Cabbage Patch Kids weren't actually born in a field of vegetables, but out of the entrepreneurial mind of a 21-year-old art student, Xavier Roberts, in Helen, Georgia. In 1976, Roberts became fascinated with a German fabric-sculpture technique from the 19th century known as "needle molding." However, according to a 1980 lawsuit, Roberts wasn't only inspired by turn-of-the-century crafts. Martha Nelson Thomas of Louisville, Kentucky, alleged that she had been selling similar soft-sculpture baby dolls for "adoption" since the early 1970s, and Roberts had approached her in 1976 about selling her dolls in a gift shop he managed. Nelson Thomas ultimately lost her suit against Roberts because she had not copyrighted her dolls. She went on to manufacture her own Original Doll Baby.

Roberts developed his own "adoptable" hand-made Little People soft-sculptures, which came with birth certificates, in 1977. He sold his Little People Originals at craft shows across the South, where he learned that people would pay $40 to "adopt" his dolls. After his "Dexter" sculpture won first place at the Osceola Art Show in Kissimmee, Florida, in 1978, Roberts got together with five friends to form Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. A key component of the enterprise was the renovation of an old medical center in Cleveland, Georgia, as BabyLand General Hospital, where eager customers watched the process of the Little People being born from "mother cabbages," with the help of "licensed patch nurses." At this surreal store, "premature" babies were placed in incubators, and some births require c-sections (or "cabbage-sections").

In 1980, Roberts and his Little People creations were featured on the documentary TV show, "Real People," and by 1981, they were causing a national stir, getting coverage in "Newsweek," the "Atlanta Weekly," and "The Wall Street Journal." These stories highlighted doll fanatics who paid 100 times the original price for earlier editions of the dolls.

All this buzz led to a licensing deal with major toy manufacturer Coleco in 1982, which changed the name of Roberts' doll line to Cabbage Patch Kids. The Coleco toy version of Roberts' artworks were smaller in size (16 inches) and had vinyl, rather than fabric, heads. The "adoption fees" for the mass-produced toys were usually less than $30, and each doll came with a "birth certificate" with a unique name and birth date.

The introduction of Cabbage Patch Kids, which came in a wide range of ethnicity and races and were marketed to girls and boys, sparked a frenzy. Coleco sold more than 3 million dolls by the end of 1983, but could not keep up with the demand. During the Christmas season, parents mobbed department stores, hoping to get one of these coveted dolls to put under the tree. This was the first holiday "toy fad" to nearly cause riots, as shoppers pushed and shoved each other to get to the dolls.

Because of this craze, the dolls became something of an American icon. In 1985, a Cabbage Patch doll named "Christopher Xavier," traveled aboard a NASA space shuttle; and in 1992, the doll became official mascot of the U.S. Olympic Team, traveling with the athletes to Barcelona. Then, in 1999, the Cabbage Patch Kids were honored in a U.S. postage stamp set remembering the 1980s. The dolls inspired spinoffs like books, clothing, records, and animated movies, as well as 13-inch infant-like "Preemie" and animal-faced "Koosa" dolls.

They were also subject to parody. In 1985, Topps introduced Garbage Pail Kids sticker trading cards, which were conceptualized by none other than Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonis...

Both fads, for Cabbage Patch Kids and their Garbage Pail spoof, died quickly in the '80s. In 1985, Coleco—also the distributor of Pac-Man video games—made record profits, but by 1986, video-game sales were slumping and Cabbage Patch Kids were no longer the must-have toy. Even though, in 1987, Coleco introduced a pricey "Talking" Cabbage Patch Kid as a last-ditch effort to renew interest in the toy, the company went bankrupt in the late '80s.

But mass-produced Cabbage Patch Kids lived on, manufactured by Hasbro, Mattel, Toys R Us, and eventually its current licensee, Play Along Inc. Roberts, too, has continued to make hand-made Cabbage Patch Original Kids, which are more rare and more valuable to collectors. New, these Originals sell for six-to-10 times the price of the licensed versions.

When Hasbro took over the rights, the company tried several gimmicks to revive the dolls' previous popularity. Some Kids played kazoos, others were made smaller to appeal to younger children, and several specialty lines were established, including Birthday Kids, Splash 'n' Tan Kids, and Pretty Crimp and Curl.

Mattel bought the rights in 1994, and began making 14-inch Cabbage Patch Kids that were all vinyl—now, even the cloth bodies had been replaced with plastic. The Mattel dolls often did tricks, too, including eating food, brushing their teeth, or swimming. One line known as Cabbage Patch Snacktime Kids was withdrawn from the market a year after its premiere in 1996; children were getting their fingers and hair caught in the dolls' mechanical mouths.

Just in time for the dolls' 20th anniversary in 2003, Toys R Us took over the rights and released 18-inch and 20-inch dolls with vinyl heads and cloth bodies. These debuted at the company's flagship store in New York City, where they were sold in cabbage-leaf seats.

