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    

Ooak Fashion For Silkstone/vintage Barbie By Roxy-" Honeydew " Vintage Blonde Ponytail Barbie #3 - Gorgeous And All Original - Brown EyelinerOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "summer Cottage" Vintage Barbie American Girl Head And Sl BodyRare 1970 Mattel "the Wonderful World Of Barbie" Toy Store Counter Top DisplayBarbie Dolly Forever Barbie Doll By Christian Louboutin Nrfb Free Ship U.s.Vintage 1966 Barbie Red Hair Blue Eyes & Eye Lashes Bracelet & Pj'sBarbie Christian Louboutin Barbie Shoe Collection Pack Nrfb Xb001 Free Ship U.s.Vintage Mod Tnt Barbie + Francie Dolls Clothing Lot Have A Ball Tlc LotVintage 1959 #1 Blond Barbie Ponytail Doll With Tm Box, Booklet, Repro StandBarbie Anemone Barbie Doll By Christian Louboutin Nrfb Free Ship U.s.Vintage Red Stacey Doll&barbie Francie & Other Clothes & Shoe & Accessorys RareVintage #3 Tm Matell Ivory Barbie Doll Rare Blue Liner & Outfits ,ponytail TrunkRare Vintage Brownette-sable Bubble Cut Barbie W/reverse Bubble In Lame' SheathVintage Lot Of 3 Barbie Dolls And 1 Barbie Head, Ponytail, Midge And MoreVintage Barbie Skipper Lot Clothing Cases & Dolls Susy Goose Wardrobes Wigs +++Authentic Original #1 Blonde Ponytail Barbie Doll Japan-tubes Feet- 1959Vintage Ponytail Barbie Lot - Oringal Outfits, Boxes EctLtd Toy Stamp & Vintage Bend Leg American Girl Brunette Barbie! Bonus! Fj31Vintage Barbie Clothes Commuter Set # 916Vintage American Girl BarbieVintage Doll Barbie Outdoor Art Show Outfit #1650 From EstateVintage Barbie Twist 'n Turn Blonde Francie With Short Curly Hair 1969Classic Evening Gown Barbie, Sold Out, Platinum Label 2015, Only 1,000 ProducedVintage Brunette Ponytail Barbie #3/4 Transitional Doll - TlcVintage Superstar Era 1978 Fashion Photo Doll Lot Barbie #2210 & Pj #2323Extremely Rare Silsktone Redhead Joyeux Barbie Doll, Never Removed From BoxRay Barbie Powell Peralta Rag Doll Deck 19882004 National Convention Barbie Chicago Illinois - NrfbSmall Lot Of Authentic Vintage Barbie& Skipper Clothes + Small Lot Homemade FreeVintage Barbie Mixed Lot 1958 Doll, Clothes, Case, Shoes, Mattel Booklet SkipperVtg 1969 Marlo Flip Twist N Turn Barbie Doll In Original Swimsuit #1160Vintage 1960's Mattel Blonde Ponytail Barbie Zebra S/s No Reserve(3) Barbie Black Label Dolls - Barbie Look City Shopper - NrfbVintage Barbie Suit & HatTitian Redhead #5 Vintage Ponytail Barbie W/ Rare Pink Lips/ FingernailsVintage Francie Doll Tweed-somes 1286 Outfit + Hatbox Barbie Friend Excellent Vintage Toy Plastic Pyrex Refrigerator Dishes W/lids Banner Brand - Barbie SizeVintage Barbie Formal, Shoes, PurseVintage Barbie NecklaceVintage 1964 Blond Bubble Cut Barbie Doll-near ExcellentVintage Barbie PonytailVintage 1960's Barbie ~ Htf Japanese Exclusive #2620 / Raspberry Suit ~ OriginalVintage Blonde Tight Curl Ponytail Barbie Marked Pat Pend On Butt Japan On Foot Mad Men Betty Draper 2010 Barbie Doll Vintage Barbie Clothes Gold N Glamour Vhtf W/accessories # 1647Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage Brunette Mod Tnt Francie Barbie & Wardrobe Bonus Fj28Nude Barbie ~ Auburn Blue Eyes Reba Mcentire Celebrity Mattel Doll For OoakBeautiful Pale 1960's #3 Blonde Ponytail Barbie Doll HeadVintage Barbie Dress & HatVintage Mod Barbie Julia Simply Wow Set Gold Beret Complete TlcSilkstone Ooak Fr Vintage Barbie Doll Dress Reproduction Barbie Clothes By MaryVintage 1962 Midge,1960 Ken Doll Clothes & Accessories 1963 Barbie & Midge CaseOoak Fashions For Silkstone / Fashion Royalty / Vintage Barbie -- With PocketsVintage 1950's Barbie Doll American Girl Blonde Bubble Cut? Japan/bendable LegsLot Of Vintage 1960's Barbie & Ken Plus 40+ Clothes (2) Barbie Tim Gunn Dolls - Pink Label - NrfbVintage 1979 First Black Barbie Doll Disco Afro Red Dress Mattel 1293 New NrfbVintage Barbie Mod Case, 3 Dolls Stacy,talking,tnt Clothing & AccessoriesVintage Barbie Ponytail 3 And 4 ? Tm Body / Dress

