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 #2 Barbie Blonde Ponytail Rare Fresh Estate FindVintage Lot Mod Francie Play & Carry Doll House W/bubble Cut Barbie Clothing ++#1 Ponytail Barbie Rare Updo Brunette MibHandmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-" Espresso "Huge Vintage 60s Barbie, Midge, Ken Lot Of 7 Dolls, Mattel Clothes SpaceVintage Barbie Midge B & W Label Clothes Accessories Shoes Nice Lot!Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-" Golden Moment " 14 PcsVintage Mod Barbie Pj B & W Label Clothes Accessories Shoes Nice Lot!Vintage Barbie Lot 9 Dolls American Girl, Stacey, Midge, Bubblecut, SkipperVintage 1600 Series Barbie Outfit And Accessories Lot No Reserve! Vintage Barbie Red Head Casey B & W Label Clothes Accessories Shoes Nice Lot!Barbie Vintage 1959 #2 Blonde Ponytail Rare Htf Vintage Dressed Box Career Girl Barbie Doll Mib MintVintage Lemon Blonde Swirl Ponytail Barbie With Box- Near MintOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- " Cotton Candy " 12 PcsVintage 1960's Color Magic Barbie Doll High Color In Original Swimsuit W/access.Vintage Barbie - Tnt Titian Htf Flip Stacey Barbie Doll #1165 In Bouncy Flouncy Vintage Pale Blonde American Girl Barbie Gorgeous Vintage American Girl Barbie Doll Silky Hair JapanVintage Barbie 6 Francie Casey Twiggy In Mint Outfits Super Nice!Barbie Lot Tarina Tarantino Tim Gunn Model Muse Paul Frank Steffie Rebelde SweetVintage Huge Ponytail Barbie Lot Dolls, Complete Outfits, 1959-'60 Wow!Vintage Original 1969 Talking Barbie Doll Brunette Orange Swim Suit 1115 In BoxBarbie Silkstone LotVintage Barbie Midge B & W Label Clothes Parts LotLot Of (5) Model Muse African Themed Barbie Dolls Collection Liquidation 10Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage Raven #3 Barbie Ponytail & Wardrobe! Bonus Fa-5Vintage Barbie Skipper Skooter B & W Label Clothes Accessories Shoes Nice Lot!Vintage Barbie Swirl PonytailVintage Mod Era Barbie Big Lot + Clothing Pj Live Action Malibu Brunette Shoes Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-" Cool Breeze "*heavenly* Ooak Handmade Fashion For Silkstone/vintage Barbie~joby Mint Rare Mattel Happy Family Pregnant Barbie Midge Doll Baby Nikki Ryan AlanLot Of 2 Wedgwood Barbie Dolls NrfbVintage Color Magic Skipper Barbie - Near MintLot Of (5) Model Muse Themed Barbie Dolls Massive Collection Liquidation 14Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage Blond Hair Barbie #3 Ponytail & Wardrobe! Bonus Fa-1Mint Barbie Fashionably Floral Genuine Silkstone Body Doll Gold Label CollectionLot Of (5) High End Gold Label Barbie Dolls Massive Collection Liquidation 18Pop Life Barbie Lot Red Head Steffie Model Muse Jonathan Adler Clothing + Boots Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage Raven Hair Barbie #3 Ponytail & Wardrobe! Bonus Fa-2Ltd Toy Stamp & Vintage Blond Curly Bangs Barbie Ponytail & Wardrobe! Bonus Fa-3Vintage Original 1971 Growin Pretty Hair Barbie Doll Blonde 1144 In Box Nrfb1960 #3 Blonde Ponytail Barbie Marked Barbie™ Pats.pend. ©mcmlviii By Mattel IncBarbie Silkstone Fashion Model Blond Updo Fashionably Floral Nude For OoakOoak Vintage Bild Lilli/ Barbie LotMerlin The Magician & Morgan Lefay The Enchantress Barbie & Ken Doll NrfbNude Barbie ~raven Blue Eye Articulated Elvis Aphrodite Model Muse Doll For Ooak*spring Illusion* Vintage & Repro Barbie Silkstone Fr Handmade Ooak By Mary 10p2002 Maria Therese Barbie Doll Silkstone Fashion Model Collection NrfbVintage Original 1977 Superstar Barbie Doll Blonde 9720 Sealed In Box Nrfb NrLot Of (5) Model Muse Themed Barbie Dolls Massive Collection Liquidation 9Lot Of (5) Model Muse Themed Barbie Dolls Massive Collection Liquidation 11Luciana Silkstone Barbie-#4 Italian Bfc Gl- Collection-new-nrfb-exquisiteBarbie Doll 1960 Vintage #3 Ponytail Brunette + Evening Splendour #961 OutfitVintage Barbie Doll Brunette Ponytail Barbie #3 Ivory Body Mattel Japan 60s Htf Vintage Barbie Mod Platinum Blonde Tnt & Francie-very NiceVintage Barbie - Ash Blonde Ponytail #850 In Box With Stand, Shoes And Swimsuit1960s No 1190 Swimsuit Barbie With Original Tag & Plastic Hair Cover Protector Amazing Htf Vintage High Color Color Magic Barbie Mint 1 Day

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Why Pink, Against All Odds, Is a Top Spring Fashion Color
Wall Street Journal, March 27th

“A lot of people said Barbie Dreamhouse,” set designer Stefan Beckman commented. “But that was ... It's showing up in unexpected executions, like the latest collection by Parisian label Pallas, which has built its name on tuxedo-inspired tailoring...Read more

Kovel: 'Royal Vienna' porcelain pieces need to be examined closely
INFORUM, March 27th

But since then, porcelains have been made in Germany, Austria, Japan and other Asian countries that are reproductions of the expensive original antique pieces. Be very careful to examine any piece called Royal Vienna or any piece with a beehive mark ...Read more

Local all-breed field dog trial circuit hosts championship; Barbie rods in ..., March 26th

March 27: Whitetails Unlimited Big Buckeye Deer Camp Tour 2015, Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center, 7033 Glenn Highway, Cambridge. Hunting exhibits, raffles, games, buffet dinner featuring Travis "T-Bone" Turner of the Bone Collector television show...Read more

Business oddities: Billionaire racks up frequent flier miles buying art
The Globe and Mail (subscription), March 26th

Shanghai-based art collector Liu Yiqian was at it again this week, forking out almost $19-million (U.S) at auctions in New York. And he likely ... “Hello Barbie” is the beleaguered toy maker's latest attempt to breathe new life into the 56-year-old...Read more

Barbie dolls, matchbox cars in Planting Fields exhibit
Newsday, March 26th

Glam Barbie dolls tower over a vintage Matchbox depot replete with cars, wagons, and trucks at the exhibit "Heels and Wheels: The Big Noise Around Little Toys," opening March 28, 2015, in the Manor House at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay...Read more

Guinness World Records Classics: Meet the Barbie collector with over 15000 dolls
Guinness World Records, March 9th

This week, as Barbie celebrates her 56th birthday we take a look back at Bettina Dorfmann's extensive record-breaking collection of over 15,000 different Barbie dolls. Bettina received her first doll back in 1966, but has only been collecting seriously...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