The Barbie Doll, produced by the Mattel company became a global sensation during the late 1900’s. First making an appearance in 1959, the Barbie Doll wasn’t just popular among young girls but also became of interest for keen collectors. While the majority of the higher-priced dolls have only been produced in more recent years, some barbies stashed in the attic or garage can also fetch high prices when sold to the right buyer.
While it may have been 60 years since the first blonde-haired, black and white swimsuit dressed Barbie hit the toy store shelves, the popularity has not diminished. Each year the Mattel company continues to bring out new dolls, each with their own career, style or famous profile.
The History and Evolution of Barbie
When Barbie first hit the shelves in 1959, she was sold for a mere $3.00.
The Barbie Doll first began as an idea a mother came across when seeing her young daughter Barbara play time and time again with paper cut out dolls. The mother who also happened to be the co-founder of Mattel, an already growing toy company had the ability to bring her ideas to life in the form of a 3D doll which later was branded as a ‘Barbie’.
Ruth Handler introduced her creation to the world at the New York City Toy Fair where the doll instantly gained attention. While many dolls similar to the Barbie are sold alongside her today, at the time she was introduced, little to no other doll for girls existed.
Two years after Barbie made her debut, Ruth had another idea which was the famous Ken doll. Again named after one of her children, Ken was much the same as Barbie in the way the clothes were interchangeable, and so was his career.
Inflation of the Barbie
During Barbie’s earlier years, she was affordable for most young girls, these days one doll can be priced anywhere between $15.00 and $50.00. The newer released Barbies generally have higher RRP, along with those second-hand vintage dolls that we will take a look at in this article. The Mattel company often collaborates with designers and other big brand names to produce limited-edition Barbie dolls each with their own price tag. For example, the recent 2019 Barbie and Puma collaboration doll retails for $50 USD.
The Most Expensive Barbie Dolls Produced Prior to 2000
Barbies Produced During the 90’s Worth a Fortune
De Beers 40th Anniversary Barbie Doll – 1999
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $85, 000 USD
The De Beers Barbie Doll Remains the Most Expensive Doll Made by the Company Before the Year 2000.
While the De Beers Barbie Doll has not increased in price since it was first designed and sold during 1999, this Barbie Doll still falls in our most expensive Barbie Doll article due to the $85,000 retail value. This particular Barbie Doll features a bikini top and skirt that is decorated with 160 diamonds. Released as a special edition to celebrate 40 years of the world’s most recognized doll, it was titled after the diamond company in which the collaboration was with.
Vera Wang Barbie Doll – 1998
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $150 – $300 USD
Released as a limited edition Barbie Doll, this collaboration between Mattel and designer Vera Wang saw a beautiful fully gowned Barbie released to the public. This Barbie was dressed in a wedding gown that featured pearl buttons and silky satin. This doll also came with a bunch of red roses, stockings and a lace garter with bow.
Chicago Cubs Barbie Doll – 1999
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $2,000 USD
Designed by Sharon Zuckerman and released in 1999, the Chicago Cubs Barbie Doll is worth thousands of dollars if it has been kept in mint condition. This Barbie looked sporty with her Major League Baseball uniform and came with a number of accessories that she could be played with. This Barbie wears a hat that has the official team logo and it is this hat that makes this Barbie doll worth so much.
Sparkle Beach Barbie Doll – 1995
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $2,000 USD
In a stunning two-piece swimming costume to match her crystal clear eyes, Sparkle Beach Barbie doll was an instant hit when she was sold during 1995. Every little girl wanted one and aspired to look just as she did. This Barbie has tanned skin and can fetch a high price if the right buyer is found. While some of these dolls seem to sell for thousands, others attack only a mere few hundred dollars.
Summer Day Dreams Barbie Doll – 1997
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $1,515 USD
The Summer Day Dreams Barbie Doll was a collaboration between Mattel and the very popular Coca Cola company. She was a recreation of an image from an early 1900’s Coca Cola calendar making her a nostalgic piece to many of her buyers. She features a white dress with satin red ribbon and tiny pearly buttons from the top of the dress to the bottom. She came with a straw hat, umbrella, Coco-Cola bottle, and serving tray. A Summer Day Dreams Barbie doll with all accessories can be worth quite a high price at auction.
Totally Hair Barbie Doll – 1992
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $160 USD
The Totally Hair Barbie is the Mattel Companies Best Selling Doll to Date. Every Little Girl in the 90’s ‘Had’ to Have Her!
While the Totally Hair Barbie doll does not sell for an astronomical price at auction, she is a very easy sale with many keen collectors of this particular doll. In fact, in Mattel’s history, this is the best selling doll even though she was not released until 1992. In fact, over 10 million of this doll were sold globally from 1992 until 1995. This doll’s hair reaches right to her toes and came with a number of accessories that could be placed in her long hair.