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Antiques | Valuable old toys
The Courier-Journal, May 28th

Barbie, Hot Wheels, stuffed Teddy bears and other popular toys are easy to find at yard sales for low prices, but the special ones exist today in small numbers. The first Barbie, 1959, in excellent condition is worth $6,000. A rare Steiff teddy bear...Read more

Coke, cars, communism: Everyday symbols of German unity
Deutsche Welle, May 28th

Life is a collection of banalities - even during the most intense historic events. Here's a look at the objects, from Barbie dolls to TVs, that symbolized German reunification in 1990. Deutsches Historisches Museum - Ausstellung Alltag Einheit...Read more

The Latest 'Human Barbie' Claims Her Parents FORCE Her To Live Like A Doll
MTV UK, May 28th

“Since I was a child, my parents styled me as a Barbie so I'm glad that I'm equated to one - Barbie is the idol of girls around the world,” Angelica tells Mail Online. “Growing up, my parents raised me like a princess and never let me go out, date boys...Read more

Jack Ingram playing Boone County Fair
Columbus Telegram, May 27th

That album included singles such as “That's A Man,” the summer anthem “Barefoot and Crazy” and “Barbie Doll,” which features Dierks Bentley. Old Dominion is touring with country superstar ... Other events include Northeast Nebraska Pullers Association...Read more

Kristin Bauer Van Straten on True Blood, Andy Gibb, and the evils of the ivory ...
A.V. Club Milwaukee, May 27th

I sold them all on eBay, and traded them for vintage dishes. So I've collected two things. ... KBVS: Barbies was a reaction to being home and we were going through all of our old toys we had when we were kids, and because I was the last child, I was...Read more

Inside the Real-Life Barbie Dreamhouse
Forbes, May 27th

A Holly Hunt table in the entryway sits beside a vintage Barbie mannequin, and a $58,000 custom La Cornue stove is the center of the kitchen. Each piece plays an important part in the production of the “Barbie Penthouse”. Although the Barbie factor may...Read more

The Case of Italys Stolen 1800-Year-Old Sarcophagus Lid
Daily Beast, May 27th

Becchina, who kept his collection and ran his illicit trafficking business in Basel, Switzerland, was convicted of artifacts trafficking in 2011. He allegedly imported the Ariadne lid to Switzerland in 1981 and put it on display as a two-part exhibit...Read more

Photographer David Parise shows vintage Barbie and Ken in cheeky picture series
Daily Mail, May 12th

Not all of the photos hold a spotlight up to Barbie's secret behind-the-scenes debauchery, some are slightly more restrained. In fact, the series was actually inspired by the dolls' original 1960's outfits, and puts the old-school swimsuits, dresses...Read more