Collecting Barbies


The World of Barbie


Mattel and the world had no idea what was about to happen when they launched the first Barbie back in 1959. Prior to Barbie’s first appearance, dolls had primarily been relegated to the baby doll or childlike models. The idea of a doll that resembled an adult, except for the exaggerated proportions, of course, was unheard of. Barbie hit the store shelves and a new era in doll making was born. 

Collecting Barbie Dolls

Collecting Barbie dolls is not one of the most common hobbies you find. Still, there are plenty of collectors out there. Mattel recognized this when they began producing various “collector’” series. Each doll collection is unique as the person who owns it. It reflects personal choice and often revolves around a theme. Some people prefer to collect only antique dolls while others collect the more upscale, designer dolls. There are even porcelain Barbie dolls and those who wear clothing adorned in 14-carat gold.

Categories of Barbie Dolls

The various Barbie dolls on the market can be grouped or categorized by a number of ways. Most of the valuation books break them down by a theme. For instance, department store exclusives are a large category. Mattel makes Barbie dolls that are designed for a particular store, and other than the Internet, you cannot get them at anywhere else. Some have even been made for companies such as Little Debbie, Kool-Aid and Kraft. Children’s collector series dolls include Rapunzel and Little Bo Peep. The Dolls of the World series presents a doll dressed in the native costume of a specific country with more than 60 dolls in the series. The categories are numerous and a collector could spend a lifetime trying to collect them all.

Defining Your Collection

It would be virtually impossible to collect everything related to Barbie, though it might be fun to try. A more practical approach would be to define what you want to collect and pick a focus. If you want, you can always expand later. Perhaps you like the couture dolls wearing exotic costumes created by real world designers like Bob Macke, Byron Lars and others. Maybe the older dolls appeal to you. There are always accessories, clothing and the doll cases too that you can collect. Just make sure you enjoy the category you pick. You will likely put a lot of time into hunting down each piece for your Barbie collection.

Buying on eBay

Older dolls, vintage clothing and rare pieces can be hard to come by.  While there are an abundance of stores and retailers on the web, sometimes your best bet for finding that one doll that will make your collection complete is eBay. The best way I have found to do this is to check every three days for new listings.  While some auctions are set up for just 1 day, checking daily is cumbersome. Sort the auctions by those closing first. Any that are of interest you can follow by clicking the “Watch this item” button on the item’s description.

Read the listing carefully. Make sure you note any comments related to the quality of the doll and the packaging if the doll is sold as “New, still in box.” Even damage to the box can lower the value. Sometimes a used doll in good condition is worth top dollar if it’s rare enough or sentimental enough to you.

For extremely rare items, the bidding will start jumping in the minutes just prior to the close of the auction. While there are software products out there that can help you bid more quickly, paying close attention should give you the opportunity to score on the Barbie of your dreams.

Selling on eBay

Some collectors buy Barbie’s as an investment. If you intend to sell dolls in the future or have some dolls you want to sell for cash, there are some things you can do to get the best price from the auction. For example, new dolls, still in their original boxes with unbroken seals or plastic will command the highest prices. Dolls should be stored in a location away from sunlight, cigarette smoke and pets. Sunlight can cause fading to the box and its contents. Cigarette smoke can permeate the box and leave an undesirable odor for some buyers. Pets can damage the box and doll physically by chewing on it or in some cases, pet odors can also be transferred to the box the doll is stored in.

If the dolls are not new, make sure they are dressed in the original clothing. Include as many of the original accessories as possible. Dolls should be clean and neat in appearance if you want you Barbie to fetch a handsome price at auction.

Provide several pictures, especially if you are disclosing damage. Your honesty can pay off in a big way. Small marks or tears might be overlooked by a willing buyer but could get you in a hot water with a buyer who was unaware of the damage when they bought from you.

Whether you collect Barbie herself, her clothing, the doll cases or the playsets and vehicles she has used over the years, the World of Barbie is a fascinating and ever-growing place to play and collect.



Vintage Barbies


The Barbie doll has been around, delighting little girls – and big ones – since 1959. She has seen many transformations over the years but is still one of the most popular toys around and highly collectible. For many Barbie doll collectors, the showcase dolls are the vintage ones from 1959 to 1967. Some are quite rare but a dedicated collector can still locate vintage dolls; it’s all in knowing what to look for.

The Ponytail Years

The original Barbie had a ponytail as did man of her subsequent sisters. She was available in either blonde or brunette varieties. These early dolls had the heavy eyeliner look with molded eyelashes rather than actual individual lashes like later dolls. The irises were white and her feet had holes in the bottom. If you are lucky enough to find the black and white striped swimsuit, it can really boost the value and the cost of the doll. So can having the original doll stand of which there were two styles.

Ponytail number three was the last to use the original type of plastic which was already known to fade to ivory by late 1959. Number three was sold in 1960 both as a blonde and brunette. The distinctive difference was the blue eyes. Barbie had either brown or blue eyeliner but the blue was the rarest.

Ponytail Number four used a different plastic composite that retained its color better. She was sold in 1961, wearing the same striped bathing suit and make up as her precursors. When ponytail number 5 was released, Mattel added a redheaded or titian version. In addition to the new hair color, number fives were made with a hollow doll body.

Ponytails numbers six and seven were released between 1962 and 1966. The shades of blonde, brunette and redhead were modified. She came with a red jersey swimsuit and some models had painted legs.

The Bubblecut Barbie

Assuming not everyone wanted a Barbie with long hair, Mattel released bubblecut Barbie from 1961 to 1967. The dolls sports short hairdos that surrounded their heads and framed their faces like a bubble. There were only two models but both came with all three hair color options. For the first time, the eyebrows matched the hair color. The 1961 versions came with the black and white striped bathing suit and red lips. Later models wore the red jersey swimsuit and had coral colored lips. This model also had fuller hair.

Other Vintage Barbie Dolls

With Barbie’s popularity rising, Mattel saw the opportunity to expand its product line and sales. One of the most unique Barbies released was 1963’s Fashion Queen Barbie. She mirrored the trend of her time by appearing with a plastic head sporting a short, painted hairdo and coming with three changeable wigs. In 1964, Mattel released Miss Barbie who also had molded hair and three wigs. Her distinctive feature was that her eyes opened and closed, the only Barbie to ever do so. Also from 1964 came the vintage Barbie Ponytail Swirl doll, one of the most highly sought after of the vintage dolls.

American Girl Barbie was named for her haircut. The doll came with one of three different hair lengths that curled slightly under at the ends and straight cur bangs across her forehead. American Girl came in brunette, redhead and three shades of blonde. She wore a turquoise striped swimsuit and could be found in a variety of lip colors.

Another Mattel innovation that set Barbie apart was the ability to change. Color Magic Barbie, released in 1966, had either Midnight Black or Golden Blonde hair. The dolls came with a solution that when applied to the hair could change the color to Ruby Red or Scarlet Flame respectively. The solution could also change the color of the swimsuit. The make was vibrant. These dolls are among the hardest to find and command a high price.

Vintage Midge Dolls

Barbie’s first friend, Midge joined the scene in 1963 and lasted until the Mod Era began in 1967. She returned later but during the vintage years, there were only three variations of Midge available. Straight legged Midge was available from 1963 to 1967. Wig Wardrobe Midge arrived 1964 and Bendable Leg Midge joined the group in 1965. Although she shared the same body as Barbie, she is easily differentiated by her freckled face and reddish blonde hair.

Vintage Replicas

In the 1990s, Mattel began introducing vintage replicas of their original dolls. These dolls look strikingly like their predecessors but the markings on the body will help you distinguish them from authentic vintage Barbies.