Thanks to all the nostalgia for the dolls, in 2004, the Cabbage Patch Kids were revived by new licensee Play Along. Its new generation of 16-inch dolls are very similar to the Coleco versions from 1983, and are sold to parents who remember loving their Kids as children. In recent years, Play Along has released a line known as Cabbage Patch Kids Babies, as well as the 25th Anniversary Celebration Baby, which licks an ice cream cone. And in 2008, the Republican and Democratic contenders for U.S. President and Vice President—Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain, and Sarah Palin—were made into Cabbage Patch dolls. Palin's came with glasses, of course.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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    

Rare Vintage Tsukuda Cabbage Patch Girl1978 Cabbage Patch Doll The Little People W/pacifier Xavier Roberts1986 Cabbage Patch Kids Babies Coleco 3800 Baby Powder Scented Unused In Box22" Cabbage Patch Doll The Little People Soft Sculpture Xavier Roberts 791985 Ltd Edition Cabbage Patch Kids African American Twins Coleco 3901 In Box 1985 Cabbage Patch Kids Red Haired Girl - Coleco 3900 In Box - Andrea CarlotaXavier Roberts Little People Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Green Eyes SignedRare Black African American Cabbage Patch Kids #2 Boy Doll Box Freckles & FuzzyVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Outfit Lot Of 3 Clothes Lion, Bunny & Deer1983 Cabbage Patch Kids African American Boy Coleco 3900 In Box - Elroy AronLot Of Cabbage Patch Kids Original Miscellaneous Clothes 14 Pieces, EucEarly Cabbage Patch Doll Red Hair Paci Green Eyes & Sig Tessie Stefanie CompleteNib Vintage Rare 1987 Cabbage Patch Kids Babies Dolls Lucille Dawn 1978-1982Cabbage Patch Doll1980 Holiday Edition Cabbage Patch Little People Soft Sculpture Xavier RobertsCabbage Patch Black Americana - Bear OutfitCabbage Patch Doll Factory Tags Clothes 12 Pcs Sweater Set 3 Pc Bonnets Dresses Cabbage Patch Kids Miscellaneous Doll Clothes Lot Cpk Cute!1984 Cabbage Patch Jesmar Doll Made In SpainLot Of Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls Vintage Coleco First Edition Hasbro & MattelRiddell Custom Power Cpk Shoulder Pad1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll's Musical Swing Coleco 3906 In Box Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Cradle Crib Cpk Green Outfit For Vintage Cabbage Patch Boy Doll1989 Cabbage Patch Girl Doll Curly Hair Blue Eyes Workout Sweat Outfit Shoes Vintage 1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll W/ Original Box & PapersVintage Cabbage Patch Clothes Lot + Shoes + Extras Bride - 8 Complete Outfits + Vintage Lot 1983 Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes Girl Boy & Premie Outfits CarrierVintage Cabbage Patch Kid Boy BabyXavier Roberts Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Little People 1978Vintage Cabbage Patch Dolls - Lot Of 7Vintage Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Coleco Lemon Hair Pacifier Nib CpkVintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll 3-pc Dress Velvet Floral Lace Clothes CpkVintage Cabbage Patch Doll (1985) With Papers (excellent Condition)Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls Lot Of 3Cabbage Patch Doll 1978 Xavier Roberts Blonde Frosted Hair Excellent VintageVintage Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Doll1986 Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Babies-isabel LorianeVintage Xavier Roberts 88 Cabbage Patch Kid Little People Cheerleader Vintage 1980s Lot Of Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls Vintage Cabbage Patch Preemie Knit Outfit 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids Preemie! Coleco 3870 March Of Dimes In BoxDoll Clothes & Shoes Zapf Cpk Bsb Handmade Et.al. Lot 20+Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll2014 Soft Sculpture Original 22" Cabbage Patch Kids With Papers + Extra OutfitsDella Pearly Cabbage Patch Kids Vintage 1983/1984 Doll By ColecoVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Red Hair Htf Green Sunsuit Tri Ang Pedigree ?Cabbage Patch Lot Of 7 All W/ Original Clothing & Shoes & Birth Certificates1985 Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Preemie Girl W Papers/nrVintage Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Doll W/ Birth Certificate!12 Vintage Dolls In Original Boxes Included Are 5 Cabbage Patch DollsVintage Cabbage Patch Kid Shoes/clothes/world Traveler Accessories Lot 1980'sSigned Xavier Roberts 17" Cabbage Patch Kids Doll 1978, 1984 Made In SpainCabbage Patch Doll All Star Baseball Cubs! All Ages! Vintage In Box!Lot Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes Lot 27Cpk Cabbage Patch Kids Modern Purple Strap Sandals Shoes ClothingPedro Official Cabbage Patch Kid Designer Kid Call Me 'pedro Ryan 'Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Plastic Colored Mary Jane Shoes Lot Of 7 PairsVintage Cabbage Patch Boy! New In Box!Cabbage Patch Kids Doll 1978-1982 With Shoes& Socks +cpk Outfit