Not Barbie, Not Ken: Mattel's Other Fashion Dolls
As a kid in the mid-Sixties having both an older and younger sister, I was acquainted with the toy phenomenon of the era, Barbie. My older sister had one of the early dolls, a sloe-eyed, ginger-haired Barbie in a black patent leather case. Her boyfriend, Ken, soon joined her, and before long they were joined by Barbie's friend Midge and her boyfriend Allan. I always thought the add-on dolls had more personality than Barbie or Ken; more facial expression, at any rate.
The success of Barbie led to an explosion of other dolls in the series, and a torrent of outfits, accessories, playsets, and spin off merchandise. It would take a book--several books--to catalog the proliferation of dolls and merchandise, but for now I'd like to highlight some of Barbie's friends and relatives. Some of them are quite obscure. For collectors, obscurity can be very good or very bad; a doll's worth is usually measured both by how uncommon it might be plus how much other collectors want it. Uncommon and wanted means High Value; uncommon and unwanted equals Low/No Value.
After the original couple of Barbie and Ken the first (1964) addition to the family was Skipper, Barbie's kid sister. Originally about ten years old, she grew up over the years, probably because it was more lucrative to outfit a teenager than a child. Next (1965) came Tutti and Todd, twins (girl and boy, respectively) kid siblings of Barbie and Skipper. They were definitely pre-teens and stayed that way. They were also made with bendy bodies, their wire frames covered in flexible soft plastic. Next came Francie (1966), "Barbie's Mod cousin." In the era of Twiggy and mini-skirts, which hardly suited Barbie's statuesque figure, Francie was the doll of choice for young hipsters. Starting in the Eighties Barbie's family underwent a population explosion, with dolls named Stacie, Jazzie, Kelly, Shelly, Krissy, Chelsea, et. al. Reflecting changes in American society, African-American versions appeared in the late Sixties, as well as Hispanic and Asian featured dolls, plus Barbies from a wide variety of countries.
The highest dollar value Barbie items are the special celebrity/designer themed sets. These aren't toys, of course, being intended solely for serious collectors.
So here's just a short list of some Barbie-related dolls with
the year they were introduced:
Midge, 1963 Christie, 1968
Teresa, 1988 Summer, 2004
Nikki, 2006 Raquelle, 2007
Grace, 2009 Stacey ("Barbie's British chum"), 1968
P.J., 1969 Steffie, 1972
Kira/Miko/Marina (variant names used in overseas markets), 1985
Skipper had her own circle of cronies, too: Skooter, 1965; Ricky, 1965; Fluff, 1971; Tiff, 1972; Ginger, 1975; Scott, 1980; Courtney, 1989; Kevin, 1990;
The list goes on and on! Though Barbie remains the Queen Bee of the collector dolls, with decent examples of the original 1959 doll fetching prices around $6,000 to $7,000, some of the others can be quite worthwhile. For example, the rarest of all the Francie dolls is the Japanese Sun Sun Malibu Francie, a Malibu Francie with deep suntan, but using the original Francie head mold with rooted lashes and long brunette hair parted on the side. These sell for up to $1,000, though I find current examples listed for under $500. "American Girl" Barbie from 1965 can be worth up to $1,300. 1968 African-American Christie dolls go for up to $900 in prime condition (they had talk boxes--any talking doll's worth is enhanced by being in good working condition).
The world of Barbie collecting is truly vast, but please remember not every old doll is worth a fortune. Mattel has made millions of dolls, and only the best condition, most obscure, most sought-after dolls will fetch high prices. And clothing! Original Barbie/Mattel labeled doll clothing can be worth more than the dolls who wear them--but that's another vast subject for another blog entry.
At Trader Chris, we have an interesting assortment of Sixties Mattel dolls currently on eBay. Check them out!