This article by member Sandy P. was published in The Weekly Villager on February 6, 2013
One of my favorite holiday dolls to decorate with is Byers Choice. I’m not sure if it’s just the dolls or if it’s the story behind the dolls. I believe it is the combination because they are quite special on both counts.
Byers Choice holiday dolls started in the late 1960’s when Joyce Byer, an amateur artist with a degree in fashion design, was disappointed with what she was seeing in the stores: aluminum tinsel trees with garish blue lights. She longed for holiday decorations with the warmth that showed respect for timeless traditions and her own memories of Christmas.
“ A scrap of fabric, part of my mother’s old fur coat, some hair from the kids, a coat hanger, some plaster and paint. The first ones were made with simple things that I had around the house. I dressed them in plaids and made them cheerfully singing because that reminded me of Christmas.” Joyce spoke of her memories of the first carolers (dolls) that she and her husband and sons created in the late 1960’s.
These wonderful creations have continued to delight many collectors all over the country and the world since that time. Her husband saw a real potential in the business after a downturn in the economy slowed his construction business down. In 1978 the couple hired their first employee. Their two sons have since gone through college and joined the company in overseeing and designing the carolers for the collectors all over the world to enjoy.
Byers Choice Carolers have grown beyond a Christmas decoration created on their dining room table to all-inclusive holiday decorative dolls or carolers, I prefer to call them dolls because they are truly a wonderful fit with my character dolls. Each doll is handmade and just a tad different than the other.
I, for one, am very thankful that Joyce’s neighbor recommended that she take her carolers to a local store way back then to sell them. They have delighted many of us for all of these years and with each new holiday we welcome them as we look forward to their new designs. My home is happy to host these dolls for many different holidays, including my favorites: Christmas and the 4th of July. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and many more are also provided to help us celebrate as the year goes by. Always with their open-mouth design, they come in adult as well as child size. The clothing and accessories on each help separate them in a very distinctive way for each holiday while maintaining that same cheerful, innocent face of a time gone by.
Still hand -crafted in Pennsylvania by the family-owned company, they now come from a team of 80 artisans creating their simple but very special designs. They are sold in 100’s of retail venues all over the country and the world. Many gift shops, high-end department stores, doll shops and, of course, sites on the internet sell them from one holiday to the next. I have even found them at Cracker Barrel, of all places. Priced from $59 all the way into the $100’s for some more limited pieces, they offer an affordable way for the collector that wants an American-made special hand crafted doll or character figure to have one. Their distinctive faces and quality of fabrics and accessories set them apart from many than have tried to duplicate them.
It is with great pleasure as each season changes and we start looking forward to the next holiday that I start thinking of preparing my decorations and reach into the curio for that little caroling doll that will once again take the lead with my character dolls and start the celebrating. Especially when winter begins to get long here in Northeast Ohio, as it tends to do for me about February, I look forward to something to freshen up my décor a little as well as lift my spirits as I look forward to spring. These dolls do this for me time after time and I, along with many others, continue to enjoy these wonderful little carolers that started as a hobby in a family home in Pennsylvania in the late 1960’s.