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    

Huge Lot Of Vintage Barbie Ken Skipper Dolls And Clothing Mostly 1960s Vintage Barbie Light Blonde Bubblecut Lemon Silk Sheath Dress Pumps & PurseOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "honey" Vintage1960s Barbie Doll Blonde PonytailLarge Lot Of Vintage Mattel Ponytail Barbie Era Clothing And AccessoriesApproximate 11.5" Hard Plastic Hong Kong Bild Lilli/barbie Clone Doll~original?20 Doll Vintage And Modern Barbie Lot All Are DressedVintage Barbie Original Brunette Ponytail In One Piece Swimsuit Japan MijRare Vintage Redhead Twist 'n Turn Tnt Barbie Doll Copper PennyVintage Mattel Dark Brown Coco Tnt Twist 'n Turn Barbie No ReserveVintage Barbie Lot Dolls Heads Wigs Hair Fair ? Skipper Bubblecut Standard ? UsdVintage 60's #4 Brunette Ponytail BarbieBlond American Girl Barbie Doll #1070 Excellent Htf ~ Vintage 1960's Vintage Francie/barbie Fancy Dancy Mint And Complete! Look!2 Vintage Barbie Blonde 1964 And Brunette 1965 Bendable Legs, Clothes And CaseHuge Vintage Barbie Lot! Ponytail, Bubble Cut, Midge, Clothes, Cases, & More!Vintage Ponytail Barbie Doll ~raven Black Ponytail Hair~ # 7 Lovely Face JapanLot Of 8 Vintage Barbie Dolls - Dolls Of The World Collection - All New In Box Approximate 7.5" Hard Plastic Hong Kong Bild Lilli/barbie Clone Doll~originalVintage Barbie Doll Body To 1965 1st Issue American Girl- Read And See PhotosBarbie Brunette Bubble Cut With Tag In Rare Gay Parisienne Box - Vintage Vintage Barbie Doll Red Dress Lined Outfit W/ Tag 1960's 1958 1959 Vgc1974 Sweet 16 Barbie Doll Nrfp With Bonus Outfit, Mod Vintage Beautiful! Vintage Barbie Blonde Longer Hair American Girl - Doll Only ~ 5 Days!Vintage Mattel Barbie Mod Era Julia #1753 Candlelight Capers Outfit CompleteRare Titian Hair,light Copper, Hair Happenin's Barbie, Beautiful Condition !Mattel Vintage Auburn Red Swirl Ponytail Barbie 1964-1965 With CaseBarbie Fashionistas: La Edgy Girl Style Vhtf Side Shave & Pink HairDiane Von Furstenberg Gold Label 12" Barbie Doll Mattel 2006 MibVintage Swirl Ponytail BarbieVintage Barbie And Mattel Dolls Lot!Barbie 2015 Nrfb Bill Greening Designer Black Label Tokidoki Doll W/polppetinaB29 Vintage Barbie: Sears Excl Walking Jamie Furry Friends W/ Vhtf Box #1584 ’70*vintage 1961 Brunette Ponytail #5 Barbie 850 In Original Box*Beautiful Vintage Barbie Brunette Ponytail #5 ~ Doll OnlyBarbie Wonder Woman, Dc Comic Diana Prince 12"dollVintage Barbie Stacie Francie Dark Hair Doll Head Only W/ Real EyelashesBarbie Happy Family Pregnant Midge Belly Baby Doll 2002 Loose Without PackagingBarbie Doll House Kitchen Furniture And Accessories Set Lot Food DishesHarley-davidson Barbie And Ken Giftset 2010 Barbie DollHuge Lot Of Vintage Barbie Ken Dolls Clothes Shoes Accessories 1970s-1980sVintage Barbie Doll 1966 Bendable 1968 Lot 9 Talking Ken Tutti ChrisVintage 1960's Barbie, Skipper, Skooter 4 Dolls And Clothing Lot - Estate Find!Beautiful 1960's #5 Titian Red Hair Ponytail Barbie Doll & Vintage ClothingVintage 1961 Mattel Titian Bubblecut Barbie Doll Swimsuit Sunglasses Pats PendGold Label Silkstone Walking Suit Barbie Doll Fashion Model Collection MattelVintage Barbie Little Sister Skipper 2 Dolls, Case, Clothes, Accessories Vintage Barbie Blonde Bubblecut - Bubble Cut Cute Vintage Mattel 60's Fashion Queen Barbie Doll W/suit & 1 WigBarbie Happy Family Midge Grandma Newborn Baby Dolls & Pregnancy Belly Etc UsedVintage Julia Tnt Japan & Talking Pj Barbie DollsHuge Vtg Barbie & Ken Doll Lot - Cases, Clothes, Accessories Complete Outfits B3436 Barbie Fashion Model Collection Silkstone VanityGold Label Silkstone Party Dress Barbie 12" Doll Fashion Model Collection MattelVintage 1961 Barbie Doll Blonde Ponytail, Case, Clothes, Accessories - See DescrVintage #4 Brunette Ponytail Barbie High Color Blush Gorgeous Mint! 5 Days Only!Versace 2004 Barbie DollVintage Barbie PonytailB30 Vintage Barbie: Sears Excl Wlkg Jamie Strollin’ In Style Doll & OutfitTrench Setter Silkstone Barbie Doll, Nrfb

