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Whatever Happened To Cabbage Patch Dolls?
The HOT dolls of the 80s haven't ever truly faded away
 
 
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"Do you have any Cabbage Patch Doll stories?"
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 Related Resources
• Cabbage Patch Dolls
• Baby Dolls
• Modern Dolls

 
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• Cabbage Patch Raglan Sweater Pattern
• Toys and Trends of the Pas
• 
A Trip To Babyland General 
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Babyland General Hospital
• Cabbage Patch Kids.com
• The Cabbage Line
• The Good Earth Cabbage Patch Page
 • Bad Fads Museum

Did you have a "Cabbage Patch Moment" in the 1980s?  You know--standing on line at a Toys R Us for hours and then fighting in a melee of other mothers/collectors/doll scalpers when the only available crate of Cabbage Patch Kids got put out on the floor?

TOPAZ from the Forum relates this story about her Grandfather's Cabbage Patch Moment: "When the mass produced ones came out, my Grandmother wanted one.  She REALLY wanted one.  But as soon as they hit the stores *whoosh* they were gone.  So my Grandfather found out the K-Mart down the street was going to get a shipment of them, got up in the middle of the night and sat outside the doors to wait.  By morning, there were over a hundred women with him, also waiting for the dolls.  (His recollections of what happened are told by him in the same awed hush that a soldier recounts a battle.)  The doors opened and he was carried into the store by the mad rush of crazed women, fighting, screaming, clawing, scratching - all to get the coveted Cabbage Patch Doll.  Dolls were literally flying overhead as the women were screaming that they wanted a blonde, or blue eyes, or a redhead.  Fights broke out as 2 or more women all wanted the exact same doll.  He survived, bruised but still intact, and did manage to get Grandmother her doll - and swore that he'd NEVER do that again.  Not in a million years."

Sound familiar?  What WAS it about these pudgy-faced vinyl and cloth dolls that created such fervor?  And, what ever happened TO the Cabbage Patch Kids?

Cabbage Patch Pre-History

In 1979, Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia  began producing Cabbage Patch dolls.  The dolls were designed by Xavier Roberts, a sculptor residing in Georgia.  The dolls were very different than anything that had been produced before, and quite strange-looking at first glance.  They had very round faces (almost lumpy!) and tiny, soft pudgy arms.  The eyes were close set, and they had hair made of yarn.  Each doll was just a bit different than the next doll, making each original "Cabbage Patch Kid" a unique individual.   Babyland was also a unique place--the Cabbage Patch dolls were displayed in what looked like a real maternity ward, with the sales personnel dressed in maternity ward outfits, and the dolls "up for adoption" and not just for "sale" (of course, they WERE for sale, but the adoption gimmick really hit a cord with collectors and children).  Roberts and his dolls made several television appearances, and the dolls became very well known.

Anatomy of a Doll Craze

Robert sold mass-production rights to his Kids to Coleco toy company in 1982.  The Coleco dolls were very similar to the Babyland dolls, except that the heads were made of vinyl, not cloth. Each Cabbage Patch Kid came with its own unique name and birthday, adoption papers, and a birth certificate.  And...due to random computer generation, each doll was, due to some small variation, a "one of a kind."  Children loved the process of "adoption" for the dolls, where they would send the adoption papers to Coleco to adopt the dolls.  Then, on the first birthday of the doll, they received a birthday card from Coleco!  

For the first few years, Coleco couldn't produce the dolls fast enough.  The marketing gimmick and television coverage combined to make sales explode starting in 1983.   The doll was in short supply, and Christmases in the early 1980s saw parents scrambling to find dolls for gifts, as they fought scalpers and other profiteers who also were scooping the dolls up and re-selling them at large profit through newspaper and magazine ads.  The dolls were in such short supply for Christmas that some stores had to call the police to control crowds waiting for the dolls, and other stores held lotteries to fairly distribute the dolls and to avoid riot-like scenes.   Coleco posted record sales of $600 million in 1985, thanks to their Cabbage Patch Kids.   Many people believe that Cabbage Patch dolls were THE fad of the 1980s.
 
