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    

Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage #3 Soft Bangs Barbie Ponytail With Box! Tm Bonus Fd-32Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-" Violette " Vintage Color Magic Barbie With Bendable Legs - Headband And Box - No Reserve!!!Rare 1960 Barbie Trousseau Set Gift Set Complete No 4 BarbieVintage Mod Tnt Barbie Doll Case Lot Clothes Shoes Purses Hangers Tlc Parts!Sidepart Barbie Pale BlondeVintage Color Magic Barbie With Bendable Legs And Box - No Reserve!!!Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-" June Berry " 11 PcsVintage Barbie #3 Blond Ponytail Blue Eyeliner Tm Solid Ivory Body No ReserveVintage Color Magic Barbie With Bendable Legs And Box - No Reserve!!!Vintage Ponytail & Bubble Cut Barbie Dolls And Ken CaseOoak Handmade Fashion For Silkstone/vintage Barbie By Roxy-" Daisy "Vintage 1960's Ponytail Barbie Marked 5, Case And Clothing Excellent ! Silkstone Ooak Fr Vintage Barbie Doll Dress Reproduction Barbie Clothes By Mary1960s Vintage Barbie, Ken & Midge Collection! Great Dolls, Great Price!Moschino Barbie Top And SkirtRare Vintage Redhead Hair Twist 'n Turn Tnt Barbie With Original BoxVintage Barbie American GirlVintage 1962 Mattel Barbie Doll In Carrying Case & ClothingVtg 1959 Ponytail Barbie DollPretty Vintage Midge / Barbie Ponytail Swirl Doll ~ Huge Vintage Barbie Lot Francie, American GirlVintage Color Magic Barbie With Bendable Legs And Box - No Reserve!!!Vintage Barbie Color MagicVintage Barbie Gay Parisienne #964 Dress Only (1959) Rare!! Htf!! Vintage 1963 Barbie Doll 850 #4 Ponytail Green Theater Date Satin OutfitVintage Titian American Girl Barbie Doll Bendable Leg Tagged Fashion LuncheonBarbie Elizabeth Taylor As Cleopatra 1st In Series Beautiful! - Nib 1999Vintage Barbie Fashion Queen Lot ~ Color Magic Wigs ~ Plantation Belle ~headbandVintage #8 Blonde Barbie Doll W/bangs 1962 Ponytail Mattel JapanVintage Barbie Ponytail Blonde #3 All Original Rarer Blue Eye Shadow Tm BodyGreat Vintage 60's Mattel Barbie Blue In The Swim Complete W/accessoriesVintage 1966 Barbie Color Magic Titian Red With Red DressVtg 1968 Tnt Barbie & France Mod Era Dolls, Case & Clothing & AccessoriesSilkstone Barbie "the Artist"Perfect Mib Barbie Wedgwood Jasper Blue 1999# Barbie Doll- Orange Hair -1958 Marked Made In Japan Nude Barbie Doll Pivotal Model Muse Angelica Pirates Caribbean Penelope Cruz Vintage Barbie Swirl BlondeVintage 60's Barbie Midge Francie Clothing Clone HandmadeVintage #4 Ponytail Barbie On Tm Body - Blond Hair & Blue Eye ShadowGreat Vintage 60's Mattel Barbie Pink In The Swim Complete W/accessoriesOoak Fashion For Silkstone Barbie And Fr By Rebecca Vintage Barbie/silkstone "posies In Pastel!" Ooak Handmade By AnnLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage Brunette Barbie Ponytail With Curly Bang! Wardrobe Fd-33Barbie Lot 1960s Vintage Ponytail Clothes Case *read Specs*Vintage Ponytail Barbie B4 Heavy Solid BodyVintage Barbie American GirlNude Barbie Silkstone Lingerie Jet Black Hair Ponytail For Ooak Barbie Redhead Pop Life, Pivotal, Hard To Find, Nrfb1958 Case Plus Barbie Dolls Vintage Brunette #4 Ponytail Barbie W/box, Sunglasses, Swimsuit, Stand & ShoesVintage Barbie Midge B & W Label Clothes Accessories Shoes Excellent LotFantastic Vintage Tnt Francie And Casey Barbie Dolls With Outfits And CaseVintage American Girl Barbie-no Reserve!Vintage Barbie PonytailBarbie And Ken Phantom Of The Opera Designed For Fao Schwarz 1998 NrfbNever Removed From Box 1984 Peaches 'n Cream Barbie DollIdeal Toy Corp. Mitzi Barbie Clone Doll Brunette Ponytail 1960Nr Mint Vtg 1967 Mattel Barbie Skipper Doll #1942 Right In Style Complete

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Meet the transgender would-be MP, her lesbian lover and HER transgender ..., April 25th

Curtains are twitching in a small town where an unusual trio have become unlikely minor celebrities in the General Election. At first glance there's nothing peculiar about the three women in bright yellow out on the campaign trail. But the Lib Dem...Read more

Josselynn's gender transition
13WHAM-TV, April 24th

She has a collection of clothes, a closet full of bright colors and it's almost all dresses and skirts. "This one is my favorite, I'm just ... The next day Surridge said she went to the store and bought out the whole Barbie section. She wrapped up the...Read more

Ipanema Sandals Releases Barbie Collection
Footwear News, April 24th

The collection is available online on Ipanema's website. Women's looks are $28.00, while girls' styles are $22.00. Ipanema, based in Brazil, has partnered with supermodel Gisele Bündchen since 2002. Barbie, meanwhile, has been a fashion fixture for...Read more

Barbie Launches 'Sheroes' Collection and Includes Ava DuVernay Doll
The Root (blog), April 24th

Ava DuVernay Barbie. Mattel. On Friday Mattel launched its new Sheroes collection of Barbie dolls, which celebrates women who have inspired girls by breaking boundaries. The women were honored at the Variety Power of Women Luncheon, where their ...Read more

DC and Mattel Team Up to Create Superhero Action Figures and Comics for Girls
TIME, April 23rd

Ahead of the Wonder Woman movie, set for 2017, DC Comics has teamed up with Mattel on a new initiative focused on reaching young girls. Beginning this fall, the two will create teen versions of DC's most famous female characters—from Wonder Woman to ...Read more

These Vintage Barbies Show You How To Dress Up This Summer
Huffington Post India, April 23rd

If you're looking to go beyond the jeans-and-tee outfit this summer, let these vintage Barbies take you on a nostalgic trip to the past for some beautiful summery prints, dress style and accessories. These gorgeous dolls have been styled and...Read more

Barbie is on Instagram from Paris Fashion Week to Coachella
Daily Mail, April 20th

Since Barbie's style Instagram account launched last August, swarms of fashion lovers have become fans of her 'official style feed', watching as the Mattel icon models an impressive collection of Barbie clothes that even includes pieces by top designers...Read more

Designer gives Barbie a glamorous Filipino makeover, April 6th

In February, the iconic doll received a Filipino makeover, designed by Filipino American Carlyle Nuera forMattel's Global Glamour Collection. Taking elements from the Philippines and Filipino culture, Nuera dressed the Mutya Barbie in a refreshing and ...Read more