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A Beginner's Guide to Vintage Barbie

classic toy doll in red coat

The year is 1959, and you have just settled in to watch the latest episode of The Mickey Mouse Club. All of a sudden, a commercial comes on that unveils a toy that will change the world. This toy would go on not only to be the most popular but also one of the most valuable to collectors.

This week we will take a look at Barbara Millicent Roberts, known better to the world as Barbie.


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Barbie is the brainchild of Ruth Handler, wife of Elliot Handler, the co-founder of Mattel. Ruth would watch her daughter Barbara playing with her dolls, and she would often give her dolls adult roles. Ruth knew there was a gap in the market for adult-like dolls, thus came the idea for Barbie. Although the concept of the Barbie doll wasn’t welcomed with open arms at first, Mattel eventually came to their senses. On March 9th, 1959, Barbie was born! The iconic doll had her retail launch at the New York Toy Fair. With her initial release, Barbie was only available in blonde and brunette hair color. Red-haired Barbie didn’t become available until 1961, which is the same year that Barbie’s plastic companion, Ken, was introduced to the world. Fun Fact: Ken was inspired by Ruth and Elliot’s son Kenneth.


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After researching the backstory of Barbie, it was clear that Ruth wanted to make sure no details were left out. Have you ever wondered who Barbie’s parents are and where they’re from? Barbie hails from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin, and her parents are Margaret and George Roberts. While Barbie’s first occupation was a teenage model, she has since been given hundreds of jobs such as a paleontologist, game developer, hairdresser, and a NASCAR driver.


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Over the years, there have been many changes made to the Barbie doll, but one thing remains the same: Barbie is one of the most sought after and collectible toys out there. According to Mattel, there are over 100,000 Barbie collectors worldwide. So, what are all of these collectors looking for? We’re going to take a quick look at a few of the most collectible and valuable Barbie dolls in existence. Keep in mind that a few of these dolls were designed for special events, so they weren’t available in the retail market. Finding a few of these may be nearly impossible to find, but hey, who knows?

Marie Atoinette (2003)

Modeled after the Queen of France, this Barbie, wearing a golden laced gown and holding two hand-carved porcelain roses, can fetch up to $1200 in the right market. She was featured in the “Women of Royalty” collection.


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Original Barbie (1959)

This is the doll that started it all, and as far as collectibility goes, It’s hard to beat the original. The very first Barbie doll donned a black and white bathing suit and an endless amount of sass. It can bring in over $25,000 if found in good condition.

original barbie doll

Pink Splendor Barbie (1996)

Since there were over 10,000 units produced, this one is a little easier to find. With a dress made of silk satin, rhinestones and crystals, no expense was spared with this Barbie. Although the value has gone down a bit, she can still bring in close to $500 on the low end with collectors.


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I Love Lucy Barbie (2004)

In an episode called “Sales Resistance,” Lucy decides to splurge on an expensive vacuum cleaner after seeing a commercial for it. This Barbie is modeled after America’s favorite homemaker, Lucille Ball. She is wearing the famous polka dot dress and white apron she wore in the episode. If you spend the $1,000 this Barbie is currently worth, you might have some splaining to do!


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Using the EstateSales.NET Treasure Tracker or searching our Marketplace is a great way to find which sales feature these world-renowned toys.

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