Launched at the American Toy Fair in 1959, Barbie was the first teenage doll ever produced for children and quickly became one of the all-time best selling and most widely collected toys. Heavily promoted on TV, over a billion of the dolls have been sold. Collectors prize early numbered Barbie dolls from 1959 and the 1960s, as well as a wide range of rarities and special editions, such as Barbie dolls with bendable legs or red hair.

The toy was the vision of Ruth Handler, whose husband, Elliot, was the "el" in Mattel and whose daughter, Barbara, gave the doll its name. The inspiration for Barbie’s facial features and impossible hourglass figure was Bild Lilli, a doll Handler picked up in 1956 while vacationing in Europe.

Bild Lilli, which is a collectible in its own right, had pouty lips, reminiscent of the lips found on bisque and porcelain dolls in Europe. Mattel metallurgist Kohei Suzuki gave Barbie more natural-looking lips, although her eyes and nose were kept almost identical to those of her forebear.

The other critical difference between Bild Lilli and Barbie was the concept of accessories. Beyond Barbie’s standard black-and-white zebra-striped swimsuit, little girls in the United States could choose 22 other ensembles, ranging from a collarless Chanel-style jacket with matching sheath skirt to a satin-and-tulle bridal gown. Clothing designer Charlotte Johnson was hired away from her teaching post at Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles to complete this critical task.

Most of the outfits offered in 1959 were still available in 1960, making the three that were discontinued (Easter Parade, Gay Parisienne, and Roman Holiday) extremely collectible. Of the six new outfits added in 1960, Friday Night Date was one of the best, thanks to its charming blue corduroy jumper with felt appliqués, pair of soda glasses with cotton standing in for actual fizz, and a black serving tray bearing the Barbie logo.

1961 introduced the world to Ken, Barbie’s boyfriend named after Barbara Handler’s brother. In addition to Barbies with ponytails, dolls with bubble-cut 'dos were also offered. Barbie’s ever-increasing line of outfits suggested that this woman did more than go to fancy parties and beach barbecues — she was an American Airlines stewardess, a nurse, and even a professional ballerina.

Barbie’s best friend Midge was added in 1963. Though Midge’s facial features were different from Barbie’s, her body style was the same so that accessories could be mixed and matc...

During the middle of the 1960s, dolls in the Barbie line gained bendable limbs so they could be posed, but the major facelift came in 1967. Rooted eyelashes replaced the doll’s plastic ones, and Twist 'N Turn Barbies were offered for just $1.50 plus the trade-in of an old doll, which is why many of the original vintage dolls are so hard to find and expensive. 1967 was also the year that Barbie and her increasing number of friends went mod. The Bermuda Holidays outfits predate Goldie Hawn’s costumes on Laugh-In.

1967 is important to Barbie collectors for two other reasons: It was the year an African-American doll, Francie, joined Barbie and her friends, and it was the last year the doll was manufactured in Japan. From 1968 onwards, Barbie dolls were produced in Mexico, Taiwan, and Korea.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Fashion Doll Guide

Fashion Doll Guide

This site is all Barbie, all fashion from 1959 to 1972. Suzanne Maxwell lays out hundreds of period wardrobe choice… [read review or visit site]

Keeping Ken

Keeping Ken

Jef Beck's definitive reference site on Ken dolls, from Malibu Ken to Talking Ken to Spanish Ken. Includes the earl… [read review or visit site]

