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    

Beautiful Vintage Barbie & Casey Friend Black Francie Doll & Original SwimsuitVintage Barbie Doll Ponytail B4-mattel Japan-1960's-mattel Vintage Barbie, Ken, Skipper Early 60s Dolls, Clothing & Accessory Lot! Guc! NrVintage Barbie Collection Huge LotVintage Barbie Platinum Blonde Swirl Ponytail HeadVintage Barbie Doll Color Magic Red HeadVintage Barbie Blonde Ponytail Barbie # 3 From 1960Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-"coming Up Roses" 10pcs Vintage Barbie #1 Ponytail 1959 Copper Tubes In Feet The Holy Grail BlondeVintage Barbie Pretty Early Titian Bubblecut W/ Painted Legs Deboxed Lot Kimora Lee Simmons + Barbie Basics Big Model Muse Nude Steffie Lea%toy Stamp & 1959 Mattel #3 Barbie In Original Box With Original Stand N1Faraway Forest Elf Barbie Doll 2014 - Mint In Shipper Nrfb Sold Out!!!Lot Miss Suzette Uneeda Htf Blonde Doll W/red Swimsuit Case Outfits Barbie Clone**ltd Toy Stamp & 1960's Blonde Side Part Coiffure American Girl Barbie + RareOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-"lucky Charm" -11pcsJapanese High Color --side Part American Girl Barbie -by MattelHuge Lot Of Vtg Barbie Dolls Clothes Case & Accessories As FoundVintage Miss Suzette Uneeda Redhead Doll W/black Swimsuit Barbie Clone VgcBarbie Black Francie Doll Mattel Japan VintageGorgeous Barbie Doll Princess Of Ireland Dolls Of The World Boxed - 23 F09Ooak Swirl Ponytail Silkstone Barbie Red Hair Repaint By -- Xiaolan 1978 Photo Fashion P J Barbie Superstar Steffie Brunette GorgeousOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "daisy Maysie" 11 PcsBespaq Occasional Chair, French Style 1/6 Scale, Barbie/fr, Lightly Usd..Vintage Barbie, Skipper, Ken Clothing Bulk LotVintage Miss Suzette Uneeda Doll Barbie Clone Tlc Tressy Maddie Tammy Babs Like Barbie As Medusa1958 Barbie American Girl Bendable Legs Made In Japan DollRare "tm" Hatbox To-vintage Barbie 1959 Commuter Set #916 Outfit-exc Non PlayVintage 1960's Barbie Doll #3 Rare Brown Eye Liner Original Commuter Set #916Vintage Barbie - Standard Truly Scrumptious #1108 In Original Outfit & Wrist TagBeau Flowers - Vintage Barbie Doll Dress Repro Barbie Silkstone Barbie Clothes Vintage Barbie Doll Color Magic Wiglets, Wig Twist N Turn Talking Box Lot1959 #1 Brunette Ponytail Barbie And Stand, No Box, Bathing Suit, Or ShoesPonytail Barbie #1 Vintage Barbie Doll Francie Tennis Skating Dress Tights Hat Purse Gloves ShoesFashionably Floral Silkstone Barbie-2015- New-nrfb-in Stock NowVintage Mattel #3? Blonde Ponytail Barbie W/swimsuit, Accessories, And StandVintage Miss Suzette Uneeda Brunette Doll W/swimsuit Barbie Clone Nice Condition2014 Faraway Forest Elf BarbieGold Label Faraway Forest Lady Of The White Woods Barbie Doll Vintage Original Barbie Navy Blue & Gold Lame Sheath Dress Exc 3 Days!Vintage Original 1962 Mattel Barbie Swirl Ponytail Blonde Hair With Dress JapanHalle Berry Barbie Jinx From James Bond's Die Another Day Movie, NudeHuge Lot 83 Kelly Dolls & Few Other Same Size Dolls Mattel Barbie Sister Silkstone Barbie Fashion Model Trunk, Dolls And Accessories-must See!!%toy Stamp & 1959 Mattel Blonde #3 Barbie Pink Eyeliner With Extras Lot N6Vintage High Color Blonde # 4 Ponytail Barbie With Extra Long Ponytail...Vintage Barbie Friends Midge & Allan +case + Prom Wedding Enchanted Sheath DressSilkstone Barbie "je Ne Sais Quoi" MibSilk Vintage & Repro. Barbie Silkstone Ooak Fashion Royalty Handmade By Mary 9pcMod Vintage Talking Barbie*rare* Vintage Orig.1958 Amer. Girl Side Part Barbie And 1958 Vintage Case JapanVery Rare Coco By Byron Lars Barbie Doll Gold Label Chapeaux Collection LooseVintage 1966 Barbie & Ken Dolls With Clothing Shoes Luggage & AccessoriesVintage Barbie London TourVintage Early Barbie Doll Bubblecut Ponytail Head Lot As IsVintage Barbie Doll 1974 Nrfb Gold Medal Barbie SkierBarbie Mattel Very Rare Vintage Outfit Atelier Fest Rosarie Pink Parfait 1968

