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Pretty in Paper

Childhood passion for vintage paper dolls grows into business venture.

Elegant paper dolls donning feminine dresses and dapper suits remind Arlene DeJesus of the “good ol’ days.”

It’s “a step back in time-that’s for sure,” says the seller known on eBay as nutz4paperdollz, who also lists her doll collection on her own online store,

DeJesus admits she really is, as her business name suggests, “nuts for paper dolls.”

“I want to share the joys of paper dolls with the world,” DeJesus says. “I also knew there were grandmas out there who wanted to introduce grandchildren to their childhood passion of the paper doll world.”

A passion develops

DeJesus has been a fan of the colorful playthings since she was a kid, she says.

“Our mom and dad gave [me and my sisters] a dime or quarter to spend at the local five and dime after church each week,” she recalls. “There was really no decision to make. As soon as we hit the door, the beeline was right to the paper doll and coloring book stand.”

“If you want to succeed at generating extra cash or even a full- blown business, eBay’s the only way to go”

The craftsmanship and professionalism of each doll captivated DeJesus’ imagination, she says. It’s the art behind the dolls that she still loves today. “Everything, these days, is created via a PC,” she says. “With vintage paper dolls, they’re created by someone’s hand and their mind.”

DeJesus began selling the dolls on eBay 10 years ago to help generate some income after having health troubles, she notes. The seller had plenty of inventory to choose from, having collected hundreds of uncut books filled with the dolls. Today, her collection stands at about 700 uncut books featuring men, women, children and cuddly friends that can be dressed in a variety of outfits.

DeJesus tells us that the appeal of the dolls is very broad. In fact, women aren’t the only ones who collect them, or order from her.

“I have many men who are regular buyers, men from all walks of life,” she says. “One of my male buyers says he loves them for the glamour.”

The dolls seem to remind shoppers of the days when women dressed up just to go to the grocery store, she continues. “Whether during the day or out shopping, or out for an evening, the sense of style and dressing was so beguiling,” she says.

Finding the right home

DeJesus admits that she’s experimented selling on several marketplaces, but none were as good to her as eBay. That site offered plenty of buyer traffic and an easy-to-use interface.

“eBay’s a no-brainer,” she continues. “If you want to succeed at generating some extra cash or even a full-blown business, eBay’s the only way to go.”

Ease of use also drew DeJesus to, the largest third-party provider of tools for eBay sellers. The web-based service helped automate the eBay listing process, greatly reducing her workload, she says, adding that she has several hundred listings posted in her eBay store on any given day. Most of them come from her own collection, but on occasions, she also sells other collectors’ books.

“I’m always told that bringing back fun memories is worth —and does more good than—all the medicine in the world”

In fact, she notes on her website that collectors are welcome to contact her if they need to free up some space in their home, or simply need to sell some of their dolls.

Emphasis on customer service

DeJesus says her sales vary throughout the year, but she finds herself plenty busy every month adding new inventory, shipping packages and marketing her business to consider herself a full-time seller. To market her business, she uses Facebook and includes fliers in all of her shipments, plus a few add-ons.

“When I get a newbie, I include a perk for being a first-time buyer,” she explains.

This add-on usually comes in the form of a coupon to encourage shoppers to stop by again, or a paper dolls postcard a buyer can cut out and enjoy, DeJesus notes.

The seller’s upfront selling terms also likely help draw in buyers, letting them know right away what they can expect when they do business with her. Above all, DeJesus aims to provide good customer experience, she notes, even in tough times.

She recently went through a rough patch when her husband, Edwin, was diagnosed with cancer. During this time, she had to slow her sales, but her customer service never wavered. And as DeJesus struggles with her own health problems, her son Dane is taking on more of her eBay business, such as handling communications and shipping, to maintain that high level of buyer satisfaction.

“I get ‘thank yous’ all the time for the goods I offer,” she says. “I’m always told that bringing back fun memories is worth—and does more good than—all the medicine in the world. I’m thankful every day that I’m so successful at online selling. I sell to regular buyers from all over the world—I even have buyers from as far away as Iceland!”

See DeJesus’ listings on eBay or visit her online store

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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