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

First-ever exhibition of Barbie Collector dolls opens
Gulf Today, September 2nd

DUBAI: Mall of the Emirates in collaboration with iconic Barbie has unveiled a week-long exhibition of collector items on Wednesday.The exhibition is showcasing 24 limited edition of dolls designed by prominent designers around the world including ...Read more

5 things to do today: See a Barbie haute-couture collector exhibition and book ...
The National, September 1st

See the first-ever Barbie haute-couture collector exhibition in the Middle East. As part of Mall of the Emirates' 10th anniversary, see a display of the original fashionista – Barbie – in a chic Parisian setting featuring 24 limited-edition dolls, each...Read more

Barbie launches shoe collection - for real people
TODAYonline, August 31st

“Creating a shoe collection for Barbie has always been my dream project, but getting to be a part of her embracing flats for the first time made it extra exciting, and deeply personal,” said Webster. “I love that this concept strikes a balance between...Read more

Sophia Webster to launch Barbie Collection of shoes
International Business Times AU, August 25th

Barbie by Sophia Webster comprises nine styles. It will also consist of candy-coloured kicks -- with six styles for adults and three styles for children. The adult shoe collection will have two pairs of trainers, one pair of flat sandals and three...Read more

This Barbie-Inspired Shoe Collab Is Bound To Be Street Style Gold
Refinery29, August 24th

We all heaved a sigh of relief when we heard the news that Barbie would finally get to wear flats after a long 56 years of mandatory high-heeled torture. And, now, joining us in celebrating Barbie's stiletto liberation is Sophia Webster, who has...Read more

Sophia Webster Launching Barbie Collection
Footwear News, August 21st

Sophia Webster's signature styles have been sprinkled with a bit of Barbie flair. The label is launching a line of shoes inspired by Barbie offered for both adults and children. Webster's signature styles, including her Chiara butterfly stiletto...Read more

Remembering Judy Faye Blackmon, 72, Barbie collector who used couponing skills ...
ColaDaily.com, August 20th

Blackmon wasn't clipping coupons or bagging groceries, Ms. Smith said she was combing antique stores for Barbie dolls. Mrs. Blackmon collected Barbie dolls of all types and Ms. Smith said she had an entire room in her home dedicated to her collection...Read more

Collection of 2000 Barbie dolls to be auctioned in Chicago
Chicago Sun-Times, August 4th

“Modern Barbie: Property from the Collection of Janice Pye” features 2,000 dolls, none of which has ever been removed from the boxes, making them even more valuable to collectors. The collection features pop culture Barbies, from Bob Mackie and Vera ...Read more