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 Barbie 1960’s Bubblecut Miss Barbie Dolls Clothing Clothes Bits Tlc LotVintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W/ Brown Eyeliner, Orig Pedestal StandVintage Barbie Skipper Ken Doll Lot! 10 Dolls Dress With Outfits!Mint! All Original Vintage Color Magic Barbie HeadSilver Ashe Blonde American Girl Sidepart BarbieSilkstone Barbie Fashion Model Vanity, Gold Label, 2004, Complete, MintVintage Barbie/francie Clothes, Accessories, Dolls & Cases LotVintage Barbie Twist N Turn Lt Brown Co-co Trade-in Doll No 1162 Mint & Box MibVintage Swirl Ponytail BarbieVintage #1170 No Bangs Brunette Flip Tnt Francie Doll Head Rooted Lashes BarbieVintage Barbie Lot: Talking Stacey, Talking Barbie,ken Doll Marching Band OutfitVintage Barbie Skipper Ken Doll Lot! 10 Dolls Dress With Outfits!Vintage Number 4 Ponytail Barbie With Handmade Outfit. Barbie Has Been RestoredBarbie As Medusa Goddess Doll ~ 2008~ Gold LabelCute Vintage Labeled Mattel Mod Barbie Long Colorful Skirt W/yellow TopVintage 1960's Blonde Ponytail Barbie Doll In Red Swimsuit- No Green Original Mattel 1966-1967 Barbie-"garden Wedding", #1658-doll Fashion-completeLot 4 Mib Barbie & Ken Dolls Star Trek Elvis X Files Romeo Juliet 1st In SeriesLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage Bend Leg Barbie Amazing Golden Glamour 1600 Series! M5Vintage Barbie Ponytail Number #4 Blonde Doll Very Good ConditionHuge Vintage Barbie Fashion & Accessories Lot Estate Sale Find!!!Silkstone Barbie Fashion Model, Dusk To Dawn, Limited Edition, 2000, MintLot Of 13 Vintage Barbie & Friends Dolls Ponytail Bubblecut Ken Skipper MidgeBarbie Vintage Blonde Ponytail #4 Japan Flocked Poodle Bangs Nude Vintage Barbie - Wedding Day - Brunette #4 Ponytail Barbie & Flocked Hair Ken Bfmc Garden Party Outfit Silkstone Barbie Fashion Model CollectionVintage Barbie Doll Titian Ponytail Number 5 All OriginalExc Vintage 1969 #1190 Sl Standard Mod Barbie Brunette Oss Swimsuit Japan Vintage Barbie - Blonde #3 Ponytail Barbie In Fraternity Dance #1638Barbie Mattel Vintage Doll American Girl Boxed Brunette All OriginalHtf Vintage Blond #4 Blond Ponytail Barbie 850-near ExcellentMattel 1969-1970 Barbie-julia-"candlelight Capers", #1753-doll Fashion-completeBob Mackie Empress Bride 1992 Barbie DollVintage Barbie Skipper Ken Clothes Lot! Vintage Barbie Side Part Blonde American Girl Bend Leg Exceptionally Clean MintyLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage Blond Bubblecut Barbie Clothes & Accessories! Bonus! M13Vintage 1967 Standard Blonde Barbie Doll #1190 Straight-leg Pink 2piece SwimsuitHtf Vintage Color Magic Bend Leg Barbie Mint In Box480+huge Vntg Barbie Ken Midge Skipper Some Rare Htf Tagged Clothes Access. Lot Vintage Barbie Country Club Dance W/accessories Dress Gloves Purse Shoes #1627Mattel Barbie As Wonder Woman DollBeautiful Vintage 1960's Color Magic Barbie Doll MintAphrodite Barbie Doll, 2009 Gold Label, NrfbFour Early 1960s Ponytail Barbie Dolls 1 Brunette 3 Blonde Repair Or Parts1960s American Girl Barbie Red Hair Titian Midge Straight Leg 954 Career GirlLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage Bend Leg Barbie Lovely Poodle Parade 1600 Series M12Vintage Barbie Sister Skipper Lemon Blonde No 0950 Mint & Box Mib Sealed AccessoVintage Barbie Julia Mod Clothing Lot Brrr Furrr Mood Matchers Leather Weather Vintage Barbie Francie Ken Skipper Lot Of Tlc Clothes #2Vintage Barbie Francie Ken Skipper Mixed Lot Of Clothes From 1960's #3Barbie's "beautiful Blues" #3303 Sears Exclusive **dress Only**Mib Barbie And Ken Doll Phantom Of The Opera 1st In Series Fao Schwarz Ltd EdVintage Barbie - Ooak Blonde Swirl Ponytail Barbie #850 In Theatre Date #959 Vtg Barbie Lot House Dolls And ClothesVintage Barbie Francie Ken Skipper Mixed Lot Of Clothes From 1960's #1Vintage Barbie - Gorgeous Golden Blonde Color Magic/ High Color/ ExcellentVintage #1 Barbie Needs Tlc For Restoration Coca-cola Soda Fountain 2000 Barbie DollMovie Mixer Silkstone Fashion Model Barbie 2007 Gold Label Bfmc Mint K7963Hallmark Keepsake Celebration Barbie Ornament. Special 2009 Edition

