The first Barbie was introduced at the American Toy Fair in 1959. She was created by Ruth Handler, whose husband, Elliot, was the “el” in Mattel. Ms. Handler named the doll after their daughter, Barbara. The doll was available with blond or brunette hair, wore a white and black striped swimsuit, and had blue eyeshadow. These original dolls, which had holes in the bottom of their feet so they could be put on a stand, are very valuable today, with one recently selling for $27,000.
Even from the beginning, Barbie was a fashionista. Over 20 outfits were available in the first year of production, including career clothing for an airline stewardess, nurse and ballerina. The ability to have multiple outfits for the same doll made Barbie different from the teen dolls being sold overseas. Three of the outfits were discontinued the following year, making them very valuable now, and six new ones were added.
There are three different lines of Barbies that people collect—vintage, collector, and playline—and each line has a certain trait that makes them collectable.
Vintage – Vintage Barbies were made between 1959 and 1973. After 1973, Mattel was sold to new owners who changed Barbie’s look, including making her a perpetual blond. Vintage Barbies are some of the most expensive ones to collect. If you decide to collect this era of Barbies, be sure you are buying truly vintage dolls. Many people think a doll with “1966” stamped on the bottom of one foot is automatically vintage, but this date is actually the year that particular body style was patented and can be found on much more recent dolls. Dolls from 1966 also have a patent stamp on their back sides.
Collector - Collector Barbies are exactly what their name implies—they are made to be collected. There are several lines of collector Barbies. Shero Barbies depict women who have broken boundaries and are positive role models for young girls. This line includes the likes of Gabby Douglas, Trisha Yearwood and Kristin Chenowith.
Silkstone Barbies resemble fashion models with their elaborate clothing. They are made from a harder, lighter-colored plastic to give the look of porcelain. Other collectable Barbies include characters from movies, like the recent Wonder Woman movie, and those made by famous designers. Perhaps the most expensive Barbie ever sold was designed by Stefano Canturi in 2010. The doll had pink and white diamond-studded jewelry and sold for $302,000, which was donated for breast cancer research.
Playline – This line of dolls was, and still is, manufactured to be played with by children. But that doesn’t mean you can’t collect them. Many people enjoy collecting this line because they remind them of their childhood and they are affordable. Playline dolls from the 80s and 90s still in their original packaging can be purchased for a reasonable amount.
While it would be impossible to collect one of every type of Barbie ever made, you can work toward collecting Barbies from a certain era or line. Or simply collect those dolls that appeal to you, whatever the reason. After all, it is your collection.