Bonnie Jay Anderson never played with Barbie dolls growing up, but today, she's amassed a collection of over 150 dolls worth thousands of dollars.
"I started collecting the holiday Barbies," Anderson said. "I think I've been collecting over 20 years."
Anderson used to give her daughter Barbies to play with. The dolls often didn't hold up for long under her daughter's enthusiastic play style.
One day, when she was passing a Barbie display in a store, she saw one that caught her eye.
"I thought that I would love to have that doll," Anderson said. "But it was so pretty and I wanted to keep it that way, so I kept it for myself."
After her first purchase, Anderson found she had an avid passion for collecting the dolls.
Part of the reason why she loves Barbies is because she considers them a cultural icon. The dolls were first created by Ruth Handler in 1959, and over the decades, the dolls have captured every fashion trend and bit of Americana in their small plastic boxes.
Anderson has dolls that resemble fairy tale characters she loved growing up, like Snow White and Cinderella, or famous musicians she once listened to, like Elvis. Some have leather jackets and motorcycles; others dolls with poodle skirts were made in the ’50s.
"It just brought back memories from growing up," Anderson said.
Not all her dolls are the typical blond, blue-eyed Barbie. The brand has expanded to include dolls of many different ethnicities and cultures. Some of her dolls are modeled after famous Native Americans, like Sacagawea. Another doll she owns is from the Faberge Imperial Elegance Barbie collection; a porcelain work of art modeled after Russian impresses.
Anderson keeps busy with volunteer work around Aiken with groups like Habitat for Humanity and FOTAS. She also works as a child advocate for first-time juvenile offenders. But she always makes time for her hobby, and later this year she will add to her collection with a series of limited-edition Star Wars Barbies.
Part of Anderson's Barbie collection is currently on display on the second floor of the Aiken County Public Library.
"It's just been great," said Carolyn Key, a reference clerk at the library. "I see parents bringing the children up to look at it. Some of them don't even go beyond the display, they're just coming up to look at it. There's little girls and even adults just in awe of it. It's been a real drawing card."