Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Interview with Pookigram

  Interview with a Collector - A ggsdolls blog Series

A monthly series on my blog where I feature some of the most amazing collectors, sellers, and content creators that have become really good friends of mine and what they collect and why? Read on to learn more...

    For the month of May, my blog interview is with a handsome and truly kind, longtime friend and collector of vintage Japanese Moncchichi's, Pookigram on Instagram, also known as Gabe!

Gabe is Mexican born and raised, and is now living in The Netherlands for well over a decade. He was born in 1980 which makes him 42 years old this year. He is a "Stay-At-Home" partner and sells items from his vintage collection from time to time. You can find him on Etsy, Instagram and Youtube.

How did you discover vintage kitsch? In all honesty it is not like I started looking for “vintage”, or “Kitsch”. I simply buy the things I like and that I grew up with. But as the time goes by, more of my stuff is becoming vintage.

I was the third of 4 siblings, so a lot of my toys were 'hand-me-downs' from my older sister and brother which also contributed to me growing up with toys that were older than I was. Then my childhood occurred during the 80’s which was a bit of a golden age for toys and extremely kitsch.

I mainly collect Japanese toys and dolls specially from the Showa Era, but not limited to it, kitsch ceramics (Mostly Rune Naito and Ado Mizumori, although many other types have infiltrated my collections), fashion dolls, plushies, stationary, zakka and cute and Kawaii items in general.


How do you describe your relationship with your collection?  Well my collections are ever evolving and keep me interested because they revolve around my personal likes and style. It’s not like I collect items for the sake of a name brand or completing a collection specifically. They start spontaneously by me finding something I consider really beautiful and then it seems I manifest these items into my life. Like one of the items I am the most known for collecting are "Monchhichi" dolls and that started by mere chance. One day while walking home in Amsterdam, I saw in a shop’s window a plush Monchhichi key chain and this brought me a lot of happiness and nostalgia as I grew up watching the Hanna Barbera cartoons and always longed for the dolls but they were never sold in Mexico. I remember having a similar doll made by my mom, it was a thumb sucking baby and his head and hands were a Japanese plastic kit. My mom is a very creative person, so she would always be making crafts and toys for our home and for us children. 


I couldn’t buy the key chain that day as the shop was closed and it was during a period I was living between both Mexico and The Netherlands 3 months at a time. So, I returned to Mexico obsessed with the Monchhichi and by the time I got back to Amsterdam the store had closed for good… I then discovered that Monchhichi dolls were quite popular in The Netherlands and vintage ones were fairly accessible in the second hand market. So before I knew it a collection started forming. So that’s how the Monchhichi collection started, a triggered memory that over the years turned into a huge hobby. My relationship with my collections is very sentimental and based on memories and feelings that those Showa era faces that I grew up watching in anime evoked in me and still do to this day.

What is it about the Kitsch aesthetic that distinguishes it from other eras? The expression and artistry of the faces. I think back in those days things weren’t as heavily politicized and regulated as they are now. So the toys/decor were more artistic and spontaneous in their design sometimes bordering on the bizarre (A Japanese specialty). So you come across these dolls and ceramics that would never make it into production with nowadays standards. I fully realized that times and views have changed for the better, but in the process we have also lost sight of artistic freedoms and just plain naivety. Not everything is a political statement, like those naked cherubs or Japanese depictions of other races and the Japanese physique itself. Those figures were not created out of hate or mockery to different races nor their own. 

They were naive depictions of the different kinds of people of the world, but many of them are now considered inappropriate, “hate speech”, suggestive or racist. But to those of us that grew up on the periods they come from they represent the opposite, love and curiosity for the different cultures and races of the world and a desire to get to know them and see them even if it is merely through a caricature of their physique. Back then, the world wasn’t as connected as it is today and other cultures were not accessible to people unless you were someone who traveled the world constantly. So those figures represent that innocent dream of sharing and talking to people from different cultures than yours…

That sense of innocence is what makes the vintage cute aesthetic so unique to me, it captures the feelings of that generation.

Tell me a bit about your collection, what was the first item and how it has evolved? I started collecting toys as an adult back in Mexico. When I saw a Ken doll I really liked in a market and got him, from then on I bought a few more and the collection started. I originally bought them to redress them in clothes I would make them for myself. When I told all my friends I was collecting Ken dolls many of them brought me their childhood ones as presents. But it didn’t stop there, my friends started bringing me also all sorts of 80’s iconic toys for my “toy collection” and before I knew it I was collecting Carebears, Jem, Rainbow Brite, MLP’s, etc. 

This was a few years before I decided to move to Europe, so when I finally made the move overseas I had to leave most of my original toy collection behind and only took very strongly sentimental pieces with me. I always intended to go back for the rest eventually but never did. So after moving the Monchhichi incident happened and Monchhichi became my main collection focus for a long time and in order to make dioramas for my Monchhichi photography. I also started getting miniature items and furniture that would have a scale that worked well with my dolls, Barbie playsets and ReMent are the perfect scale. 

