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.
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Recent News: Barbie Dolls
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Antiques & Collectibles: Fifty-five years and counting, Barbie still going strongPost-Bulletin, March 7th
JPG. Marlin Miner, owner of the Coffee Peddler Antique Shop, Lanesboro shares this Barbie doll collection he bought that are all from the late 50's and are all straight leg dolls, they were in perfect condition and were sold to a Barbie collector a few...Read more
Barbie's Birthday Bash planned in Iowa townKCCI Des Moines, March 6th
"Some of the very, very early ones but then it goes all through the years," said Brunow. A local woman was cleaning house and decided to give the museum her collection of more than 300 Barbies. "Three Barbie's sold every second in the world," said...Read more
Watch out Barbie, Lammily is moving in!HLNtv.com, March 6th
Digital artist Nickolay Lamm is once again gaining attention by tackling children's toy box essential and well-known collector's item: Barbie. After releasing a picture of his "Real Barbie" last summer, Lamm has started a crowdfunding campaign to make...Read more
Bushkill Township girl has huge Barbie doll collection in 1989 - Almanac Feb ...The Express-Times, February 28th
1989: Barbie-mania: "Eleven-year-old Theresa Witkowski, of Bushkill Township, owns 19 Barbie dolls. She also has cars for them to drive, a pool for them to swim in, and furniture, including a vanity set, a couch and a bed, for them to set up house with...Read more
Barbie- The Most Unlikely of Cover GirlsRocky Mountain Collegian, February 21st
It says that the reason Barbie appeared on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” is to empower women and to remind them that they can be whatever they want because “truly anything is possible for a girl”. As noted on the The Barbie Collector website, the...Read more
Parisian doll museum exhibits vintage Barbie doll fashionFibre2fashion.com, February 20th
Currently going on at the Parisian doll museum Musee de la Poupee, the event aims to pay tribute to the 29-inches-tall blonde-haired doll through a miniature vintage fashion display on hundreds of Barbie dolls. Titled as Barbie-Retro Chic, the showcase ...Read more
Bruised Barbie's Social Storm Heads To TargetMediaPost Communications, February 17th
Target is introducing a limited-edition swimsuit collection, designed to celebrate Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue, marking its 50th anniversary. And it's also Mattel, which recently revealed that Barbie's sales nosedived 13% during the...Read more
'Unapologetic' Barbie poses for Sports Illustrated swimsuit issueLos Angeles Times, February 11th
18, Barbie will strike a sexy pose for Sports Illustrated's 50th anniversary swimsuit issue along with famous beauties such as Christie Brinkley, Kathy Ireland, Heidi Klum and Kate Upton. The appearance will be the Mattel doll's first in the magazine's...Read more