Collecting Barbie Dolls

Is it her long blonde hair, her lovely face, her perfect body, or her amazing wardrobe that attracts us to the Barbie doll? Most women under 45 years of age in the USA have owned a Barbie doll and most have owned several. Most of us have also owned the Ken doll (AKA Barbie’s boyfriend), Barbie’s friends and the many countless accessories. When it comes to Barbie dolls, some collect vintage Barbie and others collect the modern collectible Barbie dolls.

Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. Barbie is manufactured by American toy-company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. Ruth Handler an American businesswoman is credited with the creation of the Barbie doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.

Vintage Barbie dolls from the early years are the most valuable at auction, and while the original Barbie was sold for $3.00 in 1959, a mint boxed Barbie from 1959 sold for $3552.50 on eBay in October 2004. On September 26, 2006, a Barbie doll set a world record at auction of £9,000 sterling (US $17,000) at Christie’s in London. The doll was a Barbie in Midnight Red from 1965 and was part of a private collection of 4,000 Barbie dolls being sold by two Dutch women, Ietje Raebel and her daughter Marina. Read more here.

Bettina Dorfmann – Guinnes Book of World Records

No article written today about Barbie doll collecting would be complete without the mention of Bettina Dorfmann. Bettina is a Barbie doll collector from Dusseldorf, Germany and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for her collection of over 6,000 Barbie dolls – one of the biggest in the world! It is reported that Bettina keeps dolls in a bedroom, her cellar and half the kitchen in her house and plans to collect at least 10,000.

Collectible Tier for Barbie:
Mattel, Inc. created the below tier for Barbie collecting:

Platinum label: Platinum Label Barbie dolls are produced in quantities of less than 1000. Dolls, like the Platinum editions of Badgley Mischka Bride Barbie and Fairie Queen Barbie, are Platinum Label. This label also includes dolls for events like CAAF’s annual Dream Halloween events.

Gold label: Gold Label Barbie dolls are produced in quantities of less than 25,000 worldwide.
Silver label: Silver Label Barbie dolls are produced in quantities of less than 50,000. Chocolate Obsession Barbie doll and Barbie as Juliet are Silver Label Barbies.
Pink label: Pink Label Barbie dolls are collector’s items that do not have a production quota. Items like the Dolls of the World collection are Pink Label.

Identifying The Date Your Barbie Doll Was Made:

A common mistake that new Barbie collectors make is associating a correct manufacture date to the doll. Just because you see the copyright date of 1966 on your Barbie doll does not mean that is when she was manufactured. The 1966 date is the copyright date of the molds that Mattel used for Barbie’s body and appeared on Barbie dolls manufactured in the 1990’s and possibly later. This also applies to Barbie’s boyfriend Ken that sometimes still appears in stores with a copyright date of 1968. So, when you are out at garage sales or rummaging in a thrift store, be cautious, as the pile of Barbie’s’ you just found may not be that old or worth very much. Do your research.

The below can help you narrow down what year and country a Barbie was made. Visit Doll Reference for more information.

1959 – 1972 JAPAN
1986 – 2006 CHINA
1968 – 1970 MEXICO
1970 – 1987 Hong Kong
1970 – 1987 TAIWAN
1973 – 1978 KOREA
1978 – 1988 PHILIPINES
1986 – 2006 CHINA
1986 – 2006 MALAYSIA
1989 – 1990 MEXICO
1992 -2006 INDONESIA

I can remember being a little girl and my twin sister and I would be playing with our various Barbie dolls. We could play for hours with the dolls, changing their clothes, changing out the earrings, combing the hair, tea parties, rides in the Corvette, Barbie pool parties – it was great! I also remember when our parents would take us down to Toys R Us to pick out a new Barbie and the isle that displayed all those Barbie’s in various outfits, styles, and boxes seemed like the biggest and best place on the planet; it was so very hard to pick just one Barbie.

So, weather you’re a hardcore collector or a beginner or just enjoy playing with Barbie together along with your own daughter(s), Barbie is an American icon – a doll that seems to have stood the test of time and is still as lovely and collectible as when she first appeared back in 1959. Barbie brings joy to so many and there are hundreds of thousands of collectors and this number is increasing everyday.