Sussex Barbie super fan has a collection of thousands

Giovanni Madoni has around 4,000 Barbies <i>(Image: Glenn Smart)</i>
Giovanni Madoni has around 4,000 Barbies (Image: Glenn Smart)

A Barbie super fan who has been obsessed with the toys for more than 30 years has a collection of 4,000 dolls.

Giovanni Madoni's obsession began years ago when he was a youngster living in the small town of San Giuseppe Jato near Palermo in Sicily.

"When I was a young boy I would go to the toy shop and look at the Barbies but I never had the opportunity to buy them because they were so expensive," he said.

"But I always wished to have a Barbie. Barbie was expensive, I always felt it was only for rich people."

Giovanni, 47, who lives in Felpham, near Bognor, with his husband Glenn Smart would only get to play with the dolls when he saw his cousins from Tuscany.

The Argus: Giovanni got his first Barbie doll as a teenager and has been collecting them ever since
The Argus: Giovanni got his first Barbie doll as a teenager and has been collecting them ever since

Giovanni got his first Barbie doll as a teenager and has been collecting them ever since (Image: Giovanni Madoni)

"I really enjoyed it. Then, when I was around 14, my other cousins in Sicily bought me a Barbie and Ken," he said.

"Then I started a collection. My father used to give me lira for my money box and then after a while I would have around £10 and I would go and buy a doll."

But back in the 1980s in a small town in Italy people were not very impressed with his hobby.

The Argus: Giovanni's collection of thousands of dolls in Sicily
The Argus: Giovanni's collection of thousands of dolls in Sicily

Giovanni's collection of thousands of dolls in Sicily (Image: Giovanni Madoni)

Giovanni's mother did not want him to buy the dolls.

"I would buy them and hide them my mum," he said. "One of my best friends said I could leave them with her and when my mum went out I would go and get the dolls and bring them back home.

"Sometimes I even threw them up on to the balcony if she was in to make sure she couldn’t see them. I felt a sense of shame."

But that did not deter Giovanni and after ten years of collecting he had a whopping 1,000 dolls. He had decided to move to England for a job and so the collection was moved into his mum's attic.

The Argus: Giovanni with his collection
The Argus: Giovanni with his collection

Giovanni with his collection (Image: Giovanni Madoni)

And he did not stop there. Giovanni, who works in a club, began visiting toy shops in London and continued to collect all sorts of Barbies, including designer editions from the likes of Versace and Armani.

His favourites include a Hawaiian Barbie from the 1990s which has become rare and can now fetch around £2,000.

Other valuable editions include his Queen Elizabeth II Barbie and Tina Turner Barbie.

Giovanni also scoured markets, including his local Ford Market, for the dolls.

"You can find some amazing ones, if you are very lucky vintage ones," he said. "I used to find Barbies and lots of Sindy dolls at markets. Ebay is also a great place to find them."

At their home in Canning Road,  Glenn, 65, and Giovanni, who have been together for nearly 20 years, have just 200 of Giovanni's enormous collection.

The Argus: A Cindy house and Cindy dolls
The Argus: A Cindy house and Cindy dolls

A Cindy house and Cindy dolls (Image: Giovanni Madoni)

"There just is no space," Giovanni said. "I only get to see the full collection once or twice a year."

In Felpham, they are inside a cabinet on display. Giovanni also has a Barbie house and a number of Sindy's houses.

He thinks the Barbies of today are not a patch on ones he bought in his childhood.

"I like the 1980s dolls. They have changed them a lot," he said.

"They are horrible now and the quality is much worse. Bad printing, worse accessories and poor quality."

The Argus: Giovanni Madoni is Barbie man
The Argus: Giovanni Madoni is Barbie man

Giovanni Madoni is Barbie man (Image: Glenn Smart)

Giovanni saw the Barbie Movie last year. He said: "I loved it, it was very interesting because of the contrast of the dream world where everything is perfect and everybody is happy enjoying themselves dancing and then real life is completely different.

"It made me think of my collection and it was very emotional."

After more than three decades of collecting Barbies, Giovanni still loves the dolls and his collection gives him comfort.

He said: "Barbie was always there for me, a kind of best friend. She was a constant when I was moving around a lot."