Barbie Set to Make a Mint; ANTIQUES & COLLECTING Thousands of Barbie Dolls, Her Family and Friends, Will Go Up for Sale Soon at One of the Biggest Auctions of Its Kind

The Birmingham Post (England), September 2, 2006 | Go to article overview

Barbie Set to Make a Mint; ANTIQUES & COLLECTING Thousands of Barbie Dolls, Her Family and Friends, Will Go Up for Sale Soon at One of the Biggest Auctions of Its Kind


Byline: By SALLY HOBAN

Here's a question for the girls. Were you a Barbie girl or a Sindy girl? There was a serious rivalry between the two camps at my school.

Barbie (full name Barbie Millicent Roberts) always seemed to have the best outfits and was somehow more glamourous and daring than her British counterpart and rival Sindy.

Lover her or hate her, Barbie has now become an enduring symbol of 20th century popular culture, particularly fashion, and this month will see one of the biggest collections of Barbie dolls in the world come under the hammer at Christies Auctioneers.

Barbie collecting among adults really took off in the 1980s, when her original fans reached their twenties and thirties and wanted to buy back the dolls they had loved as children.

The collectors' market for Barbie dolls has grown significantly ever since, with some of the rarer dolls now selling for several thousand pounds. Barbie has become big business - there's a dedicated Barbie Collectors Club and fan sites for the all-American girl are springing up all over the Internet.

This collection contains some 4,000 dolls and spans the entire history of Barbie, her family, friends and fashion during the second half of the 20th Century. As a whole it is expected to sell for in excess of pounds 100,000.

The collection includes a rare example of the very first Barbie doll, which was invented by Ruth Handler, co-founder of the toy company Mattel.

The idea for Barbie came to her as she watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and rather than assuming they were babies, Barbara was imagining them in grown-up roles.

As a result, Ruth decided to make a teenage doll that little girls could both emulate and aspire to.

Together with her husband Elliott, Ruth unveiled Barbie doll, the teenage fashion model, at New York's annual Toy Fair in 1959. Despite initial scepticism from the trade, the first year of production saw 351,000 dolls sold. The first Barbie doll originally sold for just $3.00, the example in the sale is expected to sell for between pounds 800-pounds 1,200.

Today, Barbie is sold in more than 150 countries and has become an enduring symbol of the American dream. The auctioneers tell me that three Barbie dolls are sold every second somewhere in the world.

Barbie has had more than 95 careers, ranging from rock star to palaeontologist and presidential candidate, so for anyone who thought that Barbie was just a pretty face, think again.

She has represented 45 different nationalities and has had over 43 pets including 21 dogs, 14 horses, three ponies, six cats, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a panda, a lion cub, a giraffe and a zebra. More than one billion outfits and pairs of shoes have been produced since 1959 for Barbie and her friends, using 105 million yards of fabric.

There have been limited edition dolls (always appealing to collectors), designer Barbies, and holiday Barbies.

Of course no discussion of Barbie is complete without a mention of her boyfriend Ken (named after Ruth Handler's son), who has accompanied her on her adventures across the globe.

We didn't like boys very much when we used to play with Barbies at school, so our Ken dolls always seemed to get in the way. Plus, he always reminded me of a Baywatch style life guard, so I could never take him quite seriously.

Barbie dolls provide a great commentary on fashion, lifestyle and the aspirations of young girls. The late 1950s saw the beginnings of the trends that still strongly influence today's designers and Barbie encapsulated this perfectly with her wardrobe. …

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