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Made In Chicago: Collectibles From The Bradford Group

Bradford Exchange

The Web site for the Bradford Exchange collectibles company. (Credit: The Bradford Exchange)

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NILES, Ill. (WBBM) – Before dawn on the morning of the royal wedding in London, the creative team of the Ashton-Drake Galleries gathered in their Niles headquarters – not as idle observers, but to get out their Kate Middleton bridal doll.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, for more than 40 years, the Bradford Exchange, an international company headquartered at 9333 N. Milwaukee Ave. across from the Golf Mill Mall in Niles – and its Ashton-Drake doll-making division – have been turning out commemorative dolls, coins, plates and other collectibles.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Regine Schlesinger reports

Product development director Deb Kobak says rarely has the company faced such a challenge – getting the Kate Middleton bridal doll to market within five hours from their first glimpse of her gown as she entered Westminster Abbey.

“We started with the doll that we had sculpted by a celebrity sculptor so we could get the likeness correct in the face. We knew what she looked like in the hair. It was a little bit of a challenge, because we didn’t know if she was going to wear the hair up or the hair down, so we have it down, and thank goodness she decided to do that for us,” Kobak said.

Vice president Leslie Joyce says the market for collectibles has been growing explosively. She says the Bradford Group makes everything from copies of famous jewelry to a replica of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup.

Who is buying all these things? Kobak says it’s not just investors hoping to cash in someday.

“First and foremost, you have to fall in love with the product. So when they look at a bride doll or they look at a baby doll, you have to fall in love with the face; with the outfit, and generally what the customers have told us is that because it reminds them of somebody – it may remind them of their granddaughter or their daughter,” Kobak said, “or for something like Kate, it’s just as Leslie was saying – it’s the fairy tale.”

For more on the Bradford Exchange, click here.