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    

Vintage 1985 Cabbage Patch Kids Jolene Dotty With BoxCabbage Patch Kids Doll Soft Head Hand Made?? Hand Numbered TagVintage Cabbage Patch Kid Cpk Fuzzy Red Hair In Original Cpk OutfitCabbage Patch ClothingLot Of 17 Pieces Mixed Vintage & Modern Coleco & Cabbage Patch Doll Clothing Minty Vintage Cpk ~ Brunette Long Hair, Brown Eyes,dressed Vintage 1983 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll In Package : Girl In Pink DressVintage 1983 Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll In Package : Boy In Denim & Red Hat***1978 1982 Cabbage Patch Preemie Doll Sealed Birth Cert. Original Box***Cabbage Patch Kids Changing Table (authentic)Cabbage Patch Doll One Of A Kind Reroot Beautiful Bride Wedding Dress And VeilVintage 1983 Cabbage Patch Dolls Kelley Meggy Doll NibCabbage Patch Doll Stephi Erica 1985 New In Box Not Opened Pony Tail Brown EyesVintage Xavier Roberts Original Cabbage Patch Kid ~ 1978-1982Vintage Lot Of 10 Cabbage Patch Kids Porcelain Christmas Ornaments 1983 Nib XmasCabbage Patch Kid 1984 In Original Box W/ Adoption CertificateLot Of Three Cabbage Patch Dolls Includes A Jesmar Made In Spain Doll 1983-1984Cabbage Patch Kids Clothing, Yellow Outfit With Hat, 3 Piece Set For DollRare, Faith Noel 1979 Little People, Cabbage Patch Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture1985 Cabbage Patch Doll "jobina Netty" Vintage Cabbage Patch KidsVintage Cabbage Patch Twins 1985 With PapersVintage 1988 Cabbage Patch Kids Designer Line Earl BradenCabbage Patch Numbered Soft Sculpture Girl 1989Vintage Lot Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Shoes Diaper Airway Bag Certificates3 Cabbage Patch Kids Christmas Snugglies Elf Dolls - New In PackageCabbage Patch Kids Doll Red Dress, White Tights, & Sippy Cup ~cpk Clothes ~vgucCabbage Patch Kids Dolls JesmarCabbage Patch Kids Doll Jesmar. Blue Dress W / Bloomer SetHtf, Arella 1999 Christmas Ed. Cabbage Patch Xavier Roberts Soft Sculpture Le#271980's Cabbage Patch Doll Signed Limited Edition Soft SculptureVtg 1980's Cabbage Patch Doll Lot..dolls And AccessoriesCabbage Patch Kids 2014 Holiday Limited Edition Brown Hair Blue Eyes New In BoxVintage Butterick Cabbage Patch Kids Pattern LotNew 1984 Cabbage Patch In Original Box Vintage 1987 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Xavier Roberts Bean Butt Doll W ClothesVintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll In Original Box, 1984 New Blonde HairBig Lot Vintage 16" Doll Clothes 17 Pieces Cabbage Patch Doll Coleco Red HairVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Juliet Marta 1984 3900 W/ Box & PapersVintage Hasbro Crimp And Curl Brown Cabbage Patch Kids Pet PonyCabbage Patch Kid 20" Babyland Exclusive *new*Vtg. 1985 Red Hair Green Eyed Cabbage Patch Kids Doll With Lot Of ClothesLot 1982 Cabbage Patch Dolls & Clothes Astronaut Football Birth Certificate EtcCabbage Patch Christmas Santa Reindeer Elf Set Of 3 Hasbro & Jakks Pacific 1983 Cabbage Patch Kids Preemies Girl's Dress Outfit #3917 & Little Mommy OutfitColecovision - Cabbage Patch Kids Adventures In The ParkCabbage Patch Kids Doll Newborn Mika MackenaNewborns, Just Arrived: 2014 Cabbage Patch Kids Newborn With Clothing/3+Coleco Cabbage Patch Kid Preemie Girl 1984 Champagne Hair Brown Eyes, New PapersCabbage Patch Kid Popcorn Hair In Cpk Original DressHuge Lot Of Doll Clothes - Baby Alive, My Lil Dream Baby, Cabbage Patch, More50s Kids Girl And Boy Cabbage Patch 13" Porcelain Collector Dolls Danbury MintVintage Cabbage Patch Doll Pacifier 3 OkVintage Cabbage Patch Boy Doll, Freckles, Blue Eyes, Lemon, Fully Dressed, Shoes1997 Cabbage Patch Kids Brittany Nicole Danbury Mint Porcelain Doll, In BoxVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Debbie Barby 1985 3900 W/ Box & PapersCabbage Patch Kids 1985 Peemie March Of Dimes Coleco BoyCabbage Patch Kids ShoesVintage Cabbage Patch Doll 1978 1982Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Newborn Omar EarlyVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Outfit