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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Longing for those girls' dolls of oldNew York Post, December 26th
In line with the company's shift from an emphasis on history and learning to the consumerist and selfish demands of today's children, these dolls were from their historical collection. While I wasn't much of a doll person as a child, I loved the...Read more
From Cypress to Hollywood, 'Persian Barbie' lives boss lifeHouston Chronicle, December 26th
including bright colored moto jackets and sweater dresses that hug her model figure: "height, 5-foot-9; bust: 31 inches, waist: 25 inches and hips: 35 inches," according to the site. She is now working on a fine jewelry line, Lilly Ghalichi...Read more
Childhood interest lures artist to fairy realmDaily Astorian, December 26th
Composed of salvaged twigs and branches; wood glue; bamboo; cotton; copper, aluminum, silver plated and gold plated wire; hemp; jute; glass; stones; acrylic; glitter; varnish; and other materials, the fairy houses are largely inspired by images from...Read more
New evidence in Heidi Allen caseSyracuse.com, December 26th
"Last time we were there he was cutting up and laughing with my son," said Barbie Chiasson, who visited Thibodeau with her teenage son on Thibodeau's birthday in October. Thibodeau's ... Breckenridge is in prison on a conviction of stealing antique...Read more
2014's Top 6 Feminist Anthems That Were Disguised as Pop SongsTakePart, December 26th
Too often, it feels like you can't turn on the radio without hearing a dirty song objectifying a woman and degrading her down to nothing more than a collection of body parts. But sometimes in the sea of misogyny that is Top 40 radio, a gem or two...Read more
Doll world's new royalty could cost parents a king's ransomWashington Post, December 23rd
There may be a girl or two somewhere out there who doesn't know that Queen Elsa and Princess Anna dolls, both inspired by the Disney movie “Frozen,” have dethroned Barbie as the most popular doll in the universe. But only a parent can know the havoc...Read more
Vintage Barbies donated to Toys for TotsKLTV, December 7th
Some of them, like the 'Superstar Barbie' from 1976, going for $300. The Barbie outfits are valuable too. A vintage collection from designer Oscar De La Renta, who passed away in October, is worth between $60 and $80. When the family who made the ...Read more
Party at Barbie's Dream House! On the Art Basel Circuit With Jeremy Scott ...Style.com, December 5th
A few blocks up Collins Avenue, Jeremy Scott and the makers of Barbie (a longtime muse of Scott's and the inspiration for his Spring 2015 collection for Moschino) had turned the Thompson Miami Beach into a world resembling their own. As a crew put the...Read more