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Thursday, December 20, 2007

History of the Barbie Doll

As I've gotten back into my Barbie collecting mode, I've been afforded opportunities to share the Barbie message with many people who were not aware of the depth of the Barbie phenomenon.

I'll start with a little Barbie history. Now at the outset let me make it clear that I am not an expert. I do know a lot about Barbie but I've not enjoyed attending a Barbie Convention or meeting in of the Barbie designers. I'll get to that in future posts.

Let's begin with an abbreviated history of Barbie.

Barbie: History of a Living Doll

Author: Sherril Steele-Carlin

Did you know the original Barbie was named for a real young lady from California named Barbara Handler? It's true! Barbie, the teen fashion doll that debuted in 1959 was created by Barbara's mom, Ruth Handler, who named the doll after her daughter and the rest is doll history.

It all started in the late 1950s, when Ruth Handler noticed that her young daughter, Barbara, and her friends really liked to play with adult dolls rather than the common baby dolls that were common at the time. These adult dolls weren't three-dimensional, they were all made out of cardboard or paper, so Ruth began to design a three-dimensional adult doll that would make her daughter and her friends happy.

Handler and her husband Elliot had created the Mattel Toy Company in their garage, but by the late 50s it had grown to include a group of ad executives who quickly vetoed Ruth's initial idea and design. They thought the doll would be too expensive to produce and had little long-term appeal. Now we know how wrong they were!

Undaunted, Ruth continued with her idea. She traveled to Europe and when she returned she brought a German doll named "Lilli" with her. Redesigned, Lilli became Barbie, and Ruth continued to pester the Mattel executives until they agreed to produce the doll. The original patent date is 1958. Ruth even hired a fashion designer, Charlotte Johnson, to create a fashionable wardrobe for the doll.

Barbie, with her distinctive blonde ponytail and black and white striped stretch bathing suit made her debut at the 1959 American Toy Fair in New York City, and took the toy world by storm. The dolls literally flew off the shelves. Mattel set a toy selling record the first year Barbie debuted, selling 351, 000 dolls the first year. In ten short years, parents would spend $500 million on Barbie products for their clamoring youngsters.

Barbie was the first fashion doll, and she spawned many spin-offs, but she and her "family" of dolls are simply the most popular in history. Barbie gets at least 100 new clothing designs every year, and because they produce so many Barbie outfits each year, Mattel has become the biggest garment manufacturer in the world.

Today, Barbie has come a long way from that fashion doll who debuted in 1959. She has sisters, a boyfriend, and represents nearly 100 different nationalities. However, collectors prize the original Barbie and her 50s wardrobe above all else. Barbie and her clothing are one of the most popular collectibles in the world today, and a mint-condition original Barbie can sell as high as $10,000. So, check the attic, the basement, and the storage boxes for your old Barbie treasures. They could be more valuable than you think, and even if they aren't, they'll bring back lots of fond fashion memories!


Crazy for Barbie said...

I have recently started a Barbie website called love your blog, any good advice you can give to a fellow BARBIE FRIEND!

Crazy for Barbie said...

I have recently started a Barbie website called love your blog, any good advice you can give to a fellow BARBIE FRIEND!

coloredgirlswhohaveconsidered said...

...please, I can't even say the name Barbie without my voice crackin'.
Not only was my precious Barbie kidnapped but they took Midge also. And Skippy's long waist length hair was cut off (think of the Twiggy/Mia Farrow era) most likely, the same cousin who kidnapped Barbie and Midge.
The pain and heartbreak still remains.

Vanessa said...

crazy for barbie: Love your site! You've done a freat job oof explaining the basics on doll collecting. It feels great to know there's another Barbie blogger out there. Let's keep in touch.

Vanessa said...

colored girls: OK, I'm feeling your pain, girlfriend. It's not too late to punish the guilty!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I must learn a lot from you.

Celebrate the Day said...

Love your sight! We sell Barbies at our store… and would love your support!

Juegos de Barbie said...

Me encata esta barbie se ve tan diferente, me encantaria tener unas de las primeras barbies que salieron !!!

NOTE: I do not represent all of these photos as my own; these are photos of Barbie and other dolls that I find to be fabulous! If you are the actual photographer and would like to be credited, send me an e-mail.