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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Fashion Doll Guide
Vintage Dolls of the 50s
Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls
Museum of Childhood
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Barbie Dolls
Source: Google News
Quite possibly the most messed-up 'human barbie' story yetCosmopolitan, May 26th
When we caught wind of another 'Human Barbie', we'll admit we were a bit like *face palm* etc etc, but this is really messed up. Angelica Kenova has been ... Getting a sneak peek of the amazing Dion Lee for Target collection today! In stores July 2nd...Read more
Tonight At Madrone: Nude Model Sketch Party & Live MusicHoodline, May 26th
"We'd always loved the aesthetic of vintage nudie mags—the women looked like women (not Barbie dolls), their bodies were real, the kitschy ads were fun, and the writing was respected," they told us last year. "A lot of people don't remember that old...Read more
Collecting Treasures: Lunchbox performs Super on marketazcentral.com, May 26th
This vintage 1954 Superman lunchbox sold for $1,200 at a recent J. Levine auction to an online bidder from New York. (Photo: Michele ... Barbie, G.I. Joe, that Tin Robot, a clapping monkey or even your own personal Poltergeist clown. OK, maybe...Read more
Meredith Named 3rd-Largest Global Licensor For Second Consecutive YearPR Newswire (press release), May 26th
(Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger), Iconix Brand Group (Danskin, Starter), and Mattel, Inc.(Barbie, Fisher-Price). Top licensing agreements for Meredith Brand Licensing include a long-standing home decor and outdoor living collection of Better Homes and...Read more
The Wacky, Wonderful World of Starlandia!Connect Savannah.com, May 26th
He didn't seem to mind that the Free Stump provided our family with Halloween costumes and a sweet collection of Beatrix Potter, but this giving tree wasn't without its hazards; someone once walked off with our kid's carseat while I was cleaning out...Read more
Gabi Grecko bares her cleavage in doll-inspired ensemble in Instagram postDaily Mail, May 25th
Jeremy Scott's spring/summer 2015 collection for Moschino caused an Insta-stampede in September, nearly breaking the internet when he sent human Barbie dolls down the catwalk. The creative head, who is famed for making kitsch cool, sent his models ...Read more
Photographer Captures The 'Simpler Times' Of The 1960s With Hilarious Barbie ...Huffington Post, May 18th
This isn't a photo of real-life bombshells, or even a carefully retouched image of impossibly beautiful models -- it's a picture of two vintage Barbie dolls, the original standard-makers of unobtainable beauty. Photographer David Parise has been...Read more
Photographer David Parise shows vintage Barbie and Ken in cheeky picture seriesDaily Mail, May 12th
'My project began in 2009 while living in Miami Beach after spotting vintage Barbie and Ken dolls in a book on Lincoln Road,' Mr. Parise wrote on his website. 'I thought how much fun it would be to photograph them with Miami Beach as their backdrop.'...Read more