The amazing array of national costume dolls in the Mix department in the January/February 2012 issue were all from the collection of Josien Buijs. Based in Amsterdam, Buijs has been collecting dolls since 1996, when she bought her first doll at a flea market (it was a Croatian doll). We tried to get her to play favorites.

Tell us about your favorite dolls.

That is the hardest question to answer! In general dolls that are dressed very authentically and have a character or expression of their own. But I can easily fall for primitive dolls as well. I have a weak spot for festival or ritual dolls, and for dolls in wedding costume because they are often so ornate.

I’m not fond of Barbie type dolls and baby or play dolls, even if they are dressed in national costume.


Buijs' overflowing cabinets.

Are all of them for sale, or are some of them so precious you can’t sell them? 

There are dolls I’d never sell, ones with a sentimental value like the large Dutch Hindeloopen doll I got as a present from my mom, who died two years ago.

Some countries have multiple dolls represented. How do you choose which ones to collect, or is your goal to get every doll you can? 

When I started to collect I got every doll I could lay my hands on. But once you learn more about the subject you also learn to be more selective. I can see the difference between cheap tourist dolls and better quality ones. I still have no clear criteria to make choices, it often is a matter of simply falling in love with a doll. The last few years I’ve been trying to get matching males and females as much as I can; male dolls are much harder to find. Since their costumes are considered less attractive than female costumes they are not as commonly made.


Male and female in Burmese wedding dress.

Do you have any holes in the collection? What dolls have you always wanted, but can’t find? 

Yes there a certain missing countries, I’m especially looking for African countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Burundi. Also Kuwait, Qatar, Greenland, Brunei, Cambodia, Belize, and small island nations.

Have you traveled a lot? Do you buy dolls online, or do you visit the countries to buy them?

I wish! Unfortunately my financial means have been limited. I find them at flea markets and in second-hand shops, and online. Sometimes I get gifts or donations. I also have swapped dolls with people from Finland, the USA, Poland, and the UK.

Buijs sells her dolls at You can also see her private collection at