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    

Stunning 1959 Mattel #1 Barbie Doll Pink Silhouette Box Sweater Girl 876 #bx64Amazing 1956 Bild Lilli Doll Blonde Hair ( Pre - Barbie )#bx67Stunning 1959 Mattel #3 Barbie Doll Pink Silhouette Box Nighty Negligee 865 Bx65Gorgeous 1959 Mattel #2 Barbie Doll Blonde Hair #bx66Large Lot Vintage Fashion Doll Barbie Size Wigs 1" Diameter Lot#2Vintage Barbie Heads Lot 1980's Superstar & MoreVintage Tnt Twist N Turn Barbie Head Lot Repair Re-root Lot #2Vintage American Girl Miss Barbie Body Parts For Restoration Bend KneesVintage Red Head Titan American Girl Barbie Head For RestorationVintage Ash Blonde American Girl Barbie Head For RestorationVintage Blonde Ponytail Barbie Head For RestorationVintage Brunette Raven Ponytail Barbie Head For RestorationVintage Titian Red Head Ponytail Barbie Head For RestorationHuge Lot Barbie Bodies Parts Mod Lot RepairVintage 1968 Mattel Barbie 1547 Glimmer Glamour Sears Exclusive Gift Set Ay20Vintage 1959 #1 Barbie Blonde Ponytail In Original Box Needs TlcOoak Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-classic Shantung Sheath-sky BlueOoak Fashions For Silkstone / Fashion Royalty / Vintage Barbie / Poppy ParkerVtg. Barbie # 3 Ponytail Brown Eye ShadowVintage Brunette Tnt Barbie, 1966, Nrfb/mintVintage Barbie Ken Skipper Francie Huge Clothes & Accessory **tlc/repair** LotVintage Barbie Francie Skipper Clothes Outfits Lot Of 50 Pieces Vintage & ModRare Vintage 1959 Barbie #1 With Ponytail - PhVtg Swirl Pony Tail Barbie Doll Titian Red Head W Case Shoes Pamplet Sealed RareVintage Barbie Blond #3 Doll Head Only (no Body) Great Face Paint - Tlc HairVintage Barbie PonytailVintage 1961 Mattel Barbie #5 Blonde Ponytail Doll In Original Swimsuit Hx124Ooak Fashions For Silkstone / Fashion Royalty / Vintage Barbie -- With ZipperOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "allure" 14pcsVintage Barbie Doll Bubblecut Brunette Blue EyeshadowVintage Original 1960s Early #7 Titian Red Hair Ponytail Barbie Doll Mattel Vintage Barbie 100 Piece+ Lot 1962-63 Dolls,case,japan Shoes,hats, Jewlery! Nr! Vintage Barbie Tammy Size Clone Doll Clothes H.k. Long Coat & Dress Gold BrocadeVintage Barbie Ken Skipper Midge Francie Rare 1960's Clothing Huge Lot 6 DollsBarbie Junior Prom 1614 1965 Near ExcellentVintage 1963 Mattel Barbie Midge Susy Goose Queen Size Bed Set Sealed In Box Hy12015 10th Anniversary Platinum Label Tokidoki Purple Barbie DollPlatinum Label Pink Soiree Silkstone Barbie Mint No Box2007 Mattel Preferably Pink Barbie Doll Gold Label Robert Best Silkstone Body Vintage Barbie Clothes Floating Gardens W/ Orig. Jewerly # 1696Platinum Label Violette Silkstone Barbie Htf Mint No Box As IsMattel - Dusk To Dawn Siltstone Barbie Doll Gift Set - NrfbVintage #4 Ponytail Tm Barbie Doll In Need Of TlcHuge Barbie Doll Fashionistas Model Muse Contemporary Lot Dolls Clothes ~Vintage 1968 Mattel Barbie 1805 Bouncy Flouncy Ay21Huge Barbie Doll Vintage Superstar Era 1980's 80's Lot Dolls Clothes Shoes ~Vintage Barbie Tlc Lot Bodies Heads Outfits Accessories - All Need TlcFound With Vintage Barbie Items- Goldtone Pearl Drop NecklaceElegant! Vintage 1966 Barbie Outdoor Art Show...Moms Estate Her Personal Vintage Barbie Doll & Enormous Clothing Accessorie LotVintage Genuine Early Color Magic Barbie Doll From Atlanta EstateVintage Lot Of 20 Pair Of Barbie & Francie Soft Bow Shoes Nm-mint #by321962 Bubble Cut Midge (japan) W/ Vintage Barbie Case, Clothes & Accessories LotVintage Lot Mattel Miss Barbie & Molded Midge Heads & Swim Suits Nm-mint #by41Vintage Midge 1962 Barbie 1958 Mattel , W Clothes Reddish Blond Hair Blue EyesE16 Lot 6 Bubble Cut Barbies & Midge Dolls Japan Vintage 4 With Barbie Only Body1960 #4 Vintage Ponytail Barbie Raven Hair Head, Excellent!Vtg Barbie Doll Blonde Hair Blue Eyes & Blue Eyeliner Marked 1958 Made In JapanVtg.#7 Barbie,ken,midge,francie,talking Barbie Dolls & Head W/clothes & CaseVintage Barbie Clothes Country Club Dance Dress # 1627

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Asian Barbie's evolution wasn't intelligently designed
The Boston Globe, February 12th

It's also likely no coincidence that this new, more inclusive collection came after years of falling Barbie sales. Considering that the US Census Bureau projects that there will be 40.6 million Asian-Americans living in the United States by 2050...Read more

Alan Titchmarsh: All these stately homes look fabulous on camera, February 12th

“We're always wondering if we have anything valuable that our parents or grandparents might have left us and we feature everything from Barbie dolls and Lego to Old Masters' paintings and vintage fashion. That gives it a great variety – there is...Read more

Lady Gaga to Design Her Own 'Monster High' Doll
Hollywood Reporter, February 12th

The range of Monster High dolls are aimed at those a bit older than Barbie age, which is perfect for Gaga's following of Little Monsters. Undoubtedly even adults will line up to buy the new toy, which ... Each model passed directly in front of the...Read more

Collector's Edition Batman Barbie Revealed
IGN, February 2nd

Mattel first unveiled its Wonder Woman Barbie, based on Gal Gadot's character, at San Diego Comic Con in 2015, noting Batman and Superman figures would be released as well. The dolls are inspired by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the two ...Read more

What The New Barbie Collection Is Still Missing
Bustle, February 1st

As a blonde haired, blue eyed, white, cis girl and woman, it might sound like the classic Barbie should have represented me — except I was a chubby child who grew into a fat woman, and Barbie was definitely not that. The launch of Barbie's new dolls...Read more

With 33 new looks, Barbie is finally embracing different standards of beauty
Vox, January 29th

Time magazine reported that the 2016 Barbie Fashionista collection will come in three new body types. Now kids and adults alike will be able to play with "tall," "petite," and "curvy" Barbie dolls. The new line also includes a wider range of skin tones...Read more

New Barbie Collection
OK! Magazine, January 29th

Barbie's new collection shows off curvy, petite and tall body types in their dolls stating 'Girls don't come in one shape. Now Barbie won't either.' Friday 29 Jan 2016 11 images. PlayLarge imagesSmall images. The new Barbie collection has been revealed...Read more

New Barbie Dolls Released By Mattel; 2016 Collection Features 4 Body Types And ...
International Business Times, January 28th

Mattel has given Barbie a makeover and we're totally digging it. On Thursday, the toy company unveiled the 2016 evolution of their doll — a line that will now include four body types, seven skins tones, 22 eyes colors and 24 hairstyles. "We are...Read more