Ken, introduced by Mattel in 1961 as Barbie's steady boyfriend, has gone through many incarnations over the decades. Ken was created just two years after Barbie and has been produced every year since, except in 1968 when Mattel decided to change his body mold. Today's Ken still uses the 1968 body mold, so collectors use the stamp on the back of each head mold to determine the era in which the doll was made.
There are approximately 247 versions of Ken, from clean-cut sailor to beach bum to Olympic gold medalist. Ken's vintage era is characterized by elegant, boy-next-door attire. His clothing is scaled down perfectly and even includes working buttons and zippers. During Ken's mod era, his clothing became more unique and vibrantly-colored.
In addition to the standard Ken dolls, a few collector Kens have been produced, such as the Wizard of Oz series and Hollywood Legends. The first Ken doll specifically made for collectors was the Hollywood Legends Ken as Rhett Butler in 1994. Dress Box Kens are the most valuable and hard-to-find Ken dolls. They were released between 1963 and '65 and there are 14 different versions in the series.
Business Appointment Ken is also very rare, and was produced from 1966 to '67. This Ken doll wears a navy and white tweed overcoat with black gloves and a black hat, and he is carrying a functional briefcase and a copy of the Mattel Daily News. A Barbie Coca-Cola series was released in 2000, which featured Ken as a server. Only a limited number of these Kens were produced, so they have become rare and highly sought-after by collectors.
Other male dolls have been released and marketed as Ken's friends, such as Brad, Curtis, Derek, and Dude. In addition, many collectors seek Ken's accessories, such as the Ken Hot Rod, released in 1961, and his Corvette and motorcycle, both released in the '80s. The Corvette was only available at Toys 'R' Us and had a limited production, so it is very hard to find.