There are collectible Barbie dolls clubs, conventions, magazines, newsletters and Internet sites all devoted solely to sharing the love and fascination of Barbie. Today, the dolls are sold in more than 140 countries around the world and have become a staple in the American household.
Through the 70s and most of the 80s, play line Barbie and vintage Barbies were popular, as well as foreign Barbies. In 1986, the first porcelain Barbie was produced. This is said by some to mark the beginning of modern collectible Barbie dolls, however, most collectors believe that collectible Barbie dolls really took the market in 1988 with the introduction of the Happy Holiday series.
Few of the first Happy Holidays Barbies were produced, but became popular with many collectors looking for something new. The market for collectible Barbie dolls continued to increase as it became popular for adults to purchase Barbie dolls for the sole purpose of collecting with no intention of the dolls being used as toys. Mattel began to introduce new special edition and limited edition Barbies that follow the fashions and trends of teenagers, while at the same time appealing to the adult market by sporting fashions from designers such as Bob Mackie and Vera Wang.
The 1994 release of the 35th anniversary – vintage reproduction collectible Barbie dolls brought many new collectors. From this point on, modern any collectible Barbie was in high demand and began to be considered a “good investment.” Collectors had closets full of Barbies with the hopes of putting their kids through college.
The more modern collectibles market actually began to wane after auction sites such as eBay created a very “liquid” market by making and most dolls started to sell for less than retail on the secondary market. Even avid Barbie collectors began to lose interest in their once treasured dolls.
Advisory groups were formed and Barbie doll collectors were brought in to complete marketing questionnaires. Mattel began to focus again on the quality of the dolls, they started to manufacture new doll series and improved the play line dolls. High fashion Barbies increased interest even more and Barbie began to regain her prominence in the collectible markets.
Barbie continues to fill the hearts of collectors around the world with her perfectly shaped body and array of fashionable designs, and as always, she looks perfectly stunning!
No one could argue the fact that vintage Barbies are holding their own as one of the hottest areas of toy collecting on today’s market. Barbie was first introduced in 1959, and since then her face has changed three times. Her hair has been restyled over and over, she’s been blond and brunette, and it’s varied in length from above her shoulders to the tips of her toe She’s worn high fashion designer clothing and pedal pushers. She’s been everything from an astronaut to a veterinarian, and no matter what her changing lifestyle required, MatteI (her ‘maker’) has provided it for her.
Though even Barbie items from recent years are bought and sold with fervor, those made before 1970 are the most sought: after. You’ll need to do lots of studying and comparisons to learn to distinguish one Barbie from another, but it will payoff in terms of making wise investments. There are several books available; we recommend them all: The Wonder of Barbie and The Worid of Barbie Dolls by Paris and Susan Manos.
Barbie dolls have been around for over 40 years, and they’re just as popular today as they were in 1959.
Brief History of Barbie Dolls
In the 1950s, there were two types of dolls in America: two-dimensional paper dolls and cuddly baby dolls. A college-educated housewife named Ruth Handler bought a German fashion doll and was inspired to change the face of toys forever. The doll, Lilli, was fashionable and bendable, with brushable hair.
Deeply inspired by Lilli, Ruth gained a patent for her own fashion doll in 1958. The first doll was developed in 1959. Ruth and her husband, co-founders of toy giant Mattel, named the doll after their daughter Barbara. The doll’s little known full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
Despite an initially luke-warm reception, the Handlers continued marketing Barbie. The earliest dolls sold for $3. Within two years, orderings were pouring in so fast that the Handlers could not keep up.
Ruth had decided early on that Barbie would be a hopeful and optimistic figure for young girls, empowering them to dream and reach for the stars. Early Barbies were “social butterflies,” and spent their time attending parties and playing tennis.
Ken was introduced in 1961 and was named after Ruth’s son.
Ever-Evolving Career Woman
After her beginnings as a woman of leisure, Barbie went to college and embarked on numerous careers. In a quest to show girls that they can truly achieve anything, Barbie has worked as the following:
Diversity in Barbie Dolls
Mattel has aimed to promote tolerance and diversity in its dolls, and Barbie is an excellent example of that. There are Barbie dolls representing several countries of the world, including China, Korea, and Holland. Barbie has also been depicted in a wheelchair and with varying disabilities. Just as there are working Barbies, there are also Barbie dolls in more traditional stay-at-home roles. Despite ongoing criticism for her impossibly curvaceous figure, numerous studies indicate that playing with Barbies can actually be good for a girl’s self-esteem.
Today’s Popular Styles
Today, some of the most popular Barbie dolls are also stars of the small- and big-screen. From the Disney princesses to the beloved Barbie movies, television inspired Barbies fill the store shelves. Some favorites include:
Barbie dolls are a favorite item among collectors. While some focus on vintage dolls, others prefer the modern-day Barbies. Mattel releases collectible-quality dolls each year. The Holiday Barbies and Barbies of the World are particularly popular. Recent releases include:
Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. In a series of novels published by Random House in the 1960s, her parents’ names are given as George and Margaret Roberts from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin.
In the Random House novels, Barbie attended Willows High School, while in in the Generation Girl books published by Golden Books in 1999 she attended the fictional Manhattan International High School in New York City (based on the real-life Stuyvesant High School). She has an on-off romantic relationship with her boyfriend Ken (Ken Carson), who first appeared in 1961. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced that Barbie and Ken had decided to split up, but in February 2006 they were back together again.
Barbie has had over forty pets including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra. She has owned a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers and jeeps. She also holds a pilot‘s license, and operates commercial airliners in addition to serving as a flight attendant. Barbie’s careers are designed to show that women can take on a variety of roles in life, and the doll has been sold with a wide range of titles including Miss Astronaut Barbie (1965), Doctor Barbie (1988) and Nascar Barbie (1998).
Mattel has created a range of companions for Barbie, including Hispanic Teresa, Midge, African American Christie and Steven (Christie’s boyfriend). Barbie’s siblings and cousins were also created including Skipper, Tutti (Todd’s twin sister), Todd (Tutti’s and Stacie’s twin brother), Stacie (Todd’s twin sister), Kelly, Krissy, Francie, and Jazzie.