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]

Vintage Barbie Vinyl Reference Guide

Vintage Barbie Vinyl Reference Guide

Barbie vinyl collectors, you've come to the right place: Janet Poff's visually stimulating gallery of Barbie vinyl… [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    

Vintage American Girl Barbie BlondeVintage Barbie Malibu Brunette Francie B & W Label Clothes Accessories LotVintage Barbie Ruffles 'n Swirls #1783 Rare Variation Francie Merry-go-roundersVintage Barbie Midge Fashion Queen B & W Label Clothes Accessories Lot Nice!Vintage Mod Barbie Malibu B & W Lables Clothes Accessories Case Lot Nice!1965 Ashblonde Side-part Bend Legs Barbie American Girl Sidepart 1958 Body7 Vintage Barbie & Friends Huge Mattel Lot: Dolls Clothes Accessories Cases OldBarbie: Vintage Blonde #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll!Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-black & White Wool Outfit-11pcBarbie: Vintage Brunette 1966 Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll!Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-pink Brocade Outfit-13pcsBarbie: Vintage Blonde Swirl Ponytail Barbie Doll W/box!Huge Lot Vintage Barbie Midge American Girl Francie Skipper Clothes+accessories!Htf Vintage Barbie 1965 Modern Art 1625 Cotton & Organza Dress-excellent No PlayBarbie Vintage American Girl Bendable Leg Doll (1965-1966) #1070 Ash BlondeRhtf Vintage 1960 Raven Hair #3 Brown Eyeliner Ponytail Barbie Head Only-readVintage 1964 Titian Swirl Ponytail Barbie Doll 850-near ExcellentVintage Blonde American Girl Barbie Head With Coral Lips Mint 1 Day2014 Barbie Convention My Funny Valentine Centerpiece Dolls & Table Gift Doll Nr1967 German Bend Legs Barbie In Box Tnt Face European Special Large Vintage Barbie #5 Lot Tnt Francie Japan Quick Curl Kelley Julia Twiggy Marie Antoinette 2003 Barbie DollRhtf Vintage 1960 Raven Hair #3 Brown Eyeliner Ponytail Barbie Head Only-readMattel Lot Of 31 Barbie's 1960's - 1970's Bubble Cut Ponytail Allen Midge SkippeBeautiful ~ Lemon Blonde / Peach Lips ~ American Girl Barbie ~ Good Bend KneesBarbie Vintage Bubble Cut Doll (1962) #850 Brunette W/ BoxBarbie: Vintage Light Blonde Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll!2014 Barbie Convention Doll Midnight Celebration Artist Creations Signed Nrfb2 Vintage Barbie Ponytail #3 Or #4 Heads And Body 2014 Barbie Convention~midnight Celebration Doll~nrfb~signed~platinum Label 2014 Barbie Convention Platinum Label Artist Creations Midnight Celebration +1960 No 3 Brunette Boxed Barbie W Orange Eye Shadow & Even Skin TonesVintage Barbie Titan Straight Leg Skipper B & W Label Clothes Accessories LotBarbie 2014 Convention Doll NrfbBarbie: Vintage Redhead Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll W/box!Blond Hair Ponytail Barbie Doll #850 Head Only ~ Vintage 1960's2014 Barbie Convention Doll Midnight Celebration-caucasian & More-doll Is SignedTinnia Ooak For Silkstone Barbie & Fashion Royalty Vintage Dark Brunette Twist And Turn Barbie Doll Great 1 DayBig Lot Of Vintage Doll Hats For Ginny,jill,barbie Etc Vintage Barbie Doll Lot ~ Tnt, Black Christie, Bubble Cut, Ponytail W Tlc, Nr!! Htf 1959 Tm Version 'evening Splendor' Vintage Barbie Doll Complete #961 OutfitVintage Ponytail Barbie Doll Red Titian Hair No 5 1961 ??Vintage Marlo Flip Barbie, Mod EraNew Nib In The Pink Barbie Doll Fashion Model Collection Silkstone Body 27683Huge Lot Of 100's Of Pieces Of Mattel Barbie Doll Clothes And AccessoriesNew Barbie Fashion Model Gold Label The Secretary Silkstone Doll L7322 Nrfb2014 Barbie Convention Midnight Celebration African-american Doll Nrfb2014 Barbie Convention Doll Midnight CelebrationBarbie Vintage Ponytail #5 Doll (1961) #850 BlondeVintage Barbie Ken Skipper Huge Clothes & Accessory Lot *tlc / Fixer*Vintage Barbie Ponytail #3 Number Three W Box Clothes And Accessories2014 Barbie Doll Convention - Midnight Celebration - Caucasian Nashville TennNude Barbie ~ Raven Red Gothic Queen Of Constellations Model Muse Doll For OoakVintage Barbie Ultra-rare Sample Blonde Lh American Girl In "shimmering Magic" Barbie Japanese Exclusive Outfit NrfbAmerican Girl Barbie Long Ash Brown Hair - Rare Original ExcellentVintage Barbie Outfit #1614 Junior Prom Vhtf Prototype Style Minty N/cAmerican Girl On A Sl Midge/barbie BodyEstate Find Lot Of Vintage Barbie Items & Dolls & Hard Case

