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Barbie Collector Shares The Apartment Block He Built In His Living Room For His 500 Dolls

PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

A 47-year-old Barbie superfan has built up a 500-strong collection of dolls worth £20,000 ($25,800)—even building them their own apartment in his living room.


By day, Tristan Pineiro, of Temple, central London, is a high-flying PR executive.

But once he is off the clock, the Barbie lover spends his time tending to his enormous hoard of dolls, which includes rarities like an original 'Gayle' Sindy doll worth up to £1,000 ($1,290).

Having grown up playing with Action Man figures, he was then introduced to Barbie and Sindy dolls by his glamorous grandmother Joan Wadham—and is now so attached to his collection that he even flew it to Los Angeles, California, USA, when he was working there.

Tristan, who is married to wig stylist Cayden Foxx, 35, said:

“I keep saying to myself I'm doing this as an investment—some people invest in property, I invest in dolls. But if I'm honest, I can't see myself ever selling them."
“I've built an apartment block for them across a wall in my living room, and I create different scenarios for them. Some will be at the disco or in the hairdressers—there's usually something weird going on."

Tristan's apartment in his living room (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

He continued:

“It's total escapism. I still have the first doll my grandma bought me—a brunette Sindy ballerina—and for me, she is the Queen. She's currently in the kitchen sitting on the shoulders of an Action Man. She's still my favorite."

Tristan was around five or six when he got his first set of Action Man dolls – original 1970s and 1980s figures, which he still has today.

Before long, his grandma suggested that they “needed some girlfriends," and so gifted him his first ever Sindy doll.

Tristan's collection (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

“I became obsessed. I was a bit of a strange child. I became more interested in the Sindy dolls, and then a bit later the Barbies."
“It was the age of Dynasty and Dallas with shoulder pads and big hair, so the Barbies were like the glam American cousins of the British Sindy dolls."
“As I got older, I would have them dotted around the place and then people started to buy them for me, and it became a bit of a thing."

When Tristan began to earn his own money, he would scour eBay, flea markets and car boot sales for figurines to add to his rapidly expanding collection.

Keeping an eye out for vintage and limited-edition dolls, he would also buy toy furniture and clothes, and began customizing them, using online videos to teach himself how to reroot their hair.

“If you go to a car boot sale, you can pick up some very tatty old dolls and bring them back to life by rerooting their hair."

Tristan's action men (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

Although a few are in his bedroom and others are packed away, the majority of Tristan's collection is housed in a mini apartment he built from bits of old shelves and cardboard—an ongoing project, which is on display in his living room.

Some of his most prized items are his limited-edition celebrity dolls, which include James Dean, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the artist Frida Kahlo, and one based on Wicked the Musical.

“I've got a whole bookcase of limited-edition stuff. I've got 100 vintage Action Man dolls including loads of GI Joes, 200 Sindy dolls and about 200 Barbies and Kens."

Tristan (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

He added:

“I've also got the cars, the caravans and the horses."

As well as flea markets and car boot sales, Tristan often finds dolls online, scrolling Facebook Marketplace or eBay every day.

People will often sell them as a job lot, which he will take if he spots a couple worth keeping and give the rest to his nieces, aged two and four, who are starting to get into the toys themselves.

Tristan's collection (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

“Charity shops are also great places to find them—they can be little treasure troves. I think as children get older, parents tend to stick their old toys in the attic and forget about them, then when they move or have a clear out, they take them all to the charity shop."
“I still get them for presents, too. My mum Leone Pineiro bought me a 1984 four poster bed for Sindy for Christmas just gone."
“I have far too many – probably more than I should have—but I will keep adding to it. I don't have a figure in mind of how many I want to get to."

PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT

Likening his collection to a huge train set, Tristan explained that he does not sit down and play with it when he gets in from work, but every few weeks, he will set up different scenarios for the dolls.

“It's storytelling. I invent scenes and dioramas. There's also a comforting part to it and a nostalgia, because it makes me feel close to my grandma, who died in 2007."
“She was such a fun, creative woman. She worked in the entertainment industry and loved her hair and make-up. She would sit and help me do the dolls' hair and make clothes for them. She actually taught me how to sew."

Tristan's collection (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

Unsure exactly how much the whole collection is worth, Tristan has insured it for £20,000 ($25,800), especially as some of the rarer items are worth between £600 ($775) and £1,000 ($1,290).

And when he temporarily moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago, he even had the dolls shipped out to join him.

“It took three months to get them there and unpack them, but then we moved back, and they came with us."

Tristan's apartment (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

“There are lots of collectors and limited editions out there—dolls that you wouldn't be able to get over here or that would cost a fortune to ship, so I was also able to add to the collection."

Though he has been with Cayden for seven years, Tristan joked that it is a “good job" he is no longer single, as in the past, prospective partners were put off by the dolls.

He said:

“When I meet people, they are either very scared by my collection, or they love it."

Tristan (PA REAL LIFE/COLLECT)

“When I was dating, some people would say it was the most incredible thing they had ever seen, and some would not be there for too long."
“Even Cayden thought I was a bit weird, but he is used to it now. He even uses his professional expertise to help style their hair."
“I think you're never too old to play—it helps you escape and helps your creativity."
“I see them more as ornaments than toys—whatever other people have on their shelves, I have dolls instead."