Most little girls love to play with dolls when they are young and ditch them as they grow older for make-up and mobile phones.
But at the age of 53, Melanie Quint, has no intention of packing away her beloved toy dolls.
The mum-of-two’s obsession with Sindy has only got stronger and she’s now collected more than 200 models of the doll.
Melanie trawls eBay, Facebook marketplace and car boots in search of new figures to add to her growing haul and admits the ‘thrill of the chase’ keeps her passion going.
Melanie, who runs an internet business providing doll hair in hundreds of colours, from Lincoln, Lincolnshire, said: “I’m obsessed with my dolls.
“They make me happy. I know some people might think it’s a childish hobby, but there’s no harm in it.
“I have hundreds of them – they’re taking over the house. Luckily, my husband and kids don’t mind.”
Melanie shared her story with RealFix below…
‘And Melanie, this is for you,’ my mum, Carole, said, handing me a carefully wrapped gift.
It was Christmas Day 1976 and I was eight years old.
I ripped off the shiny paper to reveal a beautiful Sindy doll.
‘I love it, thank you!’ I squealed, hugging it to my chest.
I hadn’t owned a doll before so it was really special.
It was a beautiful doll and I was obsessed with her – I spent everyday brushing her hair and dressing her in different kinds of outfits.
Over the years I gave her lots of makeovers.
I even dyed my Sindy doll’s hair every colour under the sun with food colouring, and cut it into short, punky hairstyles.
But eventually, as all kids do, I grew out of my obsession and Sindy was carefully packed away with all my old things.
A few years later, I was working my dream job in communications and HR, living in my hometown Lincoln, Lincolnshire, and married to my lovely husband, Steve, 52.
Soon we had two sons – Noah, now 15, and Leonardo, now 13. I left my job to be a stay-at-home mum – and I loved every second.
It did mean that I was looking for ways to get a bit of extra money by selling old clothes and bits and bobs – and then one day, I had an idea.
I thought I’d have a quick look to see how much old Sindy dolls go for – I Googled doll restoration and found that it was a huge demand online.
But the thought of selling my old Sindy doll didn’t seem quite right – it was too sentimental – so I started to think about what else I could do with her.
I came across one particular doll online and noticed that it had bright purple hair.
‘That’s odd,’ I thought.
I remembered that Sindy dolls were only sold with natural-looking hair, and so decided to look into it.
If I was going to do anything with my old doll, I would need to do something about her hair – it was cropped short and painted bright blue.
I came across somebody selling doll hair online, and decided to buy some and restore my doll myself.
It was so much fun and instantly became a new hobby.
My collection seemed to grow almost overnight – I had one doll, and then all of a sudden I had 10!
I buy them mostly from eBay and the rest from private sellers, and they can range from £15 to £400!
I had absolutely fallen in love with doll restoration – it made me feel connected to my childhood and allowed me to be creative and express myself.
One particular girl that I was in touch with, Hannah, had her own doll restoration company and she told me she was pregnant and would need to stop working for a while.
‘How about it, Melanie?’ she asked me. ‘Would you like to take over the business?’
I was shocked, but it was an amazing offer. I was already selling my restored dolls all over the country, and I had experience in business anyway…
‘Why not?’ I was so excited.
This was before the times of social media, so I spent lots of hours searching through internet forums, looking for ways to grow my business without a massive marketing budget.
I was experienced in selling and communications, so I succeeded in getting the business to be bigger and more successful, and soon we had customers all across the UK and Europe.
One day in 2009 I had an idea…
‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could all meet up to share our hobby, in person?’ I said to Stephen and he agreed.
So I decided to put together a convention – Dollycon.
I wanted to make it a fun event for everybody, so I put on a few little stalls, a lunch, and expected it just to be a one-time thing.
However, 10 years on and it’s still going strong.
We hold it in Lincoln every year and around 150 people come from across the UK and some even fly in from Europe.
The event has come a long way since 2009 – it’s very tongue in cheek, with people dressing up in costumes, dressing as their favourite Sindy dolls and just having fun.
Every year I pick a different theme and we hold competitions for costumes and doll restoration.
I had no idea that the community would grow to be so big – it’s the highlight of my year and it’s amazing being able to spend time with likeminded people.
We celebrate Sindy dolls – we recently put on the event for Sindy’s 50th anniversary, and without us, it wouldn’t have even been acknowledged.
These dolls help me return to my childhood and give me such a lovely nostalgic feeling which I love sharing with others.
Steve and my children support me in everything I do – they even come along to the convention and help out on stalls.
My mum, Carole, now 80, runs her own little stall too – so it’s a family affair.
As for my own personal collection – I have around 200 dolls that I’m planning on restoring and selling, and lots of other branded dolls too.
I think that being able to step outside of reality and feel nostalgic is worth the price I have spent on the hobby – I think my collection must be worth around £4,000.
To think that I used to customise my dolls when I was a child and I’m doing that all these years later is lovely.
And as much as I love buying and selling the dolls, there’s one that I will always keep – my original Sindy doll, who sits in pride of place.