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 matched between the two dolls. The following year Midge got her own boyfriend, Alan, and Barbie was given a kid sister, Skipper. Mattel even sold a pet poodle, which itself could be dressed in a variety of fun getups.
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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Picker Fritz eager to help hometown of DavenportDanbury News Times, May 18th
Gendreau said the weekday "sleepiness" of the small town of about 3,000 people in Carroll County transforms into a hopping destination for motorcycles and antique hunters on the weekends, especially in the summer. It is not unusual, he said, to get 5...Read more
StreetStyle: Brenda JohnsonWinnipeg Free Press, May 18th
Coat -- "It's from a vintage store in the Exchange. The owner had a hidden section on the top floor Everybody looked like Barbie dolls to me, especially when they wear four-inch heels and they're into '50s styles. So I had a tailor make clothes for...Read more
Hagerstown man has car devoted to Dolly PartonKnoxville News Sentinel, May 18th
In this May 2, 2013 photo, Paul T. Woodal Jr. poses for photos next to his Barbie-pink 2008 Volkswagen Beetle adorned with photos and sayings from one of country music's most beloved artists, Dolly Parton. (AP Photo/The Herald-Mail, Joe Crocetta). This...Read more
Light From the Middle East exhibition highlights Arab talentThe National, May 18th
An image from the Emirati photographer Lamia Gargash's series Through The Looking Glass, which is a collection of portraits showing people with and without prosthetics. Courtesy Lamia Gargash / Third Line Gallery. The Yemeni photographer Boushra...Read more
I've played with a lot of Barbies: Johnny DeppDay & Night News, May 18th
London, May 18 : Actor Johnny Depp is an avid collector of limited edition Barbie dolls. Depp, 49, has also got celebrity dolls based on Beyonce and even a Lindsay Lohan figure with an ankle tag, reported Sun online. “I've played with a lot of Barbies...Read more
Storytelling raconteurs of The Moth to flutter to The State TheatreMlive Kalamazoo, May 17th
The Moth "is very much a celebration of the raconteur," said Maggie Cino, director of The Moth collection of storytellers coming to The State Theatre, May 22. Five storytellers She nearly dies and is offered a Barbie Dreamhouse if she pulls through...Read more
Barbie's Dreamhouse Gets a Warm ReceptionTablet Magazine, May 17th
geometric gown—along with, fittingly enough, a Mona Lisa-inspired Barbie, adorned in Renaissance finery, and a van Goghian Barbie, rocking a Starry Night cocktail dress—are the three inaugural offerings of the Barbie Collector Museum Collection...Read more
Vintage Barbie dolls reflect the fashions of the early 1960sPocono Record, April 27th
In 1959, Barbie was featured in a TV commercial and she sold for $3. A new Barbie doll doesn't cost that much more today, but if you want to buy a vintage Barbie from the 1960s, get ready to open your wallet. Like some other baby boomers, Barbie came...Read more