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    

Barbie: Vintage Brunette #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W/"tm" Box!Barbie: Vintage Blonde Display #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll!Barbie: Vintage Brownette 1961 Bubblecut Barbie Doll!Barbie: Vintage Blonde #3 Ponytail Barbie Doll W/blue Shadow!Barbie: Vintage Brownette 1961 Bubblecut Barbie Doll W/box!Barbie: Vintage Brunette 1966 Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll!Nib Karl Lagerfeld Barbie Doll Platinum Label Limited EditionBarbie: Vintage Brunette #4 Ponytail Barbie Doll W/box!Barbie: Vintage Redhead Variation Flip Bend Leg Midge Doll W/box!2014 Karl Lagerfeld Designer Barbie Platinum For The Adult Collector By Mattel!Platinum Label Karl Lagerfeld Designer Barbie For The Adult Collector By Mattel!Barbie: Vintage Redhead Twist & Turn Barbie Doll W/trade In Box!Vintage Barbie Doll Blonde Ponytail Swirl Barbie & Clone Dress Lot 60's JapanVintage 1960 #3 Brunette Ponytail Barbie W Brown Eyeliner - Orig Face PaintVintage Ponytail Barbie Doll #3Barbie: Vintage Silver Ash Blonde 1966 Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll!Vintage 1960 Ponytail Barbie Doll #3 Blonde Head Only Brown Eyeliner Susy GooseVintage 1966 American Girl Bend Leg Barbie Doll In 1968 Wedding Wonder #1849Barbie: Vintage Redhead Twist & Turn Skipper Doll!Barbie: Vintage Redhead Bend Leg Bubblecut American Girl Barbie Doll W/box!Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-gingham Ensemble-13pcsBarbie: Vintage Raven Black 1961 Bubblecut Barbie Doll!Vintage #3 Ponytail Barbie/oss/shoes & SunglassesVtg 1958 Mattel Barbie Brunette Ponytail & Midge Bubble Cut & Lot Of ClothingNew Platinum Label Karl Lagerfeld Barbie Nrfb Limited To 9991959 Barbie Mattel Brunette Ponytail Doll Stock No. 850 Box Vintage OriginalVery Vintage Barbie - Brunette Ponytail W/curly BangsVintage Barbie American Girl Doll/ Oos/very PrettyKarl Lagerfeld Barbie Doll Platinum Label Nrfb Sold Out Online Confirmed Order!**ltd Toy Stamp & 1970's Barbie Doll Mod Outfit Glimmer Glamour Sears ExclusiveBarbie: Vintage Redhead Bend Leg American Girl Barbie Doll!Barbie: Vintage Brunette Baggie Francie Doll!Vtg 1958 Mattel Barbie Brunette Ponytail Plus Large Lot Of Clothing AccessoriesBarbie: Vintage Blonde #4 Ponytail Barbie Doll W/box!Barbie: Vintage Blonde Talking Stacey Doll!Barbie: Vintage Blonde Bend Leg Ken Doll!Original #3 Brunette Ponytail BarbieVintage Barbie 1962 Store Doll Display Stewardess Clear Window TagVintage Mattel 1977 Superstar Barbie Doll In Rare Sears Exclusive Gown #2062#12 Htf Vintage 1960 Blond Hair #3 Ponytail Barbie With Brown Eyeliner-read Vintage Barbie American GirlNew Barbie Fashion Model Gal On The Go Genuine Silkstone Body Doll N5021Platinum Label Karl Lagerfeld Designer Barbie Doll 2014 Nib Sold OutBarbie: Vintage Blonde #4 Ponytail Barbie Doll!Vintage 1972 Barbie Quick Curl Miss America Nrfb #8697 Mattel Barbie: Vintage Brunette Tnt Hair Fair Barbie Doll!Barbie: Vintage Blonde Talking Busy Steffie Doll!Karl Lagerfeld Platinum Label Barbie For The Adult Collector By Mattel Sold Out!Vintage Barbie Twist N Turn DollVintage Barbie Mod Twist N Turn Growing Hair Francie Tnt Stacey *tlc & Repair*Vintage Barbie Lot~1960's Clothes, Dolls, Cases, Ken Clothes, No Reserve Vintage Barbie B & W Label Clothes Parts Accessories Lot*black Tweed* Vintage Barbie Silkstone Fashion Royalty Victoire Roux Ooak 9 Pce Vintage Barbie Lot 3 Dolls - Bubblecut, Hair Fair And Pj Dolls (tlc Lot)Barbie Silkstone Vanity And Bench (never Opened)Barbie: Vintage Blonde Ponytail Barbie Doll W/box!Vintage 1977 Rare Superstar Barbie Doll Fashion Change Abouts Store SpecialNude Audrey Hepburn Roman Holiday Barbie Doll Model Muse Body Free ShippingVintage Original 1959 #1 Brunette Barbie Doll Vintage 1958 Barbie & 1960 Ken Dolls, 1963 Case & Large Lot Of Clothes & Access.