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Murder victim's family held out hope Wright was alive for almost a decade
Arlington Times, August 1st

He would help their parents put together bicycles, Barbie houses or other presents. "He didn't have any children ... Being a "car guy," he also had a collection of eight automobiles, including a Corvette Stingray and a '65 Chevy Malibu. Some say that...Read more

Barbie to don Karl Lagerfeld's all black and white look, August 1st

Originally introduced on March 9, 1959, Barbie has always been a source of inspiration for fashion designers. Earlier this year, the Beirut-based Lebanese fashion designer Zuhair Murad had dressed the wide-eyed doll in one of his spring-summer 2012 ...Read more

Onalaska museum salutes Barbie at 55
La Crosse Tribune, July 31st

Since Barbie's debut, Mattel estimates it has sold a billion Barbie dolls worldwide with sales averaging three dolls every second, and a mind-boggling array of clothing and accessories fits all of them. In addition to the grooming other personal items...Read more

Enchanted Mansion exhibit shows Barbie's fashions since '59
The Advocate, July 29th

“The exhibit not only shows how Barbie has changed through the years, but Ken, too,” says museum curator Cheylon Woods, in reference to Barbie's long-time boyfriend. “We also have Barbie's little sisters, Skipper and Kelly. And remember her friend...Read more

Consumer group outraged by Girl Scouts' new partnership with Barbie (blog), July 23rd

This week, a collection of three cookie-pushing Girl Scout Barbies—Nikki, Teresa and Barbie—became available online and they'll rolling out in stores nationwide through mid-August. The brown-haired Nikki doll, for example, sports pink capris, a crisp...Read more

Barbie Lagerfeld: Fashion designer Karl is to be made into a doll
Irish Independent, July 21st

The limited-edition Barbie is set to be produced later this year as part of Mattel's Barbie Collector series. A sketch revealed the doll with Kaiser Karl's signature grey pony tail, black ... on its waiting list despite its hefty cost of $1,685 (approx...Read more

Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld designs high-fashion look for Barbie
New York Daily News, July 17th

Ahead of the fall season, Mattel has invited couturier and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld to design a look for its iconic fashion doll. The result will be a collector's edition Barbie with all the hallmarks of Lagerfeld's distinctive style...Read more

Batman 1966 Catwoman Barbie Collector Doll
Caped Crusades, July 12th

From the collector doll line by Mattel, Barbie depicts Catwoman from the classic 1966 Batman television series. Designed by Bill Greening, this Catwoman Barbie doll is dressed in the classic 1966 outfit. The doll comes with a removable mask, cat ears...Read more