Arizona Doll & Toy Museum

There's a doll in downtown Phoenix that's older than the United States.
Her wax skin is clear and smooth, her features soft and vibrant. Her shiny blond hair is human (each follicle was applied by hand) and her white cloth dress has no tatters or stains.

The 300-year-old doll is the oldest among the extensive collection at the Arizona Doll & Toy Museum, a hidden gem housed between the Arizona Science Center and the historic Rosson House. The mostly volunteer-run museum is filled with figurines, dolls, dollhouses, and miniatures dating from the 1700s to the 1980s, and with each comes an army of stories.

In the front room of the museum, there's a display of five identical dolls, based on the Dionne Quintuplets. They were born in Ontario, Canada in 1934, long before fertility drugs, and so they were a source of wonder and advertising revenue. The dolls, made by Madame Alexander around 1938, are surrounded by merchandise and ads bearing their baby faces.

Right next to the quintuplet dolls is the Class E. Dresser Ladies Shop and Hattie's Millinery & Dry Goods Store, an incredibly detailed miniature shop formerly housed at Knott's Berry Farm in California. The two-story building is filled with figures, furniture, counters, shelves, and dozens of different hats with ornate pins and feathers. Each part was handmade around 1950 by the Mott family (founders of the Mott's Miniatures Museums).

Other highlights of the museum include several salesman samples (miniature versions of goods salesmen could carry door-to-door), like a knee-high wood stove that will really cook; the 1912 school room, where several antique dolls sit dutifully at desks; and our favorite, the "modern room."

The modern room boasts an almost entirely complete collection of Star Wars action figures from 1978, including some of the top five most valuable, like a Vinyl Cape Jawa (market value: $2,000). There are also several original G.I. Joe dolls from all over the world, and a porcelain doll of Judy Garland in a top hat.

Check them out at 602 E. Adams Street, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3. For more information, call 602-253-9337.

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