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]

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

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 1964 Mattel Barbie Titian American Girl Mint In Original Box 1070 NrfbVintage Blonde American Girl Bend Leg Barbie, 1958 For Parts Or RepairHtf Vintage 1965 Blond American Girl Barbie 1070 Head Only-yellow Lips-excellentHtf Vintage 1965 Ash Blond American Girl Barbie 1070 Original Box Lid-very NiceJapanese Exclusive Sidepart BarbieVintage #4 Blond Barbie Doll W/factory-braid Ponytail, Solid Tm Body & No Green Vintage 1960's Ponytail Barbie Midge & Skipper *4 Doll Lot*Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-print Sheath Dress & Hat-12pcsHtf Vintage 1965 Brunette American Girl Barbie 1070 Head Only-near ExcellentVintage 850 #3 Barbie Blonde Ponytail Doll 1960, Nude, Needs TlcVintage 1960's Color Magic Barbie Golden Blonde W/ Box & Acessories Nice Face!Vintage Ponytail Barbie Dolls With Boxes Vintage 1960's Barbie Labeled Clothing Barbie Hangers LotBrunette Ponytail Barbie/ Vintage Straight Leg With Box A Must To See And HaveVintage 1964 Blond Large Bouffant Bubble Cut Barbie Doll 850-excellentOriginal Rare Handpainted # 1 Barbie Blond Ponytail Head-beautiful- Wow!Huge Vintage Barbie Doll Lot Original Clothes, 9 Dolls & AccessoriesVintage Authentic Original Barbie "commuter Outfit" W/ Original Hat Box & Hat Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-plaid Sun Dress & Hat -5pcsHuge 1960's Early 70's Vintage Barbie Doll / Clothes LotVintage 1960's Barbie Francie Casey Clothing LotIn The Pink Barbie Doll 27683 Fashion Model Collection Silkstone Porcelain NrfbNrfb Burbery Barbie Blue Label Japan Exclusive DollVintage Barbie 1959-61 Tagged "plantation Belle " Outfit #966 W/accessories1960 S Barbie Ken Doll Collection African American Clothing Antique Vintage Lot 1970 Growing Pretty Hair Francie Doll With Accessories , Mod Vintage Barbie Huge Vtg & Modern Lot Of Barbie Ken Clothing Shoes Accessories Food Furniture &1960 Vintage #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll BodyVintage Barbie,ken, Skipper,francie Clothing And Accessorie LotVintage Barbie Casey Francie Barbie Doll LotGorgeous Vintage Titian Redhead Barbie Doll With Original BoxMad Men Betty Draper 2010 Barbie Doll- Genuine Silkstone Body- Nrfb- TissueVintage Barbie Lemon Blonde Color Magic A/o - Gorgeous!!! - Kl6 W/hair BandLot Vintage Barbie & Francie Mod Style Clothes, Shoes. Dress; 1967-1972 EraNude Black Barbie Doll Full Curly Brown Hair African American Aa Free ShippingMattel Dolly Forever Barbie Doll By Christian Louboutin Second In The SeriesVintage Barbie Blond Flip Hair Stacey Tnt Mod DollEuropean American Girl Barbie Silver Brunette Nrfb1960 Vintage #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll HeadRhtf Barbie Acid Green Heels To 1971 Jc Penney Exclusive Shoe Bag Access 1498 Vintage Stunning Bubble Cut Barbie Doll Titan Redhead Original Face Beautiful Vintage Barbie #1060 Miss Barbie Doll W/ Wig - Euc - (1964)Bob Mackie Countess Dracula Barbie Gold Label Nib W/ ShipperLtd Toy Stamp & Twist And Turn Barbie In Beautiful Blues Set In Box With ComicVintage Black Label Barbie Doll Clothes And 1966 Twist Doll Japan Francie ? LotVintage 1961 Blond Ponytail Barbie #5 -near ExcellentVintage Barbie Japanese Exclusive DressVintage Barbie Ponytail Head OnlyHuge Lot Of Barbie And Ken Vintage Clothing Wow L@@k 1960's And 1970's SkipperNew Daria Celebutante Barbie Doll Gold Label Model Of The Moment Shipper Nrfb NrFaberge Imperial Splendor 2000 Barbie DollVintage Barbie Clothing Lot 165 Pieces No Reserve Ooak Fashion For Silkstone Barbie And Fr By RebeccaNew M.a.c Mac Barbie Lipstick Style It Up Limited Edition RareVintage Barbie Little Sister Skipper Light Blonde Hair Oss Dress Headband ShoesVintage 1960's Tutti & Todd Dolls W/ Original Clothes BarbieBob Mackie Empress Bride Barbie New In Master Shipping CartonHuge Vintage 1960s Mattel Barbie Lot Of 10 Dolls - Ken, Barbie, Midge, Skipper+Bob Mackie Madame Du 1997 Barbie DollVintage Barbie 1070 American Girl 1 Owner Page Boy Long Hair Titian Low Color ?

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Target Gears for Holiday Season, Expands Toy Collection - Analyst Blog
DigitalJournal.com (blog), September 17th

Apart from this, other toys include LEGO City Helicopter Transporter, Barbie Fashion Design Maker, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset, Wubble Bubble Ball, Kinetic Sand Island Fun Playset, LeapFrog LeapTV and Hot Wheels Super ...Read more

Weird, cutting edge fashion — at home in Washington
Washington Post, September 17th

A few miles away at CityCenterDC, Burberry has filled its expansive glass vitrine with its fall collection — determinedly British, but deliciously louche. A stone's throw from Burberry is ... Maison Margiela is known within the global fashion industry...Read more

New Barbie styled in Karl Lagerfeld's image
Hamilton Spectator, September 9th

Famed designer Karl Lagerfeld has styled a new, collector Barbie in his image: black jacket, white men's shirt, black satin cravat and fitted black jeans. And then there's the Lagerfeld signature accessory of black fingerless gloves. And sunglasses of...Read more

Mattel launches second Mexico Barbie after controversial first attempt
VOXXI, September 5th

However, the entire “Dolls of the World” collection features dolls in clothing traditional in each specific country. For instance, the Holland Barbie wears clogs and braids, the Ireland Barbie has red hair and an emerald-green dress, and the India...Read more

Mattel launches Mexican Barbie wearing traditional dress
Daily Mail, September 2nd

On the Barbie Collector website under Doll Details the doll's skin tone is listed as LA tan - not exactly a perfect likeness to an actual Mexican woman. Mr Sanchez added that Mattel could improve the collection by adding more contemporary...Read more

Barbie Show collection at Lakme Fashion Week Winter/ Festive 2014
PINKVILLA, August 20th

These content links are provided by Content.ad. Both Content.ad and the web site upon which the links are displayed may receive compensation when readers click on these links. Some of the content you are redirected to may be sponsored content. View our ...Read more

Mattel launching Barbie-inspired adult fashion line
Philly.com (blog), August 19th

Wildfox, the vintage-inspired L.A. clothing company, will release an 8-piece “The Wildfox Dreamhouse” collection paying homage to retro 1980s Barbie. Wildfox's collection retails between $37.50 and $183. Forever 21's 1990s Barbie collection is the most ...Read more

Soon you can wear Barbie's wardrobe, Mattel to launch Barbie fashion collection
The Vine, August 18th

The clothing lines aim to expand Barbie's appeal to woman of all ages. The Forever 21 collection will consist of '90s Barbie-themed cosmetics, accessories and clothing, Lord and Taylor will feature '50s-inspired sleepwear, and the high-end Wildfox...Read more