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    

1979 Little People Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Xavier Roberts Hand Signed1985 Cabbage Patch Boy With Pacifier ~ Ut Factory ~ #4 Lemon FuzzyHuge Lot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Boy Clothes, Freshly WashedRare Vintage Jesmar 1980's Cabbage Patch Kids Spanish DollCabbage Patch Kids 1985-soft Sculpture Blue Eyes Double Pony Blue Eyes Original1983 Cabbage Patch Kid & Birth Certificate-xavier RobertsDoll Patterns Lot Of 25+ Vintage Patterns From 1953 Barbie Cabbage Patch Kids16mm Silent Feature - Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch - 1919Cabbage Patch Kids Babies Doll Still In Box New Unused Coleco Vintage 1987Vintage Cabbage Patch Custom Pencil Curl Reroot Freckles #1 Boy Clothes ShoesCabbage Patch Kids Clothes Lot Of 6 Girls OutfitsCabbage Patch Kids 2 Doll Lot Boy Girl Rare Vintage Clothes Shoes Plush CleanCabbage Patch Preemies W Pacifier Mint In Box Girl/boyCabbage Patch Kid African American BoyVintage Cabbage Patch Doll "ella Arleen"~ In Box W/ Papers~1984Lot Of 3 Vintage Cabbage Patch Dolls1985 Vintage Cabbage Patch Custom Pencil Curl Reroot #2 Boy Clothes ShoesVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Fancy Lacy Dress Outfit 16 I Doll Girl Kt VhtfOriginal 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids - Rare Red Fuzzy Hair Vintage Doll Mib!!New Cabbage Patch Kids DollVintage 1984 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid Girl Cristy Ana In Original BoxOriginal 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids -red Hair Vintage Doll16" Cabbage Patch Kids Doll ~ Double Popcorn Ponytails ~ Dimples ~ 1980's4600 Cabbage Patch Kids Wykoosa Valley 'koosas Cat 1983 Red Overalls New In Box Cabbage Patch Doll Rare Blonde Blue Eyes Freckles 1984 Vintage1985 Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll "jan Marie" NewRare 1979 Cloth Sculpture Little People Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Ink-signed XavierHuge Lot Of Cabbage Patch ClothesMib Cabbage Patch Kid Jocelyn Daphne Western Kid Show Pony 1984Xavier Roberts Cabbage Patch Doll Brooks Ramona Born May 16 1985 W/ PapersHuge Lot Of 39 Cabbage Patch Doll Patterns Plus 3 Pattern BooksCabbage Patch Kid Premie Edition Doll-fabian Oliver-soft Face And BodyVintage Mix Cabbage Patch Cpk Doll Clothes Shoes Outfits, 22 Piece Lot Cabbage Patch Kids 3 Dolls Lot Boy Girl Toy Rare Vintage Clothes Plush CleanVintage Doll Clothes Red Relief Sandal Shoes 14-16 In Cabbage Patch Doll GirlVintage 80 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Ok Pacifier Honey Yellow Cpk Paci ReplacementCabbage Patch Kids 3 Doll Lot Plush Toy Boy Girl Vintage Rare Clothes Shoes NiceLot 2p Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Strawberry Jumper Top Outfit 16 In Doll Girl25th Anniversary Unopened Cabbage Patch Kids Limited Edition Patti ManuelaCabbage Patch Kids Butterick And See&sew Doll Clothes Patterns, 13 Of Them!1984 Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Boy Doll (euc)Brunette Limited Edition 1985 Cabbage Patch Kids Twins Rare Boy & Girl - CleanCabbage Patch Kid Yellow Yarn Hair 1982 Original Appalachian Artworks -signedVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes White Sneaker Boots Shoes 14-16 I Doll Ok1983 Cabbage Patch Jesmar Kuschel Kinder Red Hair, Blue Eyes NibCabbage Patch KidSuper Cute Lot Of 7 Cabbage Patch Dolls Great ConditionF1971- Vintage 1986 Cabbage Patch Kids Babies Isabella Lorna African American12'' Bean Bottom Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes Dress Set White With PinkVintage 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids Shoes, Skates And Boots Lot 6 PairsCabbage Patch Doll Clothes 16" Boys Cute Animals Bibbed Shorts & T ShirtLarge Vintage Lot Of Cabbage Patch Kid Doll Clothes Accessories Boy Girl 1980's Cabbage Patch Bear -pet By Coleco Rare - Never Mass ProducedVintage 1980's Cabbage Patch Kid Doll With Dungarees & Woolly Jumper - Hh G13Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Shoes - Great Condition!!Vintage 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Sealed Doll Shoes Sneakers And Socks White 2 SetVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Clothes Lacy Sleeper Dress Outfit 14 I Preemie Doll SsVintage 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids Shoes Lot 9 PairsVintage 1984 Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Doll Boy (euc) W/papersVintage Cabbage Patch Cpk Original Yellow Pacifier Paci 16-12 In Hm4/ 6 Doll P