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1966 Barbie® Dolls: Trash or Treasure?
Sorting Out What The  "1966" Mark on a Barbie® Doll Actually MEANS.
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The following scenario is common at my doll store:

Phone: "RING!!!!"

Your Guide: "Hello"

Caller: "Hi, are you the doll lady who placed the ad in the newspaper for pre-1970 dolls?"

Your Guide:  "Yes, that's me.  How can I help you?"

Caller:  "I have some old 1960s Barbies that I'd like to sell, since your ad mentions that you pay top dollar."

Your Guide:  "Really?  That's great--how do you know the Barbie dolls are from the 1960s?"

Caller:   "The dolls are marked 1966!"

Your Guide:  "Well, what else do the markings on the doll say?"

Caller:  "I don't know--I don't have the dolls with me.  So, how much will you pay?"

Your Guide:  "Well....I need more information.  Where did you get the dolls?"

Caller:  "At a garage sale!"

Your Guide:  "Can you describe them to me?"

Caller:  "They are blonde with bent arms and twist waists.  They are naked, and they are pretty grubby--I'm sure they are really old"

Your Guide:  "I'm pretty sure that your Barbie dolls are more recent than the 1960s--most likely from the 1980s or 1990s.  I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in purchasing them."

Caller:  (getting agitated...) "But the dolls SAY 1966!!!"

Your Guide:  "Yes, but that's the copyright of the Barbie doll torso--dolls marked 1966 can be from the 1960s up through 2001!  There have been many millions made.  Most are later issue Barbie dolls, like yours."  But, thank you for calling."  

Caller:  "Gee, well THANKS!"    (click).

Although this call is a dramatization, and names have been, um, avoided to protect the innocent, this is a common exchange, both via phone for dealers and vintage Barbie collectors, and via e-mail for owners of doll web sites.  Whether or not a Barbie® doll with a 1966 mark is "valuable" or not is the number one question that I receive via e-mail at About.com--usually, I receive several of these e-mails a week!

What The 1966 Mark Is And How You Can Tell If It's A Vintage Doll

Barbies®, especially vintage Barbies, are often identified by the marks on the dolls behind or torso.  The markings often include a date.  The DATE, however, is not the date that the doll was manufactured, but the date of the copyright of a particular doll body.  The most COMMON mark on Barbie includes "©1966" plus "Mattel, Inc." and the name of the country of manufacture of the doll. 

Vintage

There ARE a few Barbie dolls marked 1966 that ARE vintage (and valuable).  Most of these were Made In Japan in the late 1960s or early 1970 and a few were made in Taiwan or Hong Kong (but, be careful and do further research when you see those countries of origin--Barbies were made in Taiwan and Hong Kong through the 1980s).  However, to make it a bit easier on you, MOST of the valuable vintage dolls WERE from Japan and the marks show this.  Here are a few versions of the early vintage Barbies (in red) and their marks, plus a few identifying characteristics:

©1966/
Mattel, Inc. 
U.S. Patented
U.S.Pat. Pend.
Made In
Japan

1960s TNT Barbie:  This doll has rooted eyelashes.
Malibu Barbie:  Dark, tanned skin, straight arms
Hair Happenins Barbie: lashes, chin-length hair and wigs

 

©1966/
Mattel, Inc. 
U.S. & Foreign
Patented
Other Pats
Pending
Made in
U.S.A. or Hong Kong

Busy Barbie:  This doll has gripable hands, straight arms.
Sweet 16 Barbie:
Straight arms, but painted eyelashes.

 

Most of the early marks are longer (more lines) than the later Barbie marks.  Also, note that MOST of the early 1970s Barbies did have straight arms and NOT arms bent at the elbow, and that the dolls generally had closed mouths or small smiles (unlike the later, wide Superstar Smiles on Barbie dolls). Plus, the TNT (Twist and Turn) dolls were marked on their behinds and NOT the small of their backs like many later dolls.  Finally, remember that MOST post-1970s dolls have twist waists.  You can tell an early TNT doll from these because the TNT vintage dolls have waists that twist on an ANGLE and not straight across like the 1980s and 1990s-2000s Barbie dolls.

Later and Common Barbie Dolls

The three dolls pictured above are typical of the later Barbie dolls, and are all marked on their torso:

©1966  Mattel, Inc. 
China

ALL these dolls were purchased in 1999-2000.  Some variations of this later 1966 mark (1980s/1990s) are as follows:

©1966 Mattel, Inc. 
China
©1966 Mattel, Inc. 
Malaysia
©1966 Mattel, Inc. 
Philippines
©1966 Mattel, Inc. 
Hong Kong

Other ways you can tell if you have a later Barbie--

--large smile (Superstar Face Mold)
--arms bent at elbow
--waist that twists on straight (not tilted) axis as described above
--large plastic earrings or plastic "ring" made from little plastic bolt on finger
--very thick blonde hair

MOST of these Barbies, produced in the 1980s to the 1990s are virtually worthless if found nude.  If found with all their original clothing and accessories, the dolls may have value to a collector, depending on which Barbie model the doll is.   On the other hand, a very mint, vintage TNT Barbie could bring several hundred dollars

I hope that this article will be helpful to novice collectors, and to people just discovering Barbie. And, for dealers and web site owners who hear this question a LOT, I hope I have provided a useful reference for them, and a place they can send inquiring new collectors and treasure hunters when they ask "I have a 1966 Barbie--what is it worth?" 

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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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