Vintage Barbie Bathing Beauties From left Bubblecut Barbie, Titian Swirl PT, No. 4 PT and Brunette Swirl PT.

Guide To Collecting Vintage Barbie Dolls As An Investment

disclosure

I have been collecting vintage Barbie dolls since before they were considered vintage!

Kim’s Love of Barbies

I have LOVED Barbie dolls since I was little. A lot of my earliest memories include me playing with my mom’s Barbie dolls from the 1960s that she had handed down to me (and I still have). 

Vintage Ken doll and vintage Midge doll in homemade doll clothing
Vintage Ken doll and vintage Midge doll in homemade doll clothing

The Barbie dolls that I loved to play with most though were my Aunt Joanne’s Barbies (from the 1970s) at my grandparent’s house. Joanne was 13 years older than me so her dolls were newer and more trendy (at the time). Plus she had a cardboard Barbie house that folded up like a suitcase. It even had cardboard furniture!

1962 Barbie's Cardboard Fold-up Dream House
1962 Barbie’s Cardboard Fold-up Dream House
Inside of 1962 Barbie's Dream House with cardboard furniture
Inside of 1962 Barbie’s Dream House with cardboard furniture

Every year my grandma got the JCPenney Christmas catalog, and my brother and I would circle the items we wanted for Christmas. The thing I wanted most was the A-Frame Barbie dream house, so I put several stars by that circled item. 

I don’t remember what I got for Christmas that year, but I remember being highly disappointed. When we cleaned my grandma’s house out years later, I called dibs on Joanne’s Barbie collection, but the house was nowhere to be found. I did score the Barbie dolls (and Ken) though that I still have today. 

Since the A-Frame house was out of my price range, I saved up my money and was able to buy the Barbie townhouse that had a moveable elevator. When I moved from my mom’s house to my dad’s house when I was 14, I took my tote of Barbie dolls and accessories with me, but I left the townhouse behind (which I really regret). My younger sister then played with it, and my mom ended up throwing it away. 

When my twin daughters were born, I vowed they would have a nice Barbie house if not the current “dream house”. I commissioned my friend’s step-father to make a huge wooden two-story Barbie house. The side of the roof even lifted up for storage (they used it as a garage for their Barbie Volkswagon car).

Barbie dollhouses
My daughter’s Barbie dollhouses

I found the wooden high-rise Barbie dollhouse on clearance at Walmart, and I thought I hit the jackpot, but it wasn’t very sturdy and didn’t survive when we moved and swapped houses

The carpenter-made dollhouse, on the other hand, will hopefully be passed down from generation to generation. My grand-daughter, who has an old money baby name, is the current owner of said dollhouse. 

Happy Holidays Barbies

In 1994, we exchanged names for Christmas, and my brother had drawn my name. He gave me the 1994 Happy Holiday Barbie and that was the start of me collecting beautiful boxed Barbie dolls.

In 1995, the demand for Happy Holiday Barbies exceeded the supply, and I had to buy a piece of cardboard at Walmart in send in to redeem and receive that year’s doll. I was skeptical but I did receive my doll.

The first Happy Holiday Barbie was released in 1988, and I ended buying the years I missing (1988-1993) from a Yahoo Group forum so I had the complete set. I continued to get a new Happy Holiday Barbie every year up through 2016.  2017 was rough year for our family (mental illness can be a cruel thing).

Happy Holiday Barbies on display in spare bedroom
Happy Holiday Barbies on display in spare bedroom

In 2020, when everyone was confined to their homes for the pandemic, I decided to clean out my basement and sell my Happy Holiday Barbie collection as I was now missing the last four years of the collection. They were not worth near as much as I had hoped, and the cost to ship out that many dolls cost about as much as I made on eBay after fees.

I had several totes of other boxed Barbies as well that I decided to part with (less to move). All of my nieces got Barbie dolls as Christmas presents plus I sold some at garage sales and at our liquidation store sales.  

I also kept a few boxed Barbies that meant something to me. For instance, back in my couponing days, I had saved enough UPC symbols to get the Kool-Aid Barbies and the Little Debbie Barbies (my kids lived on both of those food items for awhile). 

Collecting Vintage Barbie Dolls

I now belong to several Barbie Facebook groups and have become fascinated with collecting vintage Barbie dolls. I still have all of my Barbies (from the 1980s) as well as my mother’s (1960s) and my aunt’s (1970s) and some of my daughters’ (1990s-2000s). So I decided to do some research on if these vintage Barbie dolls were considered an investment. 

Guide To Collecting Vintage Barbie Dolls As An Investment

The Investment Potential of Vintage Barbie Dolls

As I delved deeper into the world of vintage Barbie collecting, I quickly realized that these aren’t just toys – they’re pieces of history. Each doll, with its unique fashion and design, encapsulates the era it was produced in. It’s like holding a tiny, stylish piece of the past in your hands.

Understanding the Market

The market for vintage Barbie dolls can be quite lucrative, but it’s important to understand what makes a doll valuable. Factors like rarity, condition, and original packaging significantly influence a doll’s worth. For instance, original Barbie dolls from 1959 (#1 and #2) can fetch thousands of dollars, especially if they’re in mint condition with their original black and white swimsuit and that iconic ponytail. Vintage Barbie dolls that are “new in box” (NIB) are worth a lot more. 

