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Barbie Dolls


Number 4 Ponytail Barbie, 1961

Number 4 Ponytail Barbie, 1961

Denise Van Patten

Barbie Dolls: An Introduction:

Is there anyone left on the planet that doesn't know what a Barbie doll is? Barbie dolls are sold nearly worldwide. They have been the subject of numerous books and controversies, plus the star in their own movies. There are even lines of Barbie-inspired cosmetics and clothing, and a new live Barbie stage show for 2006. All this for an 11 1/2 inch plastic vinyl fashion doll.

Years of Production of Barbie Dolls:

Barbie dolls have been in almost continuous production since 1959.

Size of Barbie Dolls:

Barbie is, almost universally, 11.5 inches tall, and she has been this size since her inception. However, there have been Supersize Barbie dolls which are the size of a small child as well. Ken is generally 12 inches tall, and Skipper (Barbie’s Little Sister) 10 inches (check!). Barbie has had a few shorter friends and relations as well, including vintage Francie and Casey at 10.5 inches).

Materials Used To Make Barbie Dolls:

Almost all Barbie dolls are made of vinyl with a soft feel to it. However, a few collector Barbie dolls have been made of porcelain, and the collector Silkstone Barbie dolls are made of a hard vinyl with a porcelain feel. Hair on Barbie dolls is generally rooted synthetic fiber.

Creator of Barbie Dolls:

The late Ruth Handler created Barbie. One day she saw her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and Ruth thought that girls would enjoy a 3-D doll with outfits you could change, like paper dolls. The Mattel design team couldn’t envision what Ruth wanted. Then when in Germany, Ruth saw Bild Lilli, a doll with an adult-proportioned body, 11.5 inches tall. Ruth thought this doll was just right for her concept. So, she brought Bild Lilli to Mattel (owned by the Hanlders) and Barbie was born.

Company That Produces Barbie Dolls:

Barbie has always been made by Mattel. Various other companies have produced Barbie licensed products (clothing, books, toys, etc) including Suzy Goose in the 1960s.

The Barbie Eras:

Collectors break Barbie dolls into several eras. Vintage Barbie is from 1959 to 1972 (with Mod era dolls released from about 1966 through 1972. All other Barbie dolls are considered Modern Barbie. The collectible Barbie era started in 1986 (Barbie dolls produced for adult collectors) peaked in the late 1990s and continues today. Modern dolls made for the play market (children)_ are sometimes referred to as “pink box” Barbie dolls.

Secondary Market Prices for Barbie Dolls:

Vintage Barbie

Vintage Barbie is highly collectible, and prices for early vintage Barbie dolls can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. The early clothing is also eagerly collected, and most collectors seek mint and “complete” outfits (a complete outfit has all the pieces as originally released by Mattel—for instance, the Picnic Set outfit to be complete would have to have the top, jeans, cork wedgies, fishing pole with fish (very fragile) and straw hat with flowers and frog attached. The most valuable pieces of any vintage outfit are the small pieces that were easily lost (or vacuumed up by mom). The most common vintage item in mint condition? The Barbie vinyl cases, because they were the least likely to be thrown away or lost. Vintage Barbie prices peaked in the mid to late 1990s but are still strong today/ For more price information on Barbie LINK

Because Barbie was a mass market doll, vintage pieces in played with condition are worth much, much less than excellent or mint pieces.

Modern Barbie Dolls

Prices for modern collectible Barbie dolls definitely peaked in the mid-to late 1990s when there was a “craze” for modern Barbies—they were a hot, new collectible that shops couldn’t keep in stock. Some collectors even speculated and stockpiled the dolls hoping they would increase in value. With the advent of eBay, there were sharp decreases in the prices of nearly all modern collectibles—including Barbie. Modern Barbie dolls are still avidly collected, with special emphasis on the Silkstone Barbies which premiered in 2000. Many modern Barbie dolls still sell at or below their original retail, but there are dolls are highly sought-after, including the first Happy Holidays Barbie, many of the original Bob Mackie series, and the first Harley Davidson Barbie. Collectible modern Barbie dolls are expected to be NRFB (never removed from box) and only bring a fraction of their original value if they are not.

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