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 Stacey Twist 'n Turn Doll Mint Brand New Nrfb Mib 1967 Blonde HtfOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "sherry" (2) Vintage 1960 Barbie Dolls Brunette, Blonde Ponytail (1) Ken With Flock HairOoak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- " Lila " Vintage Raven Hair Twist 'n Turn Tnt Barbie Doll — Near MintVintage Brunette Ponytail Barbie #3New Handmade Dress And Coat Set For Silkstone Fashion Model Barbie ( Slim Body )Vintage Original 1959 Barbie #1 Blonde Ponytail With Curly BangsColor Magic? 1958 Mattel Barbie DollVintage Barbie 1961 Raven Hair #5 Ponytail Doll #850 Head Only-near ExcellentLot Of Vintage Ken, Midge, Skipper, Francie Barbie Dolls & Parts Clothes CaseVintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll With Brown Eyeliner - Original PaintRare! Vintage Blonde Bubble Cut Barbie Doll W/color Magic Face Mint! *1day* Huge Lot Vintage Barbie Doll With Case , Clothes And Accessories B&w LabelVintage 60's #4 Brunette Ponytail Barbie #850Bfmc Platinum Label City Smart Silkstone Barbie Doll Nrfb Mattel Exclusive JapanVintage 1950s 1960 Barbie Doll Clothes Mattel Trunk Lot Wardrobe Accessories KenVintage Mod Barbie Francie Doll Lot W/ 1 Marlo Flip Tnt & 1 Standard W/ ClothesLtd Toy Stamp & 1960s Blonde #4 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Orig Outfit In Box Lot#57Bfmc Violette Silkstone Barbie Platinum Label Nrfb Mint Mattel Limited EditionRare!vintage Silver Blonde Long Hair High Color American Girl Barbie Doll *1day*Vintage Platinum Blond Straight Leg Standard Barbie Doll — Mint!Ltd Toy Stamp & 1960 Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Orig Swimsuit Lot#1111958 Original Color Magic Barbie Doll Mattel Japan1963 Vintage Barbie Lame' Sheath Pak Beautiful Navy Blue And Gold Lame' DressHtf Vintage Barbie Saturday Matinee Short Brown Gloves Mint!!!!!!!Barbie Pop Life Mod Barbie African American New Gold Label Doll Aa LimitedLtd Toy Stamp & 1965 Barbie #1635 Fashion Editor Outfit Lot#73Silkstones High Tea And Savories Giftset 2006 Barbie Doll1958 Original Color Magic Barbie Doll Mattel Made In JapanVintage Barbie Doll Lot W/titian Bubblecut 2 Fashion Queens 2 Bodies & ClothesVintage 1962 Midge Barbie Mattel Doll Platinum Blonde Bubble Cut Doll ~ Japan1964 Vintage Barbie On The Go Pak Floral Print Sheath Dress W/ Gold ButtonsVintage 1963 Barbie And Midge Red Doll Case 14x17 - Dresses Dolls & AccessoriesBig Lot Vintage Barbie Bubble Cut Talking Stacy Ken Francie Dolls Clothes CasesVintage Bubble Cut Barbie Box Suzy Goose Wardrobe Filled W Clothes & AccessoriesHtf Vintage Barbie Holiday Dance Dress Mint!!!!!!!A+++ Vintage 1968 Mattel Barbie Francie Doll Trunk Case W/ Clothes & Accessories1958 Original Color Magic Barbie Doll Mattel Made In JapanSilkstone Barbie *retro Look* Ooak Wonderbilly Blonde Bettie PageVintage Barbie Platinum Blond Straight Leg Skipper, Near Mint Barbie Collector Holiday Hostess Thanksgiving Feast Gold Label Nrfb Must SeeVintage 1960's #6 Barbie Doll Head Only Titian Redhead Ponytail Ponytail 1 BarbieBfmc Platinum Label Fao Exclusive The Soiree Silkstone Barbie Doll Nrfb MattelVintage Barbie Brunette Twist ‘n Turn FranciePonytail Barbie And Vintage Mattel Midge Barbie Bubble Cut Doll Marked JapanTwist N' Turn Stacey Barbie Doll With Original Outfit - 1968 MattelVintage Tnt Barbie Bfmc Chataine Silkstone Barbie Doll Fao Schwarz Exclusive Platinum Label Nrfb*rare* 1967 Vintage Black Francie Doll- Mattel BarbieSilkstone Palm Beach Honey Barbie DollLtd Toy Stamp & 1959 Barbie #916 Commuter Outfit Lot#43Color Magic? 1958 Mattel Barbie DollVintage Raven Hair Ponytail Barbie HeadLtd Toy Stamp & 1960 Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W Orig Swimsuit Lot#112Mattel Barbie Fashion Model Collection The Siren Barbie DollVintage Barbie Skipper Clothes Lot Huge Group Very NiceComplete! Vintage 1964 Mattel Barbie #1614 Junior Prom Outfit Mib Never Opened1958 Original Color Magic Barbie Doll Mattel Japan Gorgeous

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Library happenings, July 3
The Kansan (blog), July 4th

Display Case: Barbie dolls, from the collection Kari Sauerwein began at the age of four, are displayed. New Items Now Available: Fuller, Claire. Our Endless Numbered Days. Peggy lives in the woods with her survivalist father, believing the world has...Read more

Amber Rose showers son Sebastian with smooches and as they walk through LAX
Daily Mail, July 3rd

Amber's inflatable Moschino bag was seen in the Barbie inspired collection and is made entirely of PVC and chain, but costs a whopping $550. She pairs the bag with a lavender Herve Leger bandage dress (we do love this color) and bubble gum pink strappy ...Read more

Heat Forces Sacramento Antique Store To Rethink Hours, Close Early
CBS Local, July 2nd

Barbie dolls with the clear plastic will turn yellow in excessive heat or it will crack and you've lost the mint in the box,” she said. But with a furniture showroom nearly 20 degrees hotter, swamp coolers provide the only relief to keep the wood...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
Glamour.com, 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