Although some people may consider the earliest Barbie dolls antique, in actuality antique Barbie dolls will not exist for many years to come.
By strict classic definition, a doll must be at least one hundred years old to earn the honor of being an antique. However, most doll collectors, doll dealers and doll specialists consider any doll made before 1930 an antique. The main reason for this seemingly arbitrary cutoff date has to do with the porcelain factories in Germany that produced doll heads. These factories used the same molds to make porcelain doll heads from the 1880s throughout the 1920s, making it difficult to determine the exact age of some dolls of the times. It is interesting to note that at doll shows run by the National Antique Doll Dealers Association, vendors can exhibit dolls made prior to 1949.
The Eras of Barbie Dolls
Regardless of which definition of antique doll you use, Barbie still has many years ahead of her before she achieves the coveted title of being an antique doll. Doll collectors generally divide Barbie dolls into eras based on their production years:
- Vintage Barbie dolls - 1959 to 1972
- Vintage Mod Barbie dolls - 1966 to 1972
- Modern Barbie dolls - 1972 to present
- Collectible Barbie dolls - 1986 to present (these dolls are made for adult doll collectors)
The First Barbie Doll
Introduced at New York's American Toy Fair in 1959, the first Barbie doll quickly won the hearts of little girls everywhere. Selling more than 351,000 of the teenage fashion dolls in the first year, Barbie has been a staple in the toy industry ever since.
The idea of a teenage fashion doll came to Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel Toys, as she watched her daughter playing with her two-dimensional paper fashion dolls. The child was imagining her paper dolls in the role of grown-ups. Mrs. Handler designed Barbie in the style of a German fashion doll, manufactured from 1952 to 1964, named Bild Lilli. She named the Barbie doll after her daughter.
The first Barbie, known as Ponytail Barbie, wore a black and white striped one-piece strapless bathing suit complete with accessories that included:
- Open toed black shoes
- Gold hoop earrings
- White sunglasses with blue lenses
Barbie's hair was either blonde or brunette styled in a fashionable below the shoulder ponytail with curled ends and curly bangs. Her eyebrows matched her hair color and she had stylish red lips and blush on her cheeks. This is the only year that Barbie's eyes had no color.
Barbie Changes with the Times
Through the years Barbie's clothes, accessories and hairstyles changed keeping up with the current trends of the times. Generally, the name of the doll reflected the hairstyle or another distinguishing feature of the doll. For example, the 1961 Bubblecut Barbie features a fashionable small bouffant hairdo and was available in shades of blonde, brunette or titian. Several other examples of early styles of Barbie dolls include:
- Barbie Swirl Ponytail (1964)
- American Girl Barbie (1965) features a chin length bob parted in the middle with bangs
- American Girl Side Part (1965-1966) features a left side part, slightly flipped up hair and a turquoise ribbon hair band
- Color Magic Barbie (1966)
- Hair Flip Barbie (1968)
It was not long before Mattel introduced Barbie's teenage fashion doll friends. Just two years after the release of Barbie, Ken was introduced as the first male teenage fashion doll. Ken quickly took on the role of Barbie's boyfriend. Available as a blonde or brunette, Ken was fashionably attired for the beach. His original outfit included:
- Solid red swim trunks or red trunks with white stripes on the sides
- Red cork sandals
- Wrist tag
- Red and white striped jacket (optional)
- Yellow towel (optional)
Over the years, Mattel introduced many fashion dolls into the Barbie doll family. Some of them are members of Barbie's family and others are friends. The following are a few of the many fashion dolls by Mattel:
- Tutti (re-released as Stacie)
Barbie Fashions and Accessories
For Barbie being a teenage fashion doll means having lots of beautiful and trendy outfits. For decades Barbie clothes, accessories, wigs and shoes have filled Barbie closets and wardrobes in little girl's bedrooms and playrooms everywhere. Barbie's friends and family also love to look fashionable and have stylish wardrobes of their own.
Antique Barbie Dolls
Over the coming years Barbie will continue to be loved by little girls everywhere as they play with their favorite teenage fashion doll. Barbie doll collectors will continue to search for the perfect doll for their collection as the oldest of these vintage dolls approach the title of antique Barbie dolls.