Strawberry Shortcake — not just a dessert

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Kathy Hiemstra.

Collection? Strawberry Shortcake dolls and accessories.

How did your collection begin? “It started not long after Strawberry Shortcake doll and her friends were introduced (late 1970s) and I bought new dolls for my daughter every year for her birthday. My collection is comprised of the vintage dolls and figures, not the ones that were re-issued in the ‘90s. I didn’t know it was going to turn into a collection, actually.”

What was the appeal to Strawberry Shortcake? “Well, I thought they were really cute; the strawberry smell was unique, of course. I just feel I have always had a kid’s heart … I think it’s a gift that God gave me. I’ve always been drawn to kids and probably that’s what drew me to kids’ stuff.”

Did it ever cross your mind to keep the dolls set aside instead of letting your daughter play with them? “Well, I let my daughter play with them but I always reminded her to not rip them to pieces and wreck them. I wanted her to keep them nice and, for the most part, she did.”

Where did you find many of the items in your collection? “The company that made Strawberry Shortcake (and friends) dolls and accessories had an exclusive contract with American Greetings, so they were sold at American Greetings stores. Meijer and some other stores had them, but the better and more exclusive pieces seemed to be at American Greetings.”

Hiemstra said she and her husband have traveled a bit and always enjoyed stopping in antique stores and at flea markets. She said she occasionally would find a piece under those circumstances.

How has the internet helped build your collection? “eBay is a popular website and one that I go to pretty regularly because I’ve been trying to add to the collection and complete some sets. In fact, I didn’t really start getting into the collection and making regular purchases until the last 10 or 15 years because of websites such as eBay.”

Do you have any dolls that are especially rare? “A few that, according to eBay, could probably fetch more than $100. Some of the dolls were made on a real limited basis. Berrykin, for example, is one that is sort of exclusive. Some of the rare ones have sold for over a thousand dollars on eBay but I don’t have any that are that valuable.”

What’s the most you ever paid for an item? “Well, I’m afraid to admit this in front of my husband but I think I paid upward of $40.”

Is there a piece or two that elude you? “I collect the miniatures, too, and there are about five miniature pieces that I have not gotten. Those include Café Ole, Plum Pudding and Cherry Cuddler.”

How many pieces do you own? “Between the actual dolls, the miniatures, accessories and related pieces, I’d say at least 300.”

Variations of the original 20 characters include Sweet Sleepers, miniatures, rag dolls and Berry Babies. Hiemstra also owns a Strawberry Shortcake board game, some magazines, price guides and books.

Footnotes: Hiemstra, 69, lives in Schoolcraft Township. The bulk of her collection is stored in a corner curio display and enjoyed now by her 10-year-old granddaughter. Incidentally, Hiemstra said many of the pieces still give off a faint strawberry smell.

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