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Barbie Sidepart American GirlOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- " Ginessa " Vintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll ~brown Eyeliner~ Needs Tlc!Vintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Brown Eyeliner - Orig Paint Nmint!Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "blush " Vintage 1965-66 Mattel American Girl Barbie Doll Ash BlondeVintage Barbie Very Pretty Mod Red Hair Twist 'n Turn Short Flip Stacey W/ SsVintage Barbie Lot #6 Ponytail, Midge Blond Bubblecut & Raven 1961 Bubble TlcVintage Black Francie Barbie Doll Htf Mattel 1967 Mod 1st Issue7 Vintage Barbie Doll Lot - American Girl Pj Skipper Malibu Plus Clothing WalletVintage Color Magic Blonde Platinum Barbie Doll Ponytail Era Mattel Vintage #2 Ponytail Barbie 850, Orig. Tm Box, Swimsuit, Acces., B&w Tag Outfits!Vintage Rare 1960s Barbie Guinevere Dressed Doll #873 Complete Mint In BoxVintage Barbie Clothes Holiday Dance W/ Accessories # 1639 (1965-66) 1960's Ken's Sports Plane, Rare Vintage Barbie Doll Item, Complete With Box!Rare Vintage Barbie-francie-mod Era Twiggy Doll W/original Dress Nice No ReserveHumongous Vintage Barbie, Skipper & Ken Clothing & Accessorie Lot Early 60's Huge Lot Vintage + Mod Barbie Doll Clothes + Accessories -most Vgc + Clean! Peaches 'n Cream 1984 Barbie DollNew Handmade Dress And Coat Set For Silkstone Fashion Model Barbie ( Slim Body )Vintage Mod Barbie Twist 'n Turn In Wild 'n Wonderful In Display Box#% Toy Stamp & 1960's Mattel Red Head American Girl Prototype BarbieSilkstone Barbie Outfit Gala Gown Rare Mint Fits Fashion Royalty Dolls TooVintage Barbie Collection ( 7 ) Dolls-clothes-case #4 Barbie + 2 Talking + AllenBarbie Faberge Imperial Splendor Porcelain Doll Limited Edition Vintage Barbie Sidepart American GirlNew Listing American Girl Barbie Doll Very Light Blonde HairBj- Bob Mackie Le Papillon 1999 40th Anniversary Barbie Fao Schwartz Nib / NrfbVintage Barbie 1965 Original American Girl, Case, Clothes Lot% Toy Stamp & 1962 Mattel Barbie & Ken Sports Car In Original Box 20" LongVintage Barbie Clothes Silver Blues & Fancy That Purple # 3357 #3362 Coat SkirtVintage Barbie Mod #1874 Fab City Gown (1969)Faberge Imperial Elegance Barbie Limited Edition + Coa Barbie-amazing Lot Of Collectors And Special Edition Barbies-l@@k-beautifulVintage Barbie Doll/family Clothes/accessories Fixer Upper Bits/pieces/parts LotVintage Barbie Doll Pony Tail Hair 1958 Large Lot Vintage Barbie Francie 1960's Mod Case + 2 Dolls Clothes AccessoriesThe Mermaid 2012 Barbie Doll Gold Label Factory Tissued/unopen Mattel ShipperVintage Barbie Very Pretty Mod Blonde Hair Fair Barbie W/ Loop ScoopSilkstone Barbie Outfit Boater Ensemble Mint Fits Fashion Royalty Dolls TooVtg Barbie Doll Lot Skipper Midge Color Magic Teenage Outfits Shoes Purse Hats +Big 5 Barbie Ireland Lot Fairie Princess Spellbound Lover Bard Irish Dancer NrfbVintage Original 1958 Bubble Cut Blonde Barbie Mattel Japan Bendable Knee Look!!Vintage Barbie European Exclusive Pink Parfait #1680 AtelierfestVintage Barbie #1609 Black Magic Sheath & Cape - Exc.++ (1964)*cappuccino* Silkstone Vintage Reproduction Barbie Fr Ooak Clothes By Mary 7pc.Hot Wheels Blackwall Era Hiway Hauler Pink Cab Barbie Leo IndiaVintage Barbie Brunette Bend Leg Francie Doll Beautiful Original Color Nr MintVintage Barbie Mod Twiggy W/ Original Dress Silkstone Barbie Principessa Outfit Rare Mint Fits Fashion Royalty Dolls TooHello Kitty Barbie Apple Nrfb New In Box Hard To Find Collector ItemMattel Dc Comics Barbie Set Batgirl Poison Ivy Harley Quinn Wonder WomanThe Raider Barbie Jude Deveraux Nrfb New In Box Hard To Find Collector ItemVintage Barbie Pretty Mod Twist 'n Turn Julia W/ Complete Nurse OutfitBarbie Silkstone Fashion Model Mermaid Gown Dressed Doll Nrfb In Original Box Ltd Toy Stamp & 1960 Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Orig Swimsuit Lot#113Vintage Barbie Lot Mod Busy Steffie Early Ken Some Need Tlc Kissing 2597Rare Vintage Black Cherry Twist 'n Turn Tnt Barbie Doll#% Toy Stamp & 1960's Mattel Prototype Blonde Fashion Head Barbie2015 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention Vanity And Stool

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Think pink: re-embrace this fun shade this season
The Guardian, August 1st

The Moschino summer collection was inspired by Barbie, and the range of bubblegum bikinis, tracksuits and balldresses really was every feminist's worst nightmare. The label's designer, Jeremy Scott, loves thumbing his nose at fashion and culture, and ...Read more

Kovels Antiques: Antique office chairs
Observer-Reporter, August 1st

The wooden office chair of the 19th century has changed with technology. The base became iron, the chair could tilt and swivel, and the back could lean. But it all was replaced when the mesh-backed chair was introduced in 1994. This antique wooden...Read more

Kansas City's Toy And Miniature Museum Reopens After Year-Long Renovation
KCUR, August 1st

The oldest doll dates to circa 1750, and there are dolls galore, wind-up toys from the early 1900s, a “Buck Rogers" ray gun, World War II vintage cap guns and cowboy accessories, marionettes, wooden toys, metal toys, plastic toys and so on. The “Iconic...Read more

Meet Hank, The Man Behind The Castro's Barbie And Ken Windows
Hoodline, August 1st

"It's Castro, Bitch" states a sign in the window at 19th and Castro Street that pays homage to a Britney Spears song. That window, and several other windows beside it, are colorfully decorated with an impressive variety of Ken and Barbie dolls. There's...Read more

Transforming a toy factory into apartments
The Hillsdale Daily News, August 1st

JONESVILLE — Less than a year from now, Jonesville citizens could be sleeping — or cooking, or entertaining — in the same rooms where Barbie dolls and cars were once made. The former Kiddie Brush and Toy Factory has sat in disuse for the better part...Read more

Americana from Pennsylvania, New England
Boston Globe, July 31st

The collection also includes frakturs, the decorative and colorful art form practiced by Pennsylvania Germans primarily from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century to record such rites of life as births, marriages, and baptisms. Estimates range from $8...Read more

Moschino and Designer Jeremy Scott Get Energized
Wall Street Journal, July 29th

It will be stocked with the fall collection's graffiti-tagged evening gowns as well as menswear, shoes and tech accessories like teddy bear-shaped phone covers displayed on giant replicas of the brand's shoes and backpacks. It won't be the typical...Read more

Your Wednesday Briefing
New York Times, July 29th

Attendees with collector items will try to impress judges across four dozen categories during the competition event. The holy grail of Barbie dolls is the 1959 version. That's the year she debuted, clad in a black-and-white swimsuit and stiletto heels...Read more