‘Doll Lady’ Merle Glickman, a ‘trusted expert’ who collected thousands, has died at 78

From squishy Cabbage Patch cuties to manikins made of antique porcelain, the Skokie resident appraised, repaired, bought, sold and collected dolls as old as the 18th century.

SHARE ‘Doll Lady’ Merle Glickman, a ‘trusted expert’ who collected thousands, has died at 78
Merle Glickman was a contestant on TV game shows including “Password,” “Jeopardy,” “The Who, What or Where Game,” “The $20,000 Pyramid,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Challengers.” She used her winnings to help finance her doll collecting.

Merle Glickman was a contestant on TV game shows including “Password,” “Jeopardy,” “The Who, What or Where Game,” “The $20,000 Pyramid,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The Challengers.” She used her winnings to help finance her doll collecting.

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Visitors to Merle Glickman’s home might have felt as if they were being watched — by dolls.

“Our house pretty much got consumed by the dolls,” said her daughter Elyse. “It sort of became a warehouse.”

From squishy Cabbage Patch cuties to manikins made of antique porcelain, Mrs. Glickman appraised, repaired, bought, sold and collected dolls made in the 18th century to the present day.

Known as the “Doll Lady,” she died Jan 21 after a series of health problems, according to her daughter. The longtime Skokie resident was 78.

In Mrs. Glickman’s death notice, her family said her survivors include thousands of dolls, “who will hopefully find good homes soon.”

Her collection began with Vogue, Ginny and Madame Alexander dolls, as well as dolls hand-crafted under the Works Progress Administration to help women earn money during the Great Depression.

In the 1980s and ’90s, she lectured at the Museum of Science and Industry.

“Merle Glickman was a trusted expert in the doll world,” said Kathleen McCarthy, head curator of the museum. “MSI was proud to host her truly fun and engaging lectures, such as ‘150 Years of Doll Making’ and ‘Dolls by Famous Manufacturers.’ ”

In 2010, a Denver, Pennsylvania, auction house estimated that prices might hit $3,000 to $22,000 for some of the hundreds of dolls it was then selling for her and her collector-mother Martha Cristol.

Young Merle grew up in West Rogers Park. Her father Paul was a postal carrier, and her mother was an executive secretary at Walgreen’s, according to her daughter. She went to Stone grade school and liked going to the old Riverview amusement park at Belmont and Western.

Even as a kid, “She wouldn’t take no for an answer,” her daughter said.

She said that, on a trip to the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Connecticut when her mother was about 13, “She managed to meet Katharine Hepburn, chatting up the ushers, and Katharine Hepburn gave her an autograph.”

She graduated from Senn High School in 1960 and studied at Syracuse and Northwestern universities.

As Mrs. Glickman wrote in a profile for a Senn reunion, “I graduated high school and put away my dolls. (I was too old ...). Went to college (I was too young ...). Became a secretary, then a copywriter and worked and traveled with the American Medical [Association]. Found out I wasn’t ugly. Quit my job after 5 years and sailed away alone on the Queen Mary for a year discovering Europe and the Middle East, in case life would never let me do that again.”

“She had always dreamed of going to Europe,” her daughter said. “She had a big map on her wall, and so she put pins on the map of where she wanted to visit. She had a vision for her life. She wanted to be an expatriate and travel.”

Mrs. Glickman’s travels took her to Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Scotland and Switzerland, among other places.

In the mid-’60s, she spent time in “Swinging London,” as some called the city that had become a center of cool culture thanks to an exuberant “youthquake” following the deprivations of World War II.

“She took the Tube for the first time,” her daughter said, “and she saw signs around the train station that said ‘WAY OUT.’ ” Mistaking that for ’60s slang, “She thought it was for a show or concert.”

Merle and Earl Glickman.

Merle and Earl Glickman.

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Back in Chicago, she met her future husband Earl Glickman at a Jewish mixer. They were married in 1967.

A lover of TV game shows, Mrs. Glickman appeared in the 1960s and 1970s on “Password,” “Jeopardy” and “The Who, What or Where Game,” according to her daughter, who said she also competed with celebrity partner Lynn Redgrave to win the top prize on “The $20,000 Pyramid,” hosted by Dick Clark.

“I used to think that was what she did for a living,” the daughter said.

In the 1990s, she again was a contestant on “Jeopardy” and also appeared on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and Clark’s “The Challengers.”

Mrs. Glickman used her winnings to help finance her doll collecting.

Merle Glickman, her daughter Elyse and husband Earl.

Merle Glickman, her daughter Elyse and husband Earl.

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She’d visit peoples’ homes on what she called “doll calls.” She’d inspect their collections and make offers on those that caught her eye.

She enjoyed musicals including “Auntie Mame” and “The King and I” and TV miniseries like “Roots,” “Shogun,” “The Thorn Birds” and “Rich Man, Poor Man.”

Mrs. Glickman also is survived by her son Paul. She was cremated on Jan. 28. Because of the pandemic, no memorial is planned.

As for her dolls, her daughter said: “We want to put them in good homes.”

Merle Glickman (left) and son Paul and husband Earl.

Merle Glickman (left) and son Paul and husband Earl.

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