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    

Cabbage Patch Doll- Original Little People Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture- 1978Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids (1985) Stacey Augusta, Nib New Signed 1981 Cabbage Patch Baby 21in Little People Xavier Roberts With PapersVintage Cabbage Patch Kids (1985) Delta Helen, Nib New 1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Blonde Pigtails 3900 Tags & Birth Certif1985 Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls LotXavier Roberts Twin Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Blonde Braided Girls & WardrobeCabbage Patch Kids Boy Brown Hair And Eyes And Teeth Christian VerneVintage 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids African American Karlotta GingerCabbage Patch Shoe Lot/25 PairsCabbage Patch Kids Doll Pacifier Lot Of 13Soft Sculpture Cabbage PatchCabbage Patch Kid Doll Girl In Braids, No Clothes 1984 Blue Eyes & Tan Hair Cabbage Patch Kids Cpk Modern Doll Clothes Play Along Misc.lotMint Bnib Cabbage Patch Kids Boy Doll 1985 Brown Curly Hair Eyes Pacifier Dimple1985 Cabbage Patch Kid With Red Hair , Blue Eyes And Pacifier Vintage Cabbage Patch Kid 1978 - 1983 O.o.a Inc. Mold #15 Signed 1985 Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Doll -signed Xavier Roberts 1985 Birth CertificateNear Mint '84 Jesmar Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Spain Vintage Rare Oaa Sailor DressVintage Cabbage Patch Girl Doll Clothing Lot Of 12 Complete OutfitsCabbage Patch DollLot Of 5 Cabbage Patch Kids Cabbage Patch Kids Clothing LotVintage Cabbage Patch Boy Doll Clothing Lot Of 8 Complete OutfitsCabbage Patch DollsLot Of 5 Cabbage Patch Kids Vintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Doll In Heart Overall Outfit With Shoes, Pacifier!Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Lot Cowboys Doll With TeethLot Of 4 Cabbage Patch Kids Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Plastic Eye Glasses Lot Of 6Mint Bnib Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Doll 1984 Light Brown Pigtails Dimple Green Gorgeous Cabbage Patch HorseLot Of 5 Cabbage Patch Kids Adorable (cbk) Vintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Crib/cradle With PadCabbage Patch Kids ClownVintage Cabbage Patch Boy Doll Lot Of 8 Complete Pairs Of Cpk Shoes & SocksVintage 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Blonde Hair Blue Eyes Catherine Kirstine Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Preemie Doll Pacifier Guc Coleco 80sVintage 1985 March Of Dimes Preemie Cabbage Patch Doll W/ PapersLot Of 4 Cabbage Patch Kids Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Boy Fashion Frenzy Frog Outift Play AlongCabbage Patch Kids Adopt 'n Luv Pets White Kitten Cat Mattel 1996Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Babs Gabi November 1, 1982 Birth Cert No BoxCabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Toddler Constance1985 Cabbage Patch All Cloth Brother And Sister Dolls24 Pairs Doll Shoes Some Cabbage PatchVintage Cabbage Patch Girl Doll Shoe Lot Of 12 Complete Pairs & 7 Socks-all CpkMint Bnib Cabbage Patch Kids Boy Preemie Doll 1984 New VintageMint Bnib Cabbage Patch Kids Girl Doll 1984 Light Brown Pigtails Green EyesVintage My Child Doll Shoes-fits Cabbage Patch Cpk White T-strap Mary Jane Shoes1984 Cabbage Patch Kid Dalton Louis In Pkg. W/ Birth Cert. And Adoption PapersCabbage Patch Cpk Fashion Frenzy Outfit. NibHuge Vintage Craft Doll Making Cross Stitch Cupie Cabbage Patch Christmas LotCabbage Patch Lorna Janet1985 Wheat Curly 2 Ponies 16" Cpk Doll Nib PacieLot (7) Cabbage Patch Kid Dolls Yarn Hair Coleco 1984-1992 Plus Clothes1978 2005 Cabbage Patch Doll Brown Hair Blue Eyes 18" Girl Original 2 Piece OutfCabbage Patch Kids African-american Doll Vintage 1984 African American Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll NibVintage African American Baseball Coleco Cabbage Patch Preemie Boy Doll Nib