HOLIDAYS : Deals on Dolls : At this tiny Sherman Oaks shop, close to a thousand of one of America's favorite toys are jammed into a tiny space with other gifts.

When it comes to collecting things, dolls come in third in the nation, right after coins (No. 2) and stamps (No. 1), says Harold Goldman, owner of The Doll Shoppe. Once you visit this tiny little shop, you will understand why so many people are into dolls.

If you are a doll collector, chances are you already know about this place. For those of you who are not, a visit could turn you into one. Close to a thousand dolls are jammed into space that's no more than 20 by 20 feet. Add some stuffed animals and gift items and you have quite a bit of clutter, so allow yourself time to sort through it.

To your left as you enter are Precious Moments stuffed animals, many of which are limited editions and not readily available elsewhere. A wonderful white goose lists in "The Blue Book of Dolls" (Hobby House), the bible of the doll world, for $62, but the price here is $30.

Then check out the ceramic gift items. A Cookie Monster dish is $12.95 (list is $25), and a combination teapot and cup in the shape of a birdhouse is $12.95. There's a lion on a musical carousel that normally retails for about $70. The Doll Shoppe's price is $39.95.

Also in the gift-ware case, a small collection of John Hine cottages (a la David Winter's ceramic houses) are heavily discounted. The Casa de Columbo, for instance, which sells elsewhere for $99.95, is $49.95 here.

Now for the dolls, which run from $3 to $2,000, and the prices for all of which, except the most current (such as the new Holiday Barbie), are considerably less than the book: For the balletomane, Sleeping Beauty, an all-porcelain ballerina, is $129 (book $199) and Giselle on a wooden base is $149.99, compared to $199.

Opera buffs will love the series featuring characters from "Madame Butterfly," "Rigoletto" or "Carmen," with a musical jack-in-the-box playing a familiar aria from each opera. The book price is $150, but it's $89.95 here.

Some celebrity dolls were priced from $50 up to $150. I loved the Lucy doll for $79.95. The best buy in the store the day of my visit was $69.99 for Patricia Rose's Miss America doll, which lists for $195.

Former retirees Ruth and Harold Goldman say they are thoroughly enjoying the doll business that they opened a little more than two years ago. Ruth handles the repairs, and Harold enjoys negotiating purchases. It's partly due to his talent in buying that the prices here are so good.

You will see figures from Madame Alexander, Ashton-Drake, Seymour Mann, Pauline and Dynasty--all well-known in the doll world--and in almost each instance Doll Shoppe prices are at least 40% lower than the book.

After spending a good two hours in the company of The Doll Shoppe's inhabitants, one can easily understand why dolls of all ages become enamored with doll collecting.

Where to Shop

What: The Doll Shoppe.

Location: 13759 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.

Cards: Discover, MasterCard, Visa.

Call: (818) 784-3655.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life! Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life!, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311.

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