With the pandemic forcing countless people to spend more time at home, Texas mom Sara Ahmed realized that her family of four needed more space. After searching and looking at several options, she fell in love with a house in Sugar Land.
"The house was dilapidated, for sure. It had not been lived in for over two years [after] the previous owner had passed away… But I just fell in love with the bones and it felt warm and fuzzy," she tells Yahoo Life.
And she came across a wonderful surprise in the attic after moving in: boxes containing not only of old love letters and military awards — but over 100 vintage, and some rare, Barbie dolls, many of which were in their original packaging.
"I was like, 'This is not the Barbies I grew up with,'" she recalls. "Then I started opening the box and uncovered more and more And I thought, 'hHw can all these Barbies be boxed? Clearly we have a collector here.'"
Ahmed, a self-described history nerd, felt compelled to do some research and found out that her home was once the Black Like Me Doll Museum, owned by the late Phyllis Hunter, who passed away in 2018. According to the original Fox 26 report, the museum housed over 600 Black Barbies and other dolls.
Amusingly, though Ahmed was beyond excited about her discovery, her two sons did not share in her jubilation, she notes.
"They were not impressed. [They were like] 'Are you still sitting there with those dolls?' And I was like, 'Look, look at this one, you guys, Oh my God. Look at her shoes.' You know, I'm sitting there acting like a 9-year-old," she says.
Some of the unique included a Barbie dressed in vintage clothing holding a See's Candies bag, a beautiful South African princess, a 1959 Barbie sporting a black-and-white bathing suit and a gorgeous dark-skinned Barbie in a flowing white dress and fierce afro.
After sharing some of the dolls on her social media, Ahmed was inundated with messages from collectors who wanted to buy them, especially the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) doll that turned out to be one of the rarest Barbies in the world.
"I have had like at least 300 DMS and emails from AKA sorority girls...and their stories are so beautiful. There's woman after woman talking about what the sorority means to them and how their grandmother was an AKA, how their mother was an AKA and they hoped her daughter will be an AKA. And they're just offering me that, like 'whatever amount you have been offered, I will double it.' Then I've had other women DM me and say, I know I won't be able to afford this because it's such a highly coveted Barbie, but please do me a favor and make sure it goes through an AKA sorority sister is not anyone else because I would love it. And this stays within the sorority. So, I mean, it's been phenomenal," Ahmed reports.
Though she admits that she is shocked by the response she has received, what is most important to her is making sure that these dolls can be appreciated like they once had been in the museum's hay day. And as a Pakistani immigrant, she feels even more of a duty to honor not only the dolls and what they represent, but the woman who felt so strongly about holding on to history to share it with others.
"I'm a first generation immigrant," Ahmed says. "So I moved here from Pakistan when I was 6 years old with my family and we didn't come with very much. So the idea having of old pictures or old keepsakes, it just was non-existent because when you're country hopping, you don't really do that, you take the few suitcases that carry your clothes and the essentials, and you don't have time for sentimental stuff. So I thought, 'look, somebody poured so much of their life passion into this, how can you not give it its importance and respect?'"
Ahmed has been in contact with Hunter's next of kin and has returned familial items left behind. She has also donated some of the Barbies that were not considered highly coveted to a local charity called Birthday Bash Box, which aims to provide children in underserved communities with toys and other items. Currently, she's in talks about donating some of the dolls to various museums.
Related: Pandemic increases demand in card collecting
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