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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Recent News: Barbie Dolls
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Murder victim's family held out hope Wright was alive for almost a decadeArlington 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 lookFibre2fashion.com, 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 55La 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 '59The 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 BarbieChron.com (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 dollIrish 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 BarbieNew 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 DollCaped 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