Condition Matters

The condition of the doll is paramount. Mint condition dolls, especially those kept in their original boxes, are worth much more than those that have been played with. It’s heartbreaking to think about how my younger sister’s playtime and my mom’s cleaning spree might have impacted the value of our family’s collection.

Nostalgia vs. Rarity

While nostalgia plays a huge role in the desire to collect these dolls, it’s the rarity that drives up their value. Limited edition dolls, such as the original Happy Holiday Barbies, can become quite valuable over time. Although the market can fluctuate, certain dolls always seem to be in high demand among collectors.

The Thrill of the Hunt

Part of the joy in collecting vintage Barbie dolls comes from the hunt. Scouring online auctions, Goodwill stores, estate sales, and even rummage sales can sometimes yield hidden gems. It’s not just about the potential monetary gain; it’s about the thrill of finding a piece of your childhood and preserving a bit of history.

Vintage Barbie Terminology

Vintage Barbie Terminology

To successfully navigate the world of vintage Barbie collecting, it’s essential to understand the common terminology used by enthusiasts and sellers:

  • #1 – 1959 Original Ponytail Barbie with white irises, blue eyeliner, sharply arched eyebrows and holes in her feet. Her body material whitens with age. She is marked “Barbie TM…” on her buttock.
  • #2 – Same as #1, but without the holes in her feet.
  • #3 – 1960 Ponytail Barbie from 1960 with new blue irises and softer, curved eyebrows. Some #3 Barbie dolls have brown eyeliner.
  • #4 – Barbie from 1960 that is made with a new vinyl that retains its tan coloring and doesn’t whiten with age. She has blue eyeliner only.
  • #5 – Barbie from 1961 that has bangs now made of a stiffer fiber. She is also lighter in weight due to having a hollow torso. She is marked “Barbie (r)…” on her buttock.
  • #6 – Same as #5, but is wearing a new red swimsuit.
  • #7 – Barbie from 1963. She is now marked “Midge TM (c) 1962 Barbie (r)(c) 1958 by Mattel, Inc.”
  • #8 – Same as #7, but “Patented” has been added to the end of markings.
  • A/O – All Original
  • AA – African American
  • BC – Bubblecut (hairstyle)
  • BL – Bendable Legs
  • CM – Color Magic
  • CT – Closed Toe (shoes)
  • DK – Dark
  • DOTW – Dolls of the World
  • DSS – Department Store Special
  • EXC – Excellent Condition
  • FA – Fashion Avenue
  • FAO – FAO Schwarz
  • FH – Flocked Hair (Ken)
  • FQ – Fashion Queen
  • G – Good
  • GWTW – Gone with the Wind (movie)
  • HTF – Hard to Find
  • LE – Limited Edition
  • LN – Like New
  • M/C – Mint and Complete
  • MIB – Mint in Box
  • MIP – Mint in Package
  • MNP – Mint No Package
  • MOC – Mint on Card
  • MT – Mine
  • MTM – Made to Move (body type)
  • NIB – New in Box
  • NM – Near Mint
  • NMIB– Near Mint In Box
  • NRFB – Never Removed From Box
  • OF – Outfit
  • OM – Open Mouth
  • OO – Original Outfit
  • OOAK – One of a King
  • OOB – Out of Box
  • OR – Original
  • OSS – Original Swimsuit
  • OT – Open Toe (shoes)
  • P – Poor Condition
  • PCS – Pieces
  • PH – Painted Hair (Ken)
  • PT – Ponytail
  • PTD – Painted
  • PTMI – PT Mattel Indonesia
  • PW – Played With
  • ROI – Return on Investment
  • RT – Retouched
  • SG – Sunglasses
  • SL – Straight Leg
  • SS – Swimsuit
  • Titian – Red Hair
  • TNT – Twist ‘n Turn waist
  • TRU – ToysRUs
  • VG – Very Good
  • VHTF – Very Hard To Find
  • WTB – Want to Buy
  • WTT – Want to Trade

Grasping these Barbie terms will not only enrich your collecting journey but also aid in making more informed decisions about your acquisitions.

A Diverse Portfolio

Collecting vintage Barbie dolls can be a part of a diverse investment portfolio. Just like with stocks or real estate, there’s a market, there are trends, and there are risks. It’s essential to do your research and maybe even consult with antique toy experts to understand the current market value of your collection.

Future Generations and Sentimental Value

Beyond the monetary aspect, there’s something incredibly special about passing these dolls down through generations. My grand-daughter, who adores her old money baby name and the carpenter-made dollhouse, is not just inheriting toys; she’s inheriting a legacy. These dolls represent stories, memories, and a lineage of play and imagination.

Conclusion

In conclusion, collecting vintage Barbie dolls can indeed be a worthwhile investment. However, it’s crucial to approach it with knowledge, patience, and a bit of caution. Remember, the value of these dolls isn’t just in their potential monetary return but also in the joy and nostalgia they bring. As I look at my collection, I see more than just dolls; I see a tapestry of memories, a collection of art, and a potential treasure trove for the future.

Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting, the world of vintage Barbie dolls is rich with history and potential. Happy collecting!

Featured Image Credit: Flickr – Vintage Barbie Bathing Beauties (from left Bubblecut Barbie, Titian Swirl PT, No. 4 PT and Brunette Swirl PT)

Kim Rowley Lohrberg
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