Pat and Joe Prosey, the owners of the largest Cabbage Patch Kids collection in the world, have decided to sell their dolls. They are asking for $360,000 for the whole thing.
I met Pat and Joe earlier this year when I went to their house in Maryland to film them for a VICE documentary about how Xavier Roberts, the "creator" of Cabbage Patch Kids, stole the idea for the dolls from an independent artist.
The Proseys' collection, which is housed in a private, custom-built museum they call Magic Crystal Valley, is made up of about 3,000 pieces of Cabbage Patch Kids memorabilia, as well as around 5,000 Cabbage Patch Kids dolls (though the couple refuses to call them "dolls," opting instead to call them "kids," and spelling out the "the D-Word" whenever they need to use it in their presence—like when people say "W-A-L-K" around a dog).
The cheapest of the dolls the Proseys bought was $10.99. The most expensive was $8,000. By Pat's estimate, the collection is worth substantially more than their asking price, somewhere around $900,000.
Pat and Joe's obsession with Cabbage Patch Kids has been such a priority for them that, despite owning a 6,000 square-foot building and almost $1 million worth of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and merchandise, they do not own a house. The couple live in a trailer attached to their museum.
Their collection has made them (sort of) globally famous. In addition to the documentary they did with VICE, Pat and Joe have been featured on TLC's My Crazy Obsession, Anderson Cooper's talk show, and VH1's Totally Obsessed, amongst others.
I called Pat late last week to ask her about the sale. When she answered the phone, she sounded deflated—a far cry from the upbeat Cabbage Patch lunatic I'd filmed a few months previously. She told me that she and her husband didn't want to sell their collection, but felt they had to so they could move to California to be closer to their grandchildren. "It was a very tough decision to make," she said. "Other things in life take a higher precedence now, I guess."
Because property costs are substantially higher in California than in Maryland, the Proseys were unable to find a place there with enough room to house their collection, unless they were willing to box the dolls up and put them into storage. Which, Pat said, was something she would "not be a big fan of."
In addition to the difficulty she and Joe will have letting go of their collection, Pat said that the greater community of Cabbage Patch Kids fans will also mourn the closing of their museum. "I've gotten quite a few emails, there's people who haven't come to the museum that are regretting not coming, and more people that have been here and wanna come again, they just…" Pat trailed off. "It's not gonna be the same anymore without the Proseys' museum."
While filming the Proseys, it became clear that they were not as insane as they appeared on television. Before traveling to Maryland for the documentary, the couple told me over the phone that they would be willing to act however we'd like them to for the piece. In previous media appearances, they explained, they'd done things to seem crazier for the cameras, at the insistence of producers—like the time they appeared on a television show pretending to have raised a Cabbage Patch Kid named Kevin as though he were an actual child (something they assured me was not actually true).
I got the impression that the Proseys were willing to play up their craziness because it gave them control over it. By pretending to be weirder than they are, they were able to get in on the joke. Which is not to say they're not crazy. They're definitely spend-$1 million-on-dolls crazy. Just not raise-a-doll-as-though-it's-a-real-child crazy.
The reality of Pat and Joe is much more boring. They're just a normal couple who are really into their hobby. Like many people with an extreme obsession, whether it's sports, or celebrities, or games, the Proseys' obsession with Cabbage Patch Kids seemed to be more about the friendships and experiences they've had as a result of their collection, rather than the actual objects themselves.
"We have met so many nice people," Pat told me. "We have met and kept them as friends over the years that we still talk to. We just came back from West Virginia and spent a weekend with some Cabbage Patch friends of ours."
The decision to ditch their collection is perhaps made slightly easier by the fact that, in recent years, the Proseys have become disillusioned with Original Appalachian Artworks, the company that makes Cabbage Patch Kids.
The cracks in their love for the company and its products first started to appear in 2012, when the Proseys ran out of room for their collection, and decided against building an extension to their museum (which they'd already extended a few years earlier). Worried that they wouldn't be able to resist the temptation of buying more "kids," Pat and Joe decided against going to the annual collector's meetup that Original Appalachian Artworks holds in Georgia. It was the first time in 20 years that they hadn't attended the meet-up. It was also the first year they hadn't paid their annual dues for membership to the Cabbage Patch Kids Collectors Club.
Because she and Joe had been such a huge part of the Cabbage Patch Kids scene, Pat said she expected to hear from someone at Original Appalachian Artworks asking about their absence. That, she said, didn't happen. "When we stopped going to conventions and didn't pay our dues, no one in that organization acknowledged that we weren't even a part of Cabbage Patch. No phone call, no email, no nothing. It was like we didn't exist."
Pat felt that, because she wasn't giving Original Appalachian Artworks any more money, the company no longer cared about her. People at the company who she had previously been in regular contact with completely cut off all contact, she told me. "I think they care more about the bottom dollar than they do the collector."
Pat said that, to this day, she hasn't heard from anyone at Original Appalachian Artworks—a silence she finds especially bothersome, given how much free publicity she and Joe have given the company on TV and in print over the years.
"That was 30 years of our life just about," she said.
She also felt that the company's founder, Xavier Roberts, had stopped giving the collectors the respect they deserve. "When I first started going to the conventions down in Georgia, Xavier would be there for every convention, but now he's not part of the convention anymore," she said. "I don't think he showed up at all this year or last year. I could be wrong, but, y'know, it's a one time event they have down in Georgia and you would think he would wanna be there with his collectors at least one day out of the year… that's kinda disheartening."
It's hard to imagine who would buy the Proseys' collection. I asked Pat if she would be willing to come down on the price if it meant keeping the dolls together, and she told me that's the exact reason the collection is listed at such a reduced price already. "We didn't get into this to make money," she said. "We're trying to price it at a price where somebody might be able to take it and do what we did."
"I'm trying to get someone to take the collection and open up a museum sort of like we did. It's the most iconic toy of the 80s, I mean, so…" she added, before trailing off.
The Cabbage Patch Kids fans who do still exist seem to be slowly disappearing. While filming with the Proseys, I spent some time in a trailer on their property that they've packed with hundreds of other Cabbage Patch Kids (which you can see in the photo above) that had been given to them either by collectors who had been forced to get rid of their dolls when moving into nursing homes, or by the surviving partners of collectors who had died. It was, without question, the saddest trailer in the state of Maryland.
Young people aren't exactly flocking to become collectors, either. Though Original Appalachian Artworks still produces Cabbage Patch Kids products, the dolls haven't managed to capture the hearts of children in the way they did during the 80s and 90s. As I write this, the official Cabbage Patch Kids Twitter account has 1,897 followers.
Over the years, Pat and Joe have hosted a lot of events for Cabbage Patch collectors at the museum. But Pat said she doesn't think she has it in her to host a farewell event. "I'm not sure I'm up to that," she told me. "I know it sounds silly, but I've put so much into this collection, and it's so hard to let it go."
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