TRU and was unnamed at Big Lots but was part of a "Steffi Love" gift set with the kids again.  Both gift sets were $10.  He was only available in blonde at TRU, but blonde, brunette and African American versions were found at Big Lots.  He can also be found abroad as "Kevin", Steffi Love's boyfriend in a box of his own.

One foreseeable drawback will be the immense amount of military theme accessories you will eventually accumulate.  I sell mine in lots on eBay, or offer them to true action figure collectors for free.  It's a small price to pay for the rest of the things you can use like socks, shoes, pants, bags shirts and furnishings.  

Above:  TRU "Real Friends" gift set with "Kevin", Steffi Love's boyfriend.
For a little dough it's fun to explore the discount action figure isles in your favorite store or online.  They add another face to your collection.  Until Ken gets some new male friends you can create new friends of your own in dioramas and displays.  In retrospect, half the fun of having dolls is playing with them anyway.  Now get out there and try "fashioning" a Ken with bits and pieces.  It's fun and doesn't dip to far into your annual "Ken" fund.