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    

Vintage Barbie Doll #3 Blonde Ponytail Prom Dress 1963 - 1964 #951 Satin GownRare Lemon Yellow Color Magic Barbie..with Tons Of Color !!Vintage Barbie American Girl High Color Brunette With Shoes/stand/oss/bookVintage Barbie And Ken Doll With Accessories And CasesGorgeous Vintage Barbie American Girl Rare Brownette Sidepart +evening Gala GownRare Vintage Barbie Nidge Brownette Hair Color Bend Leg Music Center MatineeVintage Barbie #1070 Dark Brownette Side Part American Girl ????Vintage # 3 Ponytail Barbie DollA/o Beautiful Vintage Titian Bendleg Bubblecut Barbie. With Huge Bubble !!! NmDressed Boxed Ash Blonde Bubblecut Barbie In "nighty Negligee,: Excellent1965 Barbie American Girl Titian Doll W/original Box MattelGrace Kelly The Bride Silkstone Barbie - DisplayedVintage Barbie Ken Dressed Box Nrfb 1962 #798 Ski Champion 1963 Mib Mint DollVintage Fashion Photo Barbie Pj Doll 1978 In Skirt Steffie Face No Orig Box UsedVtg.1964 Tagged Titian Barbie American Girl Doll W/striped Suit In Original BoxVintage Lot Of Barbie Francie Skipper Ken Clothes From 1960's #19Afternoon Suit Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Bfc ExclusiveOoak Fashion For Silkstone/vintage Barbie Or Fashion Royalty By M_lOoak Barbie Fashion By Roxy-"antoinette" 14 PiecesCocktail Dress Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label DisplayedVintage 1959 Rare Barbie Outfit **roman Holiday** #968 With Hard To Find Hat Verushka Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label DisplayedVintage Lot Of Barbie Francie Skipper Ken Clothes From 1960's #18Vintage Mod Barbie Friend Blonde Casey Doll No 1180 & Francie Case + Clothes Lot12 Inch Doll Wig Lot B Fashion Royalty Barbie Monogram Dynamite Girls SilkstoneVintage Barbie Friend Midge American Girl Long Haired Brownette W/ Dress & HeelsBarbie Vintage Doll Lot Of 8 Tribute Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Ekaterina Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Bfc ExclusiveRare 1972 Barbie Friend Walking Jamie Strollin' In Style Sear's Gift Set Nrfb Prima Ballerina Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed 1967 German Bend Legs Barbie Pink Skin 1958 Tnt Face Vintage Japan RarRare Vintage Barbie European Bubble Cut Brownette Hair Genuine Side Part 1958The Siren Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Vintage Platinum Blonde Color Magic Barbie, Rerooted, ExcellentVintage Lot Of Barbie Francie Pj Tutti Heads From 1960's #7Barbie Dolls Lot Of 4 NibVintage Midge Barbie 1963 Case Clothes Clothing Doll Lot - .99 Cent Sale Tweed Indeed Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Huge Lot Of Vintage Barbie Mattel Doll Clothes & Accessories-outfits, Shoes, EtcCappucine Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Parisienne Pretty Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Vintage #4 Brunette Ponytail Barbie, ExcellentVintage 1960's #5 Brunette Barbie Doll W/tagged Clothes & Case1962 Barbie Rare Black Silk Sheath Dress W Matching Purse & HeelsHaute Monde Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Barbie Fan Club ExclusiveVintage American Girl Barbie Doll 1st Issue Yellow Hair Barbie Doll W/suitVintage Mod Tnt Blonde Barbie Summer Sand In Original SwimsuitVintage Barbie Blond Soft Poodle Bangs Ponytail Doll No 850 #5 W/ Suit & StandVintage Barbie Huge Lot Mod Tnt Francie Casey Steffie Malibu Pj Dolls ClothesMarket Day Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed1965 American Girl Barbie Doll With Original Box, Titian Red Hair, BendableVintage Repro Barbie Silkstone Fr Poppy Parker Fashion Handmade Dress Ooak /maryVintage Barbie BubblecutVintage Lot Of Barbie, Stacy, Midge Francie, Swirl, Skipper, Pj, Standard HeadsStunning A/o Vintage Platinum Sidepart Bubblecut Barbie !!! Vintage Barbie Doll Lot With ClothesVtg 66-68 Francie Barbie's Modern Cousin 1140 Straight Leg Doll Clothes Case LotMila Barbie Silkstone Bfmc Gold Label Displayed Bfc ExclusiveVintage Lot Of Barbie Francie Skipper Ken Accessories From 1960's

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Scoop: A tantalizing sneak preview of grand new SFMOMA
San Francisco Examiner, April 28th

Board president Bob Fisher had a few anecdotes about his parents Donald and Doris Fisher, whose significant donations really have upped the collection (Fisher said his mom's favorite painting is Agnes Martin's “Night Sea,” which is on the fourth floor...Read more

Entertainment Calendar: April 29–May 5
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, April 28th

SPRING AT MOON FARM, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Moon Farm, 1360 18 1/2 Road, Fruita, new animals in the petting zoo, Phase II of the Barbie Collection, take a lunch, $5 per person, ages 3 and younger free, 261-6490, moonfarm.net. .... Association of Watch and...Read more

Highlights of Bridal Fashion week
Rapid City Journal, April 28th

In his bridal collection, Copping included some looser shapes — not everything was cinched tightly at the waist, princess-style — and even some short bridal gowns. "I was thinking of the ... Guests were sent home with the de la Renta Barbie doll...Read more

Secondhand stores find new use for Winthrop's empty storefronts
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel, April 28th

WINTHROP — When Darlene Steele was young and her foster parents couldn't afford accessories for her Barbie doll, she took wooden fruit boxes and made them into doll houses. Last winter, when Steele was looking for a new space to house her business...Read more

Your Guide to 2016's Fashion-Themed Museum Blockbusters
Wall Street Journal, April 28th

What's on Show: For the costume collection's 30th anniversary, curators chose 300 pieces to reflect 300 years of fashion. Exhibits make optimal use of the soaring ... Barbie, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Mar. 10-Sept. 18, 2016. The couture-clad...Read more

Let's learn from the past: Wolverine Toy Company
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 27th

Visitors to the Heinz History Center's new “Toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s” exhibition can see toys from the museum's Wolverine Toy Company collection, along with nearly 500 legendary toys, ranging from Barbie and Gumby to Hot Wheels and Star Wars...Read more

Highlights From Bridal Fashion Week
ABC News, April 27th

In his bridal collection, Copping included some looser shapes — not everything was cinched tightly at the waist, princess-style — and even some short bridal gowns. "I was thinking of the ... Guests were sent home with the de la Renta Barbie doll...Read more

California plus-sized woman earns $58k dressing as Barbie
Daily Mail, April 27th

Ash Phillips, 27, from California, is known as the world's biggest Barbie, who not only promotes plus size positivity, but she says she is irresistible to men who are drawn to her curves. The 27-year-old, who now regular attends Big Beautiful Women - a...Read more