Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Cabbage Patch kids - 30 years later and fans still go gaga

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Marcia Dewey (centre), and husband Jim (right), both of Lake Zurich, Illinois, compare Cabbage Patch Kids with Roger Moore (left) of Edmond, Oklahoma, at a collectors convention at Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids, in Cleveland, Georgia.
Eileen Cancilla, of Belmont, California, looks over a selection of Cabbage Patch Kids she is considering buying. AP PHOTOS
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CLEVELAND, Georgia (AP):Standing in a loose circle with one hand raised, a group of about five dozen adults recited an oath to be the best adoptive parents in the world. Then, when the word was given, they scrambled around the room to find the perfect baby.

Theyre collectors at Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids. And they arent after the mass-market dolls that sparked a frenzy three decades ago. Theyve come to snag a limited-edition, hand-stitched baby no one calls them dolls at Babyland General.

Nestled in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains, Babyland General looks like a Southern-style home, complete with white columns and a wide porch. Inside, Mother Cabbage sits at the base of the Magic Crystal Tree.

When the crystals at the base of the tree begin to glow and an announcement comes over the loudspeaker that Mother Cabbage is dilated, visitors gather to watch Mother Cabbage deliver a baby. A nurse gives Mother Cabbage a small dose of Imagicillin to help loosen her leaves and a large dose of tender loving care, or TLC, and then leads onlookers in breathing exercises before pulling a naked doll from the leaves.

Each baby in the limited Appalachian Christmas collection available at the recent collectors event was unique, and some people had trouble choosing.

I have to like the face, collector Wilma Arrington said. Thats the first thing I look at.

And the hairstyle, her husband, John, added.

The hair and the outfit, it has to go together, his wife agreed.

For others, its a bit more abstract.

Its the personality and the look of the baby because we come in here, and some draw us to them and some dont, said Eileen Cancilla, another collector. Its the baby that picks us out.

On this particular day, six called out to Cancilla and her husband, Bob, who travelled from northern California. At home, they have a collection of about 2,500.

And while everyone is clearly focused on getting the baby they want, theres no pushing or shoving or fighting over individual babies unlike in 1983 when production was overwhelmed by demand for the mass-produced version of the chubby-cheeked dolls and fights over the toys broke out.

Everybody respects everybody else, said Rebecca Wagner. When one person sees a baby they like, then the other person will back away.

travelled miles

Wagner has passed her love of Cabbage Patch Kids on to her 24-year-old daughter, Victoria, and the two have more than 1,000 dolls. They make the trip from Cleveland, Ohio, to Babyland General several times a year.

Collectors sometimes have a hard time explaining their passion to friends. Bob Cancilla endured a bit of teasing about his hobby before retiring several years ago from his job as a sheriffs lieutenant.

They used to laugh until they found out how the value is of the older babies, he said with a chuckle.

Newer hand-stitched babies start at about US$225, but dolls dating to before the mass-market frenzy can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

During their trip for the most recent collectors event in November, the Cancillas also picked up Bartholomew, a baby from 1978 that theyd paid for using Time Adopt, a payment plan for more expensive dolls.

But what keeps these collectors making several trips a year to Babyland General is the tight friendships theyve formed with other collectors who share their passion. The Arringtons, who also used to travel from Ohio for the seasonal collector events, now live an hour away.

The main reason we moved here is because of Babyland, John Arrington said.

And while they love all the babies in their collections, each collector has a favourite.

For Victoria Wagner, its a Blackberry Winter edition preemie from 1980, hand-signed by Cabbage Patch Kid creator Xavier Roberts, that she adopted over the summer.

Hes my oldest one and he is so tiny, she said. Thats my pride and joy right there.