After the Craze, the Crash          

Most fads and crazes are short lived, and the Cabbage Patch doll mania was no exception.  From $600 in sales in 1985, sales of Cabbage Patch dolls fell to $250 million in 1986. Some scalpers and profiteers were caught with closets full of unsold dolls that, suddenly, no one wanted even at retail.  Coleco tried many things to revive the Cabbage Patch market, including dolls that "did" things, such as talk.  But, things went downhill from there, and in 1988, Coleco filed for bankruptcy.  Hasbro took over the rights to produce Cabbage Patch dolls in 1989, and Hasbro continued to make dolls with gimmicks, such as dolls that played kazoos.  Hasbro gradually began making the dolls for younger children, leading to smaller and smaller dolls.  Although Cabbage Patch dolls were still one of the best selling dolls, Hasbro never really revitalized the Cabbage Patch market.  In 1994, finally, Mattel purchased the rights to the dolls.

Where Are Cabbage Patch Dolls Today?

Currently, Mattel still makes Cabbage Patch dolls.   However, the dolls do not have cloth bodies--the dolls continue to be all-vinyl play dolls.  The dolls are generally 14" or smaller, and most of them have a "gimmick"--they play on water-toys, swim, eat, or brush their teeth. Most of the Mattel play Cabbage Patch dolls are available at mass-market retailers such as Toys R Us for prices generally under $20.  

And then--you can find hundreds, nay, thousands of Cabbage Patch dolls on eBay.  Some estimates say that over 80 million Cabbage Patch dolls have been produced, so they are by no means rare.  You can find naked and dirty, very forlorn Cabbage Patch dolls, near-mint in box Cabbage Patch dolls, Cabbage Patch clothing, and Cabbage Patch licensed merchandise.  Because of the great quantities of these dolls produced, most do not bring very high prices.  However, certain rare varieties (black, freckled Cabbage Patch dolls) and very early mint-in-box dolls can fetch over $100.  Cloth collector Cabbage Patch Kids from Babyland General can also bring high prices.  Most Cabbage Patch dolls, however,  bring prices in the $5 to $50 range, with the majority selling for under $30. 

Prices on mint examples of these dolls may rise as the children that coveted them in the early 1980s move into their 30s, which is prime collecting time for toys of youth.  Only time will tell, however, if nostalgia for these dolls can overcome the high quantities produced.  Even though millions and millions of vintage Barbie dolls were produced in the 1960s, high prices are paid by collectors for them today, but the dolls were produced in a pre-eBay era when old toys were discarded, and not sold for pin money on eBay, as many of the Cabbage Patch dolls have been sold from the late 1990s to now.

If you can't get enough of Cabbage Patch Dolls, and the Mattel dolls and old eBay dolls aren't enough for you, you can still visit  Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia and adopt your own original cloth Cabbage Patch kid.  Prices for these collector dolls start at approximately $200. Visiting Hours are Monday through Saturday, 9-5 and 10-5 on Sunday.  Find out more at the official Babyland General Hospital Web Page at http://www.cabbagepatchkids.com.

In Closing:  One Final Cabbage Patch Moment

This "Cabbage Patch Moment" is from MELMARNIC n the Doll Collecting Forum:

"My sister got my mother and me sucked into the Cabbage Patch craze.  She was nuts about them, she and Mom used to go the rounds to get them as they arrived at the stores and then resell them at a profit.  As I remember, they cost around $30 and would resell for over twice that!  They made a nice chunk of change from the whole adventure, but I think that what they really enjoyed was the thrill of the hunt!...Later, my sister continued her interest and collected the original soft sculptures and porcelains.  She went back to Xavier Roberts place...and bought several dolls there and I had her bring me back the only one I ever bought; the little Businessman in a suit and vest, with his own miniature briefcase.  I got him for my six year old grandson and he still has him."

 

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

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