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

The Britney Spears Museum: A quirky pop star shrine in Tangipahoa Parish
NOLA.com, January 30th

The museum contains memorabilia, fan-donated items such as a miniature stage diorama created by one of her fans, and even the pop singer's entire bedroom set from her childhood home. The collection creates a stark contrast to the exhibits on rural life...Read more

20 Weird, Insane And Extremely Disturbing Barbie Dolls
io9, January 30th

Let's start with the obvious: the figure where Barbie is about to be murdered by birds. Birds who are included in the goddamn packaging. I know there have been many movie-inspired Barbies, especially in the collector world. But the Hunger Games Barbie ...Read more

Medford Family Networks helps more than 200 families have a happy holiday
Wicked Local Medford, January 30th

The Medford Fire Department, in addition to donating hundreds of toys, also ran a coat drive during the first two weeks of January; this initiative resulted in their collection and donation of more than 50 coats. Cassidy recalls many instances ... When...Read more

Say Hello To The Empowering Black Dolls Already Outselling All Those ...
TheGloss, January 30th

Barbies are beloved by a lot of people, but even Barbie girls know that the dolls aren't exactly the best toys to promote uniqueness, a body positive image and diversity. ... In addition to the Queen Of Africa dolls, there is a collection of Naija...Read more

Meet red carpet renegade Belinda Berry
SFGate, January 29th

But for this year's Ballet gala, she mustered up the piece de resistance — a dress modeled after a Calla Lily Barbie collector's doll. Berry was a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader in 1974, so taking center stage comes naturally. Her sidekick, Tom Barrett, ...Read more

Video: Mattel Launches BARBIE IN PRINCESS POWER with a Live-Action Stunt ...
The Rock Father, January 27th

teaser will be on PRINCESS POWER. Longtime readers might recall that I bought the girls a vintage (but still sealed) BARBIE AND THE ROCKERS "Hot Rockin' Stage" for Christmas of 2013... something that was featured here. This year might get expensive ...Read more

At Home With Vivian: 'Barbie is back!'
Martinez News-Gazette, January 27th

My niece Robin recently posted pictures online of her granddaughters, who live in Southern California, playing with the new Barbie dolls I sent them for Christmas. Those bright eyes and smiling faces brought back lots of happy memories for me. My great...Read more

Stittsville's Barbie Museum celebrates the iconic fashion doll (with video)
Ottawa Citizen, January 2nd

It's a love that began with the Tutti Barbie doll in 1965 and has grown to a collection of 20,000 dolls and accessories over 50 years. Elizabeth Kondruss founded the Barbie Museum to share her love of the iconic fashion doll that has been everything...Read more