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    

Alice Catherine Little People Soft Sculpture Xavier Sign 1979 Cabbage Patch DollVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Twins With Reindeer Outfits In Original Box, 1984Vintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit Shoes & Tights Clothes 81983 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Brown Hair Blue Eyes W/pacifier New Box Is BadLot Of 8 Vintage Cabbage Patch Dolls Signed 1978 1982 Xavier Roberts Red Hair Cabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Baby DorothyColeco Vintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Kids Babies Doll Excellent Condition With BoxSoft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Kid Lapis Edition 1989 Mint With Papers 1978 Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Doll Xavier Roberts Little PeopleCabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Baby SybilVintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit Shoes & Socks Clothes 12Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls Lot Of 41983 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll - Brunette Kid Girl In Box W/all PapersLarge Collection Of Cabbage Patch Doll Clothing And Shoes! 13 Sets, Plus Extras!Vintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes 6Soft Original Cabbage Patch Doll. Autographed By Xavier Her Name Is Rhoda Judit Cabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Bald Xavier Roberts Little People Cutie Fs !Vintage Coleco Original 15" Baby Cabbage Patch Girl Preemie With PacifierVintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit Shoes & Socks Clothes 14Cpk Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes + 4 Pair Of ShoesPreemie- Cabbage Patch Kids Little People Soft Sculpture Cloth DollVintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit Shoes & Socks Clothes 13Cabbage Patch Kids Doll, Clothes,accessories,baby Powder ScentedVintage Cabbage Patch Kid - Auburn Jesmar Boy With Pacifier - #4 Head MoldCollectible Doll Cabbage Patch Authentic With Xavier's AutographVintage 1980s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk Doll Hard Clear Yellow Pacifier W PaperVintage 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Baby Girl Doll --brown Hair Blue EyesVintage 80s Cabbage Patch Cpk Preemie Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes 1 1984 Jesmar Cabbage Patch Kid OnlyVintage 1985 Cabbage Patch Dolls Twin Reindeer Girls Very Cute!Vintage Coleco Cabbage Patch #3 Aa Black Preemie Boy Htf Velour Gown OutfitVintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes 4Vintage 80s Cabbage Patch Cpk Preemie Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes 31985 Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Rare!! # 5 Hm Single Brown Pony / Blue (small) EyesCabbage Patch Kids Cpk Doll Vintage PacifierVintage 80s Cabbage Patch Cpk Preemie Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes ZVtg Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Preemie Baby Bald Boy Green Eyes W Outfit Shoes 1982Vintage 80s Original Cabbage Patch Cpk 16" Doll Outfit W Shoes & Socks Clothes 5Tru Cabbage Patch 3pc Sailor Outfit Toys R Us LotVintage Fitz And Floyd Cracker Cradle, Two Standing Rabbits At The Cabbage PatchCabbage Patch Kids In Box Bald Boy Doll With Freckles Sealed Adoption Papers MibCabbage Patch Kids 1984 Brunette, Brown Eyes Boy With Dimples(claude Stephen)Cabbage Patch Kid 1983 Coleco Newborn "reggie" With Org. Clothes,adoption PapersCabbage Patch Kids Doll, 1983 Signed - Brunette Boy "ainsley Byron"Vintage Coleco Cabbage Patch #2 Large Eyed Brown Braids Girl Rosebud Dress10" Baby Cabbage Patch Kids Brown Skinned Doll In Babyland General Bunting '85 Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Personally Signed Xavier Roberts. Rare Red HairVintage Htf African American Fuzzy Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid Huge Lot 11 Rare Cabbage Patch Dolls 1982 Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes 16" Frozen Elsa Dress Bloomers Hairbows Lace RibbonsCabbage Patch Doll Clothes 16" Frozen Olaf Elsa Anna Dress Bloomers HairbowsTru 1st Edition 2001 21 Inch Vinyl Head Cabbage Patch Kid Boy DollCabbage Patch Kids Doll Shoes LotLot Of 6 Cabbage Patch Kid Nude Dolls 3 16" Cloth, 3-14" 2 Cloth & 1 Plastic17" Cabbage Patch Doll Red Hair, Blue Eyes 1978 1982 Lot 10pair Vintage Cabbage Patch Shoesvarious Sizes And Style Shoes.some No MateTriang/tri-ang Pedigree Cabbage Patch Kid Lemon Ponies, Blue Eyes, Tri-ang DressUsed And Old Cabbage Patch Birth Certificates Huge Lot 20Rare Dark Brown Fuzzy Hair Cabbage Patch Boy! New Paw Print Panstsuit! Black 78Mib Cabbage Patch Kids Snacktime Kid 14" Doll - Rare Doll