But a large part of the items I began collecting were random finds from markets and thrift stores. I am always looking for miniature items that evoke nostalgia in me and would work for my dioramas. The majority are 1/6 scale, but I also have toys in different scales. So I end up buying things in all sizes. I have gotten to a point where I have to store big parts of my collections in boxes because with my limited space not everything can be on display. So sometimes to help with space and procuring funds to get items I really want I resort to selling pieces from my collections online.

What has been the reaction of your family, friends and colleagues on your hobby? Everyone was always positive about it and they all have helped me immensely in finding items for my collection. My family and friends in Mexico only experienced me collecting vintage toys though, the ceramics and decor has been a later phase in my collecting that started in Europe. My mom is someone who always helped me by surprising me often with toys she would buy for me because she saw them and thought they would go perfect with my collection. My friends as I mentioned earlier, brought me pieces from their own childhoods constantly and would gift me random items I mentioned I was looking for.

I have learned that for many adult toy collectors there seems to be a shame and sense of secrecy tied to their collecting. It was eye opening to me to realize how supported and lucky I was within my social circles where everyone bragged about me and my “fun toy collecting”. I think part of it came from me discussing it openly whenever it came into light, so it cleared any misconceptions people could have from the get go…

Tell me about your favorite item in your collection and why is it so special? It is quite hard to pin point a favorite Item from all what I collect. But one of my most cherished Monchhichi dolls is “Frankie” a Monchhichi I found in a market that had been stabbed in the plush in several places. It made me so sad to see such a sweet doll being abused like that so I bought him and mended all the holes and re-stuffed his body and dressed in him in an outfit with the words “good friend” printed on his shirt. He’s one I am very attached too. I named him Frankie because he has a zillion stitches all over his little body… 

Another big favorite is my Peter Playpal doll “Pietertje”. He was an inheritance from a dear friend that passed away and considered him a faithful companion. Pietertje sat in his dining room for many years and now lives in my toy room. So whenever I miss my friend Gerard, I hug and talk to Pieterje about him and how happy he made us both, when he was alive. I have many dolls I love for their beauty and rarity, but the ones that I cherish the most are ones tied to my life emotionally.

You run a shop, how and when did that start and what has been your experience?

I started first listing some of my repeated pieces on a local sales website to regain some space and also to earn some extra money, overtime. I started to come across really collectable items that I not necessarily collected myself but were at amazing deals. So when the opportunity presents itself I also buy items that I know I can sell for a profit. This however mostly backfires, because then I start getting attached and have a hard time letting go and a new collection starts…  Eventually, I also started selling and listing items on Etsy where I also buy pieces for my personal collections. From those purchases, I have made amazing friends and connections.

Have there been many surprises along the way? Ohhh yes always, both positive and negative ones. On the positive side how friendly and caring some of the customers and sellers can be as I mentioned I have gained personal friends. By purchasing online and having personal conversations with both sellers and buyers. On the negative, the amount of people that try and scam you online, it can be very upsetting and scary. So I’ve learned to always ship tracked and insured even if it takes away my competitive pricing against other sellers.

Is it sometimes hard to let go of a really good item? Totally! Many of those “resale" pieces are still with me and were the start of a new collection…

If someone had no access to the internet to see your shop, how would you describe it to them?  A curated selection of vintage nostalgia and childhood memorabilia from the 50’s forward…

How do you source items for your shop and what do you look for? 

I source mostly from thrift shops and flea markets all over Europe. I had the fortune of being able to constantly be in different cities and countries as I live in a small but very well connected country. This allows me to be in different cities or provinces every week and traveling to neighboring countries on weekends and holidays. So I am always visiting antique markets, thrift shops and second hand shops all over the place, Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, Berlin, Amsterdam. The Dutch provinces is where I mainly shop, but every time I go to a new country the thrift shops and markets are the first places I go to. I also buy online and have a network of good friends in the hobby that have helped me immensely to get grail pieces. Without their kindness and expertise I would have never come across. One big example is the person authoring this interview, Gigi from GG’s doll shop (ggsdollshop) on Etsy is a close friend and she has helped me find some of my rarest most cherished dolls. It really helps to have a kindred spirit that also sells to find just the perfect piece sometimes!


On pieces I sell, I try to usually have them new in unopened box or packaging to avoid dramas and if there are any flaws on something I list. I am very thorough in expressing it and showing the flaws to avoid disappointments or confusions. Honesty is the best policy in my opinion, specially with vintage online sales.

Describe some of your best selling items in your shop or an item that would sell right away as soon as you listed it?

In my experience 60’s and MOD dolls are always a big hit, I should know as I have a big weakness for them. Also Japanese exclusive items are fast sellers as well. But, most importantly is the condition of an item. The better the condition the faster and better it sells. Damaged pieces do sell too, but it takes a longer time and people try to haggle.

