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    

Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Little People Girl1980 Cabbage Patch Kids Little People Soft Sculpture 22" Bald BabyDoll Clothes Lot May Fit Bitty Baby Gotz You And Me Little Mommy Cabbage PatchCabbage Patch Kids Doll Ruff 'n Tuff Boy Black African American 1992 Nrfb RareLittle People Soft Sculpture Vintage Cabbage Patch Xavier Roberts Hand StampedVintage Cabbage Patch Clothes Lot Items- Preemie Cabbage Patch Dolls Clothes Lot Of 7 Various Tights To Fit Cabbage Patch DollsAfrican American Cabbage Patch Coleco Girl W/ Freckles In Purple Sweater Dress Cabbage Patch Kids Little People Soft Sculpture 22" Blonde Girl With PacifierCabbage Patch Kid 19841984 Cabbage Patch Kid Doll - Garner Doyle - Original Box Birth Certificate Lot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Shoes Clothes & Others-22 PairsVintage 1980's Cabbage Patch Kids Lot Of 4 Dolls Boy Tooth Etc(2) Cabbage Patch Soft Sculptured Preemie BabiesVintage 1984 Xavier Roberts Green Signature Cabbage Patch Girl Doll Vvintage Cabbage Patch Doll Boy Pacifier Red Head Red Flannel Suit Red MoccasinVintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Cpk Kids Twin Girl Dolls Cabbage Patch Kids All 1985 Blue Signature Preemie: Lemon And Red Head Paci PreCabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Animals Jumper Suit Outfit 12 In Bean Baby DollVintage 1984 Never Opened Cabbage Patch Doll Girl Named Andree CallieVintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Kids Cpk Girl Twins Cabbage Patch Kids Original Doll With Papers 1985 Dawn Alura Nrfb Estate Find Vintage 1988 Cabbage Patch Designer Line Kids Cpk 16" Girl Doll Thelma Mib DVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Corduroy Elephant Jumper Outfit 14-16 I Doll PBrand New Cabbage Patch Exclusive KidVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls Set Of 2 1985 & 1984 In BoxVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Rare And Htf Brunette Popcorn Hair Minty!Gorgeous Exc Cond 2009 Cabbage Patch Doll With Original Outfit Great Curly HairVintage Cpk Girl Doll, Red Headed Popcorn Doll "p" Factory, Original Clothes.Vintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Green Suspended Dress Outfit 16i Doll Girl OkVintage 1985 Cabbage Patch Kid Doll W/ Original BoxCabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Truck Jumper Suit Outfit 12 In Bean Baby Doll BoyVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Wooly Knit Jumper Outfit 12i Bean Baby Doll Ss Cabbage Patch Dolls Clothes Lot Of 5 Pairs Of Doll Shoes To Fit Some Cpk DollsCabbage Patch Cpk Original Pastel Blue Pacifier Paci For Baby DollCabbage Patch Outfit 5Cabbage Patch Cpk Pa Clothes Mint Green Blue Flowery Dress Outfit 16in Doll GirlVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Cpk Circus Kids Twins 1985 Limited Edition 3 Cabbage Patch - 2 Preemie 1985 & 1 Bean Bottom / Baldie, Certificate, Paci 1990 First Edition, By Hasbro Custom Ooak Cabbage Patch GirlVintage 1980s Cabbage Patch Cpk Kids Outfit Girls Clothes Fits 14"-16" Doll 16Lot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll ClothesVintage Nos Cabbage Patch Clothes, Diaper, Shoes, Knit Dress & Pants, RemcoReindeer & Bear Outfits For Your 16" Cabbage Patch Kids By Coleco NiceCabbage Patch Kid 1984 With Pacifier PigtailsCabbage Patch Boys OutfitCabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Baby Otis 1985 Nursery EditionCabbage Patch Baby Presley CarolineVintage Xavier Roberts Cabbage Patch Softie Soft Sculpture Face Bald Green EyesCabbage Patch Soft Pacifier Boy 1984 World Class Edition Cabbage Patch Kids Xavier Roberts Soft Doll Sculpture1985 Original Cabbage Patch DollVintage 1982 Cabbage Patch Kid Blonde Hair Blue Eyes Vinyl Head Satin DressRare Jesmar Cabbage Patch Kids Doll. Made In Spain. W/ Italian Adoption Papers.Original Handstitched 22" Cabbage Patch KidVintage 1980s Cabbage Patch Cpk Kids Outfit Girls Clothes Fits 14"-16" Doll 21Vintage 80s Cabbage Patch Cpk Doll Outfit Girls Clothes Fits 14" - 16" Doll C16Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes: Fit 16"doll;lavender+pink Flowered Dress Set Cabbage Patch Dolls Grab Bag Of 16 Various Cp Birth Certificates UnusedVintage Cabbage Patch Original Yellow Pacifier Paci 16-12 In Hm4/ 6 Doll Pmi