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”)

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 Coleco 1983 Cabbage Patch Kid In Original Box B1983 Cabbage Patch Kid Shag Red Hair Boy Freckles Nib Never Played With Coleco1983 Cabbage Patch Kids Little People Soft Sculpture Girl Red Hair Blue EyesJesmar Coleco Cpk Cabbage Patch Kid W/ Freckles, Lucille Phoebe, Mint, RedheadThe Little People Soft Sculptures 1978 Xavier Roberts Cabbage Patch Blonde Hair 1985 Cabbage Patch Girl Evangeline Laurelle Nib Born 10/1 W/change Of ClothesCute Pair Of My Child Cabbage Patch Kids Cpk Doll ShoesVintage 1980's 12" Cabbage Patch Kid Bald W/ Green Eyes Beanie BodyCabbage Patch DollsXavier Roberts Little People Cabbage Patch Kids Hand Signature Signed In RedAkira Mika 2013 Lp Asian Girl Cpk Soft SculptureCabbage Patch Kid Red Hair And FrecklesVintage Coleco 1983 Cabbage Patch Kid In Original Box AVintage Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch,the Little People,excellent Condition!!!!Lot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Dolls & Accessories Near Mint 1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch Ic Girl #4 Paci W/rare Cpk Cat & Htf JammiesCabbage Patch Doll Clothing Lot Dresses Tights Shirt Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls 1980's Lot Of 10Cabbage Patch Kid - Signed Xavier Roberts Orig. Soft Sculptured - Spec. L.e. '85~mint In Box 1984 Cabbage Patch Doll~stacy Jacqueline~blonde,blue Eyes NrfbCabbage Patch Kid - Xavier Roberts Orig. Soft Sculptured - Spec. L.e. '85Cabbage Patch Dolls Assorted **lot Of 5** Magic Glow, 25th Anniversary Soft Sculptures 1983 Xavier Roberts Cabbage Patch Kids Elias Bud Super Rare!!!!Vintage Soft Sculpture Little People Person Cabbage Patch Doll Xavier RobertsRare Red Head Boy Xaiver Roberts Cabbage Patch Doll1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch KidsVintage Cabbage Patch Kid Lot Of 4 W/ Birth Certificates - 1 SpainTru 1st Edition Toys R Us Exclusive Blonde Cabbage Patch Doll 2001Cabbage Patch Kid - Xavier Roberts Orig. Signed Soft Sculptured - Spec. L.e. '84Cabbage Patch Kids Cpk Soft Sculpted 20" Pig Tails Brown Eyes Rose W/ Clothes1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid Dara3 Vintage Cabbage Patch Dolls Xavior Roberts LotCabbage Patch Doll Lot Clothes Shoes Ic Freckles Poodle Chubby 14 Face Coleco!!!1984 Jesmar Spain Cabbage Patch Kids #4 Boy Doll Fuzzy Shag Violet Blue FrecklesVintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Dolls Dark Hair Boy Girl Lot 2Lot Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Outfits Shoes Accessories CpkPex Cinch Crimp Crimping Tool With 30 1/2 And 3/4 Pex Crimp Model 305-23cpkVintage Tsukuda Japan Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Doll #1 Blonde Braid Blue Eyes1984 Cabbage Patch Kid African American Bald Boy Nib Never Played With ColecoVintage 1980s Cpk Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothing Collection-some Original 12pcCabbage Patch Dolls Red And White Lace Up Sneaker Tennis Shoes#3900 Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Crayon Holding Winter Outfit Pony Tail GlassesCabbage Patch Doll Pacifier Blond Curly Hair Green Eyes Pink & White Dress 1982Cabbage Patch Kids Doll (lil' Sisters)Cabbage Patch Little People Soft Doll 1985Cabbage Patch Kids Vtg 1985 Nib Box Plush Toy Doll Pigtails Blonde Bllue EyesVintage Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes Purple Grow Hair Set Shoes Underwear SocksLot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Clothes & Shoes Yellow Overalls Vintage Doll Clothing Lot Mixed 14" Cabbage Patch Kid 12" + Accessories Huge 25 Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll Lot Koosas & Minatures Cabbage Patch Kids - Lil Sprouts - 2 Dolls - Brand New - CpkCabbage Patch Kids Doll, 25th Anniversary, Limited Edition, Boy, 2008, In BoxVintage Cabbage Patch Doll Dress 1984 NibCabbage Patch Kids Diapers & CaseCabbage Patch Doll Blue Lace Up Sneakers Tennis Shoes Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Shoes Clothing1983 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid Ollie CassiusLot Of 7 Mattel 6" Cabbage Patch Baby Small Girl Dolls Clothes 1 New In Box!Cabbage Patch Kids Vintage Yellow Plastic PacifierRare Small Lavender Eyes Cabbage Patch Doll! Beautiful Doll! New Dress Set!