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]

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 Stacey Twist 'n Turn Doll Mint Brand New Nrfb Mib 1967 Blonde HtfOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "blue-navy-blue" Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "sherry" Lot 7 Vtg 60's Barbie/skipper/ken/allan/tutti Dolls,96ct Clothes,2 Cases Mod EraOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- " Lila " Vintage Brunette Ponytail Barbie #3Vintage Barbie 1961 Raven Hair #5 Ponytail Doll #850 Head Only-near ExcellentToy Stamp & 1966 Barbie Tnt Trade In Doll Unused In The BoxBild Lilli Barbie Clone - Resin Lotta Lilli By Pania(2) Vintage 1960 Barbie Dolls Brunette, Blonde Ponytail (1) Ken With Flock HairVintage 1960s Barbie Doll Midge Lot Tons Of Clothing Accessories DressesVintage Raven Hair Twist 'n Turn Tnt Barbie Doll — Near MintBfmc Platinum Label City Smart Silkstone Barbie Doll Nrfb Mattel Exclusive JapanOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- " Giselle " Bfmc Violette Silkstone Barbie Platinum Label Nrfb Mint Mattel Limited EditionNew Handmade Dress And Coat Set For Silkstone Fashion Model Barbie ( Slim Body )Vintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll With Brown Eyeliner - Original Paint1963 Vintage Barbie Lame' Sheath Pak Beautiful Navy Blue And Gold Lame' DressLot Of Vintage Ken, Midge, Skipper, Francie Barbie Dolls & Parts Clothes CaseColor Magic? 1958 Mattel Barbie DollHuge Lot Of Vintage Barbie / Francie / Skipper Items / Accessories! Over 140! Vintage Barbie Doll Lot W/titian Bubblecut 2 Fashion Queens 2 Bodies & Clothes1964 Vintage Barbie On The Go Pak Floral Print Sheath Dress W/ Gold ButtonsVintage Barbie Modern Art (1965) No.1625 Very Good Condition Almoste CompleteVintage 60's #4 Brunette Ponytail Barbie #850Vintage Mod Barbie Francie Doll Lot W/ 1 Marlo Flip Tnt & 1 Standard W/ ClothesVintage Platinum Blond Straight Leg Standard Barbie Doll — Mint!Vintage Original 1959 Barbie #1 Blonde Ponytail With Curly BangsSilkstones High Tea And Savories Giftset 2006 Barbie DollBarbie Head Only - Blond Ponytail #850 Vintage 1959Vintage 1950s 1960 Barbie Doll Clothes Mattel Trunk Lot Wardrobe Accessories KenToy Stamp & 1960s Barbie Theatre Date Outfit Set Mint In The BoxBarbie Collector Holiday Hostess Thanksgiving Feast Gold Label Nrfb Must SeeColor Magic BarbieVintage Barbie 1959 Gay Parisienne #964 Tm Tagged Original In Excellent Cond.Vintage Barbie Platinum Blond Straight Leg Skipper, Near Mint Huge Lot Vintage Barbie Doll With Case , Clothes And Accessories B&w LabelBfmc Platinum Label Fao Exclusive The Soiree Silkstone Barbie Doll Nrfb MattelA+++ Vintage 1968 Mattel Barbie Francie Doll Trunk Case W/ Clothes & AccessoriesLtd Toy Stamp & 1960s Blonde #4 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Orig Outfit In Box Lot#572014 Convention Platinum Label Midnight Celebration Barbie #463 Of 900Nude Barbie Doll Model Muse Stephen Burrows Pazette Aa African Black Hair UpdoVintage 1978 Barbie Complete Dreamhouse With Bedroom Kitchen Living FurnitureVintage Barbie Dream Kitchen Dinette StructureThe Artist 2008 Barbie DollLtd Toy Stamp & 1960s Barbie Redhead Bubblecut Doll W Orig. Outfit In Box Lot#58Barbie Fashion Model Collectiion Stolen Magic Doll Silkstone Iob W/ Coa 2005Big Lot Vintage Barbie Bubble Cut Talking Stacy Ken Francie Dolls Clothes CasesVintage Barbie Doll Lot Clothes Accessories Huge Skipper Pj Hippy Stand Tags NrSilkstone Palm Beach Honey Barbie DollBarbie Pop Life Mod Barbie African American New Gold Label Doll Aa LimitedBfmc Chataine Silkstone Barbie Doll Fao Schwarz Exclusive Platinum Label NrfbToy Stamp & 1966 Barbie American Girl Brunette Beautiful ConditionVintage Barbie And Ken With Lots Of Clothing And CasePonytail Barbie And Vintage Mattel Midge Barbie Bubble Cut Doll Marked JapanVintage Bubble Cut Barbie Box Suzy Goose Wardrobe Filled W Clothes & AccessoriesBarbie Glimmer Of Gold Outfit Only Le 999Vintage Barbie Skipper Clothes Lot Huge Group Very Nice1958 Original Color Magic Barbie Doll Mattel Made In JapanByron Lars African Sugar Barbie Doll Designer Fashion Aa Model Muse

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Lake Central teacher's war artifacts to get own museum
Chicago Tribune, July 2nd

With the help of the Tri-Town Safety Village in Schererville, which intends to donate a building on its campus within eight months, the collection will have a new home in the form of a veterans' museum open to the public. "I collect things from history...Read more

Making the best of South Jersey storm survival | Guest Column, July 2nd

By Barbie Ledyard. Like so many South Jersey residents, the June 23 storm left my home badly damaged. The short list includes the roof being completely crushed on half of the house, plus damage to two outbuildings, a fence, sewer lines and my...Read more

7 Things Only Trisha Yearwood Can Tell You About Her Country Music Hall of ...
Taste of Country, July 1st

Amongst the things that didn't make the cut for Yearwood's Country Hall of Fame exhibit ... “There's some really bad artwork from my childhood that didn't make it," she says. "My Barbie collection, which didn't make it. I played really hard with my...Read more

First 'Batman v Superman' still photos released
Batman-News, July 1st

Standing 12 inches tall and featuring a sword, shield, tiara, bulletproof bracelets and her signature lasso of truth, Wonder Woman is part of the Barbie movie collection along with Superman and Batman. Mattel is also making a Hotwheels version of the ...Read more

See 12 Miniature Stage-Sets With Vintage Barbies as Models
Atlas Obscura, June 26th

Barbie and Ken on the beach, doing yoga. Barbie and Ken with snorkels, underwater. Barbie and Ken in black tie, in the lobby of Miami's Fontainbleau Hotel. These images are the quirky creations of David Parise, a photographer who takes a humorous and ...Read more

Introducing the improved Barbie doll 11:14AM, June 18th

Barbie has endured much criticism over the years for her unrealistic proportions (were she real, Barbie would have to walk around on all fours because her feet are so small), and for representing the stereotypical view of what it is to be beautiful...Read more

From Barbie to G.I. Joe, Ten Vintage Toys That Will Take You Back in Time
Westword, June 12th

The secret to why children look happier in photos from 1973 than they do in photos from 1933 could have something to do with the toys they had to play with. Baby boomers, breakthroughs in plastic molding and the rise of television pop culture are all...Read more

Barbie: 23 Dolls' Skin Tones Look Real, 'Fashionistas' Collection Dumps Heels ...
The Inquisitr, June 9th

Finally, after 56 long years, Mattel is giving Barbie its most radical makeover. The toymaker introduced the new “Fashionistas” collection that features 23 Barbie dolls with several shades of skin tones. Additionally, the overhaul of the popular doll...Read more