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Brief History Of Barbie Doll Collecting
Fashion doll collectors have collected and loved the vintage Barbie dolls starting in the early 1970s, very soon after the classic "vintage" look dolls with their detailed high-quality fashions were no longer being produced. The classic "vintage" dolls were only produced by Mattel from 1959 to approximately 1966, when mod dolls and fashions took over. New Barbies produced in the 1970s and 1980s were very play-oriented dolls, and often not of high quality. The prevalent look in the 1980s was a "disco" look--big hair, big smile (the "Superstar" face mold) and shiny, glittery costumes.
Doll collectors still loved Barbie, and many of them continued to collect the "pink box" play dolls during that era. Then, in the late 1980s, Mattel created their first dolls aimed at adult collectors. The first doll was a porcelain version of Barbie--the Porcelain Rhapsody in Blue Barbie in 1986. Then, in 1988, Mattel released the 1998 Happy Holiday Barbie doll--the doll that really put Barbie dolls aimed at adult collectors on the map. This doll was not produced in great numbers, but it became an immediate (and hard to get) hit. Today, this doll sells for over $500.
So, Mattel began to
produce Happy Holiday dolls for collectors each year, as well as other
collector Barbie dolls. In 1994, Mattel produced a watershed doll--the
35th Anniversary Barbie doll, a reproduction of the original 1959 doll.
Collectors clamored for this doll...and they hoarded them. Then, collectors
started to hoard ALL the collector Barbie dolls. People couldn't find
ANY collector Barbie dolls, except on the secondary market. SO....Mattel
increased production levels. Eventually, the dolls became TOO easy to
find, hoarders bailed out, and prices on the secondary market dropped
to where we see them today--often, below retail. At the end of the 1990s,
it looked like the modern Barbie collecting craze was well over.