The Barbie doll phenomenon began in 1959 when Barbie was introduced at the New York Toy fair. Then began a great success story in the history of doll manufacturing. Barbie was the first adult doll figure to be mass produced. Before this nearly all dolls were modelled after babies or children. “New for ‘59,The Barbie Doll:A Shapely Teenage Fashion Model Price $3.00” was her intitial billing.

In 1945 Elliot and Ruth Handler formed a partnership with Harold Matson to manufacture picture frames. The two names Matson and Elliot were combined to form the company name Mattel. Elliot used the picture frame wood scrap to make doll house furniture. This was the start of the Handler furniture business.

About this time Ruth noticed that her daughter Barbara and friends preferred to play with adult paper dolls rather than child or baby dolls. The girls preferred a doll which could be their role model when they grew up. Ruth realised that there could be big commercial possibilities in the adult doll market. She discussed the idea with her husband but he felt that it would be too expensive to start making the dolls.

Soon after this Ruth made a trip to Germany and purchased a doll called Lilli. This adult type doll was based on a German comic strip. On returning to the USA she began work to redesign the doll working with a doll clothes designer. Soon the Barbie doll was born and was named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara. The doll was patented by Mattel in 1958 and introduced in 1959. She was to become one of the most well known and well loved toys ever made.

Barbie soon became a collectors doll and was avidly sought after by adult collectors. Between 1959 and 1972 Barbie underwent seven changes in her appearance and design. These Barbies made up to 1972 are recognised as vintage collectible dolls by their fans and are eagerly sought after. Ken Doll Clothes in mint condition will sell for thousands of dollars. Some have sold for as much as $8000 to $10,000 but you can buy them for much less and $2000 to $3000 is quite common. Later editions fetch proportionately less. Dolls made in the 1969 to 1972 period can often be bought for a few dollars. Garage sales and flea markets are still the source of a few early dolls. About 300,000 of the 1959 Barbie were made and there are undoubtedly many out there still undiscovered.