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    

Little People Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture 1979 Handsigned Xavier Roberts GirlSoft Sculpture 1979 Little People Bronze "e" Edition Handsigned Cabbage Patch6 - 1984 Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Outfits Boys & Girls New In Box ColecoCabbage Patch Kids 1985 Doll Mira Jilafna #3900 - NibVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Jesmar Spain Doll With Pacifier & Jesmar ClothesVintage 1984 Cabbage Patch Doll Coleco Red Hair Green Eyes Nib Adopt.papers VgcVintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls 1980's Lot Of 10Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Triang Pedigree Girl Doll Fenella Venora Sept 20thCabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Premmie Brown Eyes 16" Doll Vintage 1980's Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Teddy Bear & Knitted Overalls +++Cabbage Patch Kids 1984 Doll Eleanore Gracia #3900 - NibVintage Cabbage Patch Doll "limited Edition (christmas?) Twins" (coleco) 1985 Vintage 1983 Orig. Appalachian Artworks, Inc. Cabbage Patch Boy With Red HairVintage Cabbage Patch Doll Clothes +Cabbage Patch Kids Soft Sculpture Brown Hair Green Eyes 18" Doll Cabbage Patch Doll Jesmar Spain Vintage Bald Boy Blue Eyes 16" Wearing Outfit Vintage Cabbage Patch Soft Sculpture Nursery Edition Baby Dorothy Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Jesmar Spain Boy Doll Maximo Santos Dec 1st1985 Coleco Cabbage Patch Boy With Bald Head Original Clothes Binky PacifierMy Child Doll Replica Outfit With Htf Cpk Shoes. *3-day Auciton! *Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Doll Noel W/ Papers 1980 Christmas Mint ConditionCabbage Patch Kids Doll Twinkle Toes By Skechers Nib NewVintage Cabbage Patch Kids Jesmar Spain DollOriginal Vintage New In Box Limited Edition Cabbage Patch Dolls Christmas Twins Rare Red Popcorn Hair Cabbage Patch Kid Nrfb Vintage 1980s DollVintage Cabbage Patch Doll Clothing Lot Of 41 Total Items-too Many To MentionVintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes 4 Outfits With HangersColeco Cabbage Patch Kid Girl Hm 3Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Exclusivl Sold Japan1985 Tsukuda Orig Box Adpt Papers Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Boy In Box Collectible Vintage 1983 1984Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Jesmar Spain Salud Paloma Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Triang Pedigree Girl Reni Lorelle Oct 3rdDoll Baby Clothes Lot Cabbage Patch Real Baby Vintage Adorable 2001 Toys R Us Cabbage Patch Kid Doll 1st Edition Tru - 19 Inches TallCabbage Patch Vintage Jesmar Spain Bald Boy Blue Eyes Dimples 18" Wearing Brown My Child Doll Replica Outfit With Cpk Shoes. * 3-day Auction! *African Violet Plant- Cabbage Patch (2 Inch)Cabbage Patch # 4 Jesmar Spain Wheat Ponies, Green Eyes, Freckles GirlCabbage Patch Kid Yellow Popcorn Hair Girl Ringmaster Outfit Top Hat Green EyesVintage Coleco Cpk Cabbage Patch Doll Red Hair And Pacifier Lissa KristiCabbage Patch Kids Doll Twinkle Toes By Skechers Nib NewVintage Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes Lot Of 12Cabbage Patch Vintage Clothes For BoysCabbage Patch Kids Cpk Clothes, Shoes, Socks Food Items, Comb, Lot, Diaper Bag, Cabbage Patch Vtg.1984 Girl Baby Doll Euc Dressed In A Blue Dress & Cabby ShoesLovely Vintage Cabbage Patch Girl Green EyesCabbage Patch Doll The Little People Soft Sculptures Xaviar Roberts 1978 Cabbage Patch Kids Twins 1985 Nib By Coleco W/birth Certs!!Cabbage Patch Doll Vintage Clothes & Shoes Lotno Reserve1985 Cabbage Patch Boy From Georgia HospitalVintage Cabbage Patch Doll And Doll Clothes Some HandmadeSoft Sculpture Cabbage Patch Grand Edition W/ Open Papers Mint ConditionCabbage Patch Kids 1985 Sabrina Loulou Blonde Hair Pig Tails Bangs Blue Eyes NibLot Of Vintage Cabbage Patch Kids Doll Clothes 55+ PiecesCabbage Patch Kids Adoptimals Daisy Tabby Cat Orange Nib Vintage 1984 Red Shag Fuzzy Cabbage Patch Kid Boy Pacifier Ok Blue Eyes4 Vintage Cabbage Patch Doll Girl Doll Dresses & Panties, With Hangers Great Cabbage Patch Care Bear Reborn Baby Doll Vintage Antique Shoes LotVintage Cabbage Patch Doll (coleco) “irene Rosetta” 1985Soft Sculpture Cabbage Patch 1983 Indian Ed. W/ Papers Handsigned Mint Condition