Jian Yang, a 44-year-old Singaporean man, has a massive collection of over 12,000 Barbie dolls.
He enjoys taking his dolls out to events, where he takes photos of them for his Instagram account.
"Actually, I'm still a toy collector. It just happens to be a lot of Barbies," Yang told Insider.
If you are in Singapore and you spot a man taking photos of his Barbie doll in a restaurant, don't be surprised. You may have just met Jian Yang, a Singaporean man who owns one of the world's largest collections of Barbie dolls.
"I like to bring my dolls to events and stupid things that I do, and I bring them out into public. I will cast the doll based on where I'm going," Yang told Insider. "So, for example, if I go to a Japanese restaurant, I will find the Japanese Barbie and bring her."
The 44-year-old advertising professional owns more than 12,000 dolls, and he gave Insider a tour of his home, where he houses all of them.
Yang admits, however, that he doesn't have a definitive tally of how many dolls he's bought per date, mostly because he's stopped keeping track.
"To be very honest, we stopped counting long ago. The only reason that I even know how many dolls I have is because my friend, who runs an event company, wanted to do a Guinness World Record event," Yang said.
Yang's home doesn't contain the entirety of his Barbie collection — because it won't fit. Those displayed are just part of his sprawling array of dolls. The rest of them are stored in his parents' house, in storage units, and in his office.
However, Yang insists that he's not addicted to collecting Barbies.
"I don't see it as an addiction because I think that addiction is something that you have trouble giving up," Yang said. "If I decide tomorrow I don't want anymore, I can just not buy one."
Yang added that he took a break from collecting when he lived in the Middle East for a few years. At the time, he was more interested in branded clothes, and spent his disposable income on that instead.
"So there's literally a gap in my collection from 2007 to 2011," Yang told Insider.
Yang's been in love with Barbie for years
Yang's fascination with Barbie began in 1984 when he started playing with his sister's Barbie doll.
"When you're a boy growing up, you have your Transformers, your Masters of the Universe, and your Star Wars and all your toys inside the toy box. And there was a Barbie that was in the toy box," Yang said. "It was my sister's, obviously, but it was just in the toy box."
"So all my toys played together, and my Barbie would ride my rockets and my Barbie would fly my aeroplanes, and she would go to the beach with me," Yang added.
When Yang got older, he realized the Barbie dolls resonated with him more than his action figures.
"Barbie somehow always stayed with me because I started dressing up too and buying nice clothes — DKNY, Calvin Klein. Then there was a DKNY and Calvin Klein Barbie," Yang told Insider.
"Then, I started watching old movies. 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' 'The Seven Year Itch,' that kind of thing. And there were Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn dolls. So I bought those as well," Yang said.
"So you don't realize that you've started a collection, you just realize that maybe this is a toy I've always been playing with," he continued.
When it comes to adding dolls to his collection, Yang doesn't think that there is a hard and fast rule for what makes a doll a good buy.
"I really believe that this whole thing is a personality-based thing. Because good can mean so many things right? Good can mean investment value. It can mean beauty. It can mean material uniqueness," Yang said.
"It isn't the doll, but it's the experience that the doll unlocks."
While the massive collection might be a source of envy for some Barbie enthusiasts and doll collectors, it's the experience of owning them that Yang treasures the most.
"I enjoy Instagramming my dolls. I enjoy bringing them to events. I enjoy all the tai tais coming and talking to me because I've got some stupid doll in my pocket," Yang told Insider, using the Chinese colloquial term for wealthy Asian housewives.
"To me, that's the experience. It isn't the doll, but it's the experience that the doll unlocks," Yang continued. "I've had so many rich conversations with people."
"So I brought every single one to India. I was photographing them on the streets. I was photographing them in the mountains, in the hotels, and strangers came up to me and talked to me," Yang said.
"I think that experience of India cannot be bought. Nobody has that experience of India," he added.
Brushing aside the naysayers and fending off opportunistic sellers
Needless to say, being a male Barbie doll collector does raise eyebrows. Yang told Insider that he's received the occasional gibe here and there for his collection.
"One of the biggest comments I get is, he must be rich. And I'm like well great, that's not an insult," Yang said with a laugh.
"Then, of course, the other one is, does he like girls? But I mean, look at me. When you meet me, I'm very capable of fucking a lot of women. Let's just put it that way," Yang added. "It's interesting how you can form an opinion on someone just by a picture or a story."
The box office success of the "Barbie" movie has also gotten Yang a significant amount of attention. Besides fielding multiple interview requests, Yang said he also received lots of messages from strangers trying to sell their old dolls to him.
He recounted one incident where a seller based in the US tried to sell his grandmother's vintage Barbie dolls to him — an attempt that left Yang deeply unamused.
"So somebody sent me a picture of these shit dolls in his basement. Literally, it was like a picture of his basement in the US. And there were like, 15 dolls," Yang said.
But what was surprising was when the seller said he would take $1.5 million for those dolls, and nothing less.
"I'm busy enough as it is with life and work and all that. And now I have to fend off Facebook messages and DMs on my Instagram. 'I've got a valuable vintage collection?' I'm like, 'Fuck off already,'" he added.
And it's not just Barbie
Yang ultimately doesn't really see his bevy of Barbie dolls as a collection unto itself.
To him, the dolls just happen to have an outsized role in an otherwise sprawling collection of toys.
"Honestly, if you look in this room, you'll see a lot of Legos. In my office, I've got 500 Transformers. I've got My Little Pony. I've got Polly Pocket. I've got Rainbow High dolls," Yang told Insider.
"Actually, I'm a toy collector. There just happens to be a lot of Barbies," Yang said.
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