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After two decades of the Superstar face mold, platinum blonde hair and legs that wouldn't bend like they used to, Barbie doll collectors were ready for something different. Declining quality and mass overproduction of everyone's number one plastic princess were making collectors look beyond Mattel for asolution. Then a brand new girl entered the market.

Her name was Candi, and she was a Godsend to 11 1/2 inch fashion doll addicts whose eyes had been seared too long by the glare of "Barbie Pink." Candi had long, gorgeous hair that could be curled with a curling iron, individually molded fingers, molded clavicle, and a bust that was... well, far more generous than Barbie's ever was. Candi could sit with her legs crossed, came in a rainbow of colors, and if that wasn't enough for you, herfacepaint was designed by beloved doll artist and collector MiKelman.

Candi, originally the creation of Helena Hamilton, was first issued only in an African American version. Later came the three "popularly priced" dolls, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian. Fifteen limited edition Candi Couture fashions soon followed and the line seemed to expand by leaps and bounds.  Collectors were offered a variety of dolls, outfits, facial screenings, head molds, hair colors and skin tones. Unlike her pink counterpart, whose edition sizes often run unchecked, Candi dolls and fashions were generally limited to only a few hundred each, protecting investments and assuring a higher level of quality.

Collectors were delighted with this new doll, but Candi had some dirty little secrets. Fashions often arrived with loose threads, and occasionally fell apart, leaving the collector with no recourse against dealers with "no returns, no exceptions" policies. Shoes that supposedly were the best in the industry split if they would even stay on the doll at all. Candi stained easily, and leaving those fabulous legs bent more than three clicks for an extended period of time caused the vinyl to split. Candi dealers quickly issued warnings about these hazards, offering tips to customers like "boil on the shoes" or "wrap tissue around Candi's legs to prevent stains."

Collectors swallowed the bitter pills, but that was only the beginning.  Bald patches on Candi's head made her a serious candidate for Rogaine, and hairlines were not evenly rooted on many dolls. So-called limited edition dolls were overproduced and sold as "nude baggie" Candis at a fraction of the price of a dressed doll. Production and shipping problems delayed dollsfor months, and one renegade dealer even disappeared, leaving many collectors without their deposits or their dolls. Then Paul David's Fashion Doll Warehouse and beloved artist MiKelman pulled out of the deal.

Doll artist Ken Bartram has taken over Candi's face paint and other dealers have moved in to pick up sales that Paul David has left behind, but the future still looks bleak. Delays of new dolls can last up to a year and many quality issues have not been resolved.  Rumors of personality conflicts within Hamilton Design Systeme have not helped the situation, and collectors once burned by an unscrupulous dealer are reluctant to try Candi again. With new fashion dolls appearing every year, Candi seems to be losing her flavor.

Maybe it's time to go on a diet.