What would be the most unique item you have come across and what would be an item that is your ultimate ISO?

Unusual would have to be a Sekiguchi Printemps doll, I once bought in a flea market for 2 Euros! She was lying on the ground amongst several other similar scale porcelain dolls all dirty and tangled. But I recognized that haunting beauty right away and couldn’t believe my luck. Similarly, I have found some really rare and obscure dolls from Japan in the most unexpected places being sold as junk along with McDonald’s toys and dime store knickknacks! Thrifting is such a thrill and you truly never know what will land on your hands when you dig in a dirty box of toys in a market or thrift shop!


An item I am constantly dreaming of finding would be the awake "Memole" doll from Bandai (Tongari Boshi no Memoru). I was lucky to purchase the sleeping version of the doll precisely from YOU, Gigi! (ggsdollshop). She’s something I feel I wouldn’t have come across in my hunts. Also, any of those early Monchhichi animal variations made for "Endo" chain department stores in Northern Japan. Those are something I always dream of finding, but haven’t ever come across physically, only buying them online. In general, vintage Sekiguchi dolls from the Showa Era are one of my big weaknesses as they invoke my childhood memories and dreams. They just make me so happy!



 Have you noticed an increase in popularity for vintage kitsch, why do you think that is so?  


Totally, not only for kitsch but also toys in general! I strongly believe it has to do mainly with social media and the exposure people have nowadays to the collections of others. We’ve seen it happen with Flickr and the boost that it gave to the toy/kitsch collecting hobby in general and how the story is repeating itself now on Instagram and TikTok on a much bigger scale. People who otherwise wouldn’t know about certain items or aesthetics are being exposed to them on social media and falling in love with the styles and items from yesteryear’s and also emulating their favorite collectors. 


Because it also has come to light in many cases like celebrities are also kitsch and toy collectors, Melanie Martinez and Sophie Ellis Bextor come to mind. They both collect Rushton plush, Blythe and Cheburashka respectively and since they have shown their collections I’ve noticed booms and price increases due to a much higher demand. So much so that Rushton plushes are practically inaccessible nowadays when just a few years ago you could still buy them for sometimes as low as $20 online even! So, as a tip to other fellow collectors I would say, If there is a vintage doll/item you’re trying to pursue as a collection it’s better to keep it offline and out of social media at least until you have acquired the pieces that you most desire and need. Because once it’s out there, the chances are you will inspire others and the demand for such item and the prices will soar out of your reach. It’s a lesson we all learned the hard way… 

Social media is a great tool and a way to find kindred spirits from all over the world, but it is also a double edged sword as it can negatively impact your collecting habits and price you out of your beloved hobby. So use it wisely and also don’t 'gate keep' people away from your collecting. Owning something beautiful or rare doesn’t make anyone better than others.

Let your motivation be sharing your collection’s beauty with others and not a bizarre superiority complex because you own something scarce or sought after. I can speak from personal experience and tell that I wouldn’t have the finer pieces of my collection if it wasn’t for the help and kindness of other collectors who started before me and gave me hints or even generously parted with some of their pieces so I could have them. Please don’t ever harass people to sell you their collections online, specially if they’re not specifically tagging them as “For sale” or “Available”. Keep in mind than it can be insulting and disturbing to be pestered to sell something, that someone has a deeper emotional connection or took years to find, just because you just discovered it and find it cool or interesting.


Collecting is like any other hobby and takes time and dedication and has a learning curve. You can’t buy your way into having an amazing collection like those you see online. Usually to get to such a level it takes years or sometimes a lifetime for the people you see online. So don’t feel pressured to own or know everything about a certain item or aesthetic. Discovering it’s secrets and getting there is 90% of the fun of collecting  and getting the actual item is the cherry on top, but what good is a sundae if it was merely a jar of cherries???


Take your time and enjoy the process and if you can help others along the way it is way more rewarding that way!


Beautifully said dear Gabe!! Thank you so much for sharing your collection and shop with us, and most especially your awesome wisdom on collecting. I truly appreciate you my dearest friend!! Sharing Gabe's collection and thoughts on collecting in general was truly a special for me, because we've known one another from way back to the early 2000s. He is definitely right, you meet some of the most amazing people through our love of collecting. Love you Gabe!!


Until next time my dear readers! Happy Collecting!


Thank you for stopping by! ~ ggsdolls


  1. Great interview and so well written. Gabe is full of knowledge on most vintage toys..

    1. Hi dear King Family, Thank you so much! It was a pleasure to interview Gabe!! Many hugs for enjoying my post, Gigi

  2. Hi Gabe and Gigi! Rita here! I enjoyed reading the story of Gabe's collecting history. and thank you Gigi for your blog.

    1. Hello dear Rita, sorry for the delay in reply. We were hit with a typhoon and didn't have any access for one month. But, you are most welcome and I am so glad you enjoyed Gabe's interview. Many hugs, Gigi