Recent News: Barbie Dolls

Source: Google News

Karl Lagerfeld Barbie dolls sell out in under one hour, but you can still buy ...
The Independent, September 30th

This comes as no surprise though, as the combination of “Karl Lagerfeld” and “limited-edition” seemed to be a must-have amongst fashionistas. Barbie Lagerfeld is part of Mattel's Barbie Collector series and the doll sports Kaiser Karl's signature grey...Read more

Enjoy Barbie's vintage years at Esse Purse Museum
THV 11, September 24th

General admission also includes the Barbie® exhibit; ticket prices are 5 and younger, free; students, seniors (60+), military and groups of 10 or more who pay together, $8; regular, $10. If you've never seen Barbie and her friends and fashions in their...Read more

Moschino Barbie Collection Pieces Are Available to Rent Now, Including This ...
Us Magazine, September 22nd

A model skates down the runway in Moschino's Barbie collection during Milan Fashion Week on Sept. 18. Credit: Catwalking/Getty ... Moschino's Jeremy Scott debuted his “Think Pink” Barbie collection in Milan on Thursday, Sept. 18, and for those ready to ...Read more

Milan Fashion Week 2014: Moschino's Colourful Barbie Doll-Inspired Spring ...
International Business Times UK, September 19th

Italian fashion house Moschino has gone Barbie-crazy with its Spring/Summer 2015 collection, which was showcased during Milan Fashion Week and streamed live online in high-definition. The collection paid homage to the iconic children's toy by featuring...Read more

Jeremy Scott Created Barbie's Dream Collection at Moschino
Fashionista, September 19th

The designer, who based his fall 2014 collection for Moschino on America's junk culture (think fast food, SpongeBob and Budweiser), decided to play on nostalgia for spring, and created a very literal version of Barbie's dream wardrobe for the season...Read more

Moschino: Buy It Now
Vogue.com, September 19th

JEREMY SCOTT wowed the fashion crowd once again last night with his Barbie-themed spring/summer 2015 collection for Moschino, but for those that can't wait until it drops in its entirety, there is an exclusive capsule collection available to buy now...Read more

It Was a Barbie World at Moschino
New York Magazine, September 18th

Cue the Aqua. Jeremy Scott managed to top the outrageousness of fall's drive-thru chic with a Barbie-themed Moschino collection shown today in Milan. That meant tons of pink heart-shaped purses and puffy-scripted roll-away luggage (presumably sold ...Read more

Can You Spot All the Barbie References in the Moschino Spring 2015 Show?
Glamour (blog), September 18th

Models had seriously voluminous wigs (platinum blond if it worked) and the entire first half of the show was all bubble-gum pink. There were all kinds of retro references too, from the chain belts to the prim skirt suits, and, of course, plenty of...Read more