Barbie Mattel

Barbie Mattel

Barbie Mattel

Ruth Handler of Mattel created Barbie with her own daughter Barbara in mind.

She watched Barbara and her friends play teenage make- believe with paper dolls and realised that there were no three-dimensional grown-up dolls available on the market.

While on a family holiday in Switzerland Ruth Handler found her inspiration when they came across an adult doll named Lilli who was based on a German cartoon character.

Barbie's Debut

In March 1959 Barbie made her debut at the New York Toy Fair and in one year over 350,000 were sold.

The first teenage fashion model doll soon acquired a whole family and a group of friends, together with dozens of outfits and accessories. In 1961 Barbie's boyfriend Ken was introduced, named after Ruth Handler's son.

Best friend Midge came in 1963 but she had to share Barbie's wardrobe as she did not have one of her own. Little sister Skipper joined them in 1964, together with Midge's boyfriend Allan.

The first talking Barbie arrived in 1968, operated by the pulling of a string at the base of the neck which was attached to a record player.

As far as the collector is concerned Barbie dolls fall into three categories: vintage (dolls and outfits which are pre-1972), mainline (dolls which have been mass produced since the early 1970s) and limited edition dolls which have been specifically created for the adult collector since 1980.

Barbie dolls can be found at car boot sales, PTA fairs and jumble sales.

This is fine if you want to buy them to have fun with, but unless they are in mint condition, which is unlikely, they will not necessarily have any monetary value.

Investing in Barbie

Barbie Mattel
Coach's advice is that if a doll is being bought as an investment then condition is paramount:

'Condition, condition, condition and that includes packaging.

Finding them in the condition which makes them valuable can be difficult'.

Children are major collectors of Barbie and my advise to them is to have fun when they are just starting.

'Buy what you enjoy and from that you learn and then you can upgrade your collection'.

The vintage models are the hardest to find.

A highlight in a sale last year was a blonde Barbie Number One Ponytail doll wearing a black-and-white striped strapless swimsuit which has an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

If the doll had been in its original packaging it would realise over £4,000.

As Barbie was intended to be played with, it is rare to come across a very old doll in pristine condition.

Barbie Outfits

Barbie Mattel
Much of Barbie's appeal lies in her clothes and the enjoyment of dressing her up. She has had every career from nurse to astronaut and even holds a masters degree in business administration.

The outfits are collectable in their own right and the little booklets which show them are also popular.

'Roman Holiday' is very rare as is another early costume, 'Gay Parisienne'.

A 'Senior Prom' dress made from green and blue net dating from 1963- 1964 is one of the prettiest .

Barbie's allure as being 'of her era. When buying Barbie a collector is buying the definitive style of a particular period although this is not necessarily the case with contemporary Barbies'.

Always a dedicated follower of fashion, Number One Barbie accurately represented the style of the times with bouffant hair and heavy eye make-up.

Over the years she moved from the glamorous post-war fashions inspired by film stars who were dressed by couturiers to boutique outfits of the Swinging 60s and Psychedelic 70s through to the power dressing of the 80s.

Barbie Collectors' Club

Barbie Collectors Club believes that for many it is finding a particular doll or outfit that gives them most satisfaction while others enjoy changing the outfits around.
Barbie Mattel

While nostalgia plays an important role, Barbie's current popularity with the baby boomer generation of the 1960s and 1970s is because they have discovered that the toys they played with as children are now collectable.

The Modern Market

When Barbie first arrived on the scene in 1959 she was originally aimed at 10-12 year-old girls but now that age group are more interested in boys than dolls. Mattel now gears contemporary dolls to a younger age group which still have fantasy in mind.

Realising that there was also an adult market, Mattel introduced Special, Collector and Limited Edition dolls during the mid-1980s and Barbie Collectables were launched in Britain in 1995.

These more fashionable dolls sell for around £70 and are often kept unopened with a view to future investment value.

Barbie's 40th birthday on 9 March 1999, was Aquamarine Barbie.

Of the 200,000 dolls made only 200 were available in Britain and they were sold within one day.

When establishing which element of Barbie you wish to collect it is important to do as much research as possible.

With new models produced each year, as well as different dolls for other countries, you are spoiled for choice. Remember that nothing is guaranteed to go up in value, so always buy something you enjoy looking at.

Barbie Mattel
As far as 21st century collectable toys are concerned, the coach believes that this has to be a toy of its times, which Barbie most definitely is.

'It has got to be a toy that has many different changes and fairly small so that there are plenty to collect. It has to be of the moment, it must not be a retrospective or nostalgic toy'.

It seems that Barbie is likely to keep her crown for many years to come.

  Barbie Mattel  top tips

The most collectable dolls are vintage Barbie, produced between 1959 and 1969, which were all made in Japan. During the 1970s production was moved to other Far Eastern countries.

  • With the early Barbies, if the earrings have been left in the ears the metal will have corroded and left green marks on her cheeks. It is impossible to remove these marks.

  • Check that the hair has not been cut and that she has all her fingers as they may have broken off.

  • Watch out for cracks behind the knees of the bendable leg Barbie.
  • Clothing must not be 'tired' looking and original Barbie labels are very important.
  • The clothes and accessories must belong to Barbie and not another fashion doll.
  • NRFB means Never Removed From Box.

  • Mint and Complete indicates a collector doll in pristine outfit with all accessories and in mint condition.

  • Vintage indicates dolls and outfits which are pre-1972.

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