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Ohio wildlife experts hold Open Houses around state on March 7 -- Outdoors ..., March 5th

Dinner, raffles, games and appearance by Travis "T-Bone" Turner on the Bone Collector television show. Call Luke Kuzma .... March 28: 2nd annual Barbie Rod Derby, Picnic Area at Emerald Necklace Marina, 1500 Scenic Park, Lakewood. Fishing from 8 ...Read more

The Commercial for Normal Barbie Is as Awesome as the Doll Itself
Cambio (blog), March 5th

When we first heard that Lammily was releasing a "Normal Barbie," we loved the idea. Unlike the other popular dolls, this Barbie is just like us. Thanks to a special sticker kit, she can have freckles, acne, moles, stretch marks, cellulite, scars...Read more

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Stars (Uncannily) As Barbie In Vogue Japan ...
Huffington Post UK, March 5th

with a different theme, profession and designer accessories from differing high-end fashion labels. And, of course, who could forget Moschino's spring/summer 2015 collection which hit the catwalks last Autumn, spearheading a renewed Barbie obsession...Read more

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as a Real-Life Barbie is Both Impressive and Creepy
Huffington Post, March 4th

Luckily, the spread's creepy undercurrent is easily over shadowed by the addition of Moschino's full Barbie-inspired spring/summer '15 collection, as well as other bright, flirty, and glitzy designs from the likes of Valentino, Versace and Ralph Lauren...Read more

Mattel Unveils Filipino Barbie Named Mutya As Part Of Global Glamour Collection
Design & Trend, February 27th

"The print on the organza terno references textiles of the different tribes in the Philippines as well as the sun icon from the flag. The embroidery on the hem is inspired by the Philippines national flower, the sampaguita. The details of Mutya Barbie...Read more

Mattel features Pinay Barbie in glamor collection
GMA News, February 25th

Pinay beauty is again showcased on the international stage, this time as a glamor Barbie doll. Designed by Carlyle Nuera, Mutya Barbie will be sold a limited edition doll - only 4,400 of them will be made, said. "She wears a long...Read more

Germans balk at new 'Soviet snitch' Barbie
FRANCE 24, February 24th

Toy maker Mattel has unveiled a new Barbie that talks and remembers kids' unique preferences. "Hello Barbie" is being marketed as a cutting-edge toy that builds relationships, but one German magazine says she is more like a Soviet-era informant...Read more

Did Zara Think We Wouldn't Notice Its Moschino Knockoff?
Fashionista (blog), February 23rd

In case you missed it — but honestly, how could you? — Jeremy Scott's inspiration for Moschino's spring 2015 collection was Barbie dolls. The designer had everyone paying close attention the moment he sent model Charlotte Free roller skating down the ...Read more