Bob Mackie Starlight Splendor Barbie Doll – 1991
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $200 – $700 USD
The second doll to be released in the ‘Mackie’ series was the Bob Mackie Starlight Splendor Barbie Doll. This was one of the first African American Barbie dolls and sure did she look stunning. The black and silver gown this Barbie sported had over 500 sequins and jewels as well as a feather train. This doll came in a premium box along with a stand.
Happy Holidays Barbie Doll – 1998
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $500 USD
Part of the Happy Holidays series produced by the Mattel company was this 1998 edition. This doll presents herself as stylish yet sophisticated in a velvet and silver evening gown. The reason why this doll may have became so popular is the fact that she is the first Happy Holidays doll to have worn black and have an upstyle hairdo.
Pink Splendor Barbie Doll – 1996
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $340 USD – $500 USD
The Pink Splendor Barbie Doll was one of the most breathtaking dolls produced by the company up until the 2000’s. She wore a fine silk pink gown and had a dramatic updo hairstyle. The reason why this doll fetches such a high price today is the fact that only ten thousand were sold globally.
Calvin Klein Barbie Doll – 1996
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $1,415 USD
It is no surprise a collaboration between Mattel and Calvin Klein saw such popularity. The Calvin Klein Barbie Doll was produced in 1996 and wore designer clothes from head to toe. The CK logo can be found on the accessories of this doll (even her underpants!) adding to her value. This doll also came with a backpack that should be included to increase the auction price.
Happy Holidays Barbie Doll – 1996
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $800 USD
Looking like she is ready to attend a Christmas function, the Happy Holidays Barbie Doll produced in the year 1996 can be worth upwards of $800 USD. This doll has a white faux fur muff and hat, and wears a detailed red velvet and gold tiered dress. Her blond hair flow with subtle waves.
Barbies Produced During the 80’s Worth a Fortune
Pink Jubilee Barbie Doll – 1989
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $3,000 USD
Produced to help celebrate 30 years of Barbie in 1989, the Pink Jubilee Barbie Doll features a silver gown with a subtle tone of pink. This doll is worth so much as she was only gifted to those that attended a special celebration of the Mattel company at the Lincoln Center. This means that there are only a handful of these dolls are the world allowing their vintage price to rise over the years.
Peaches n’ Cream Barbie Doll – 1985
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $200 – $300 USD
The Peaches n’ Cream Barbie Doll produced in 1985 was extremely popular, even so much so that the company later did a ‘vintage style’ reproduction. While this particular vintage doll isn’t worth anything to gloat about, she sure does bring the nostalgic value of the 80’s to those wishing to relive that decade meaning if you find the right buyer, you can see her sell for a few hundred dollars.
Barbies Produced During the 70’s Worth a Fortune
Hair Happenins Barbie Doll – 1971
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $1,600 USD
Featuring a short bob, the Hair Happenins Barbie Doll was an instant hit when she was sold during 1971. She wore a white blouse and a conservative pink skirt. This doll came with three hairstyle wigs that could be interchanged to differently style her. This doll was only available at certain department stores for one year only which could also be one of the reasons she is so valuable today.
Barbies Produced During the 60’s Worth a Fortune
Midnight-Red Barbie Doll – 1965
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $17,000 USD
Dating back to 1965, the Midnight-Red Barbie Doll is so expensive purely due to the outfit that she wears. A limited-edition of the Midnight blue Barbie, the Midnight Red doll wears red from head to toe.
American Girl Barbie Doll – 1966
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $3,500 USD
The American Girl Barbie Doll was first introduced in 1966 and wore a colorful striped swimsuit. She also sported open-toe turquoise heels. If you have the original box and the gold stand originally sold with this Barbie, you can expect to sell her within the thousands. This doll came in three different styles; one with brown hair, one with grey hair and one with blonde hair. Each of the three varieties seem to sell for similar prices these days.
Blonde Bubble Cut Barbie Doll – 1962
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $3,000 USD
Said to be influenced by the 1st lady, Jackie Kennedy the Blonde Bubble Cut Barbie Doll saw a doll with a slightly different hairstyle to those previously produced. Still one of the oldest Barbies within the collection, this doll is worth a few thousand dollars if in good condition. This doll could be purchased with brown or golden hair and was produced from approximately 1961 until 1967.
Color Magic Barbie Doll – 1966
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $1,350 USD
The Color Magic Barbie Doll was introduced in 1966 and featured either golden or black hair. Her hair was much silkier than the previous dolls made by the company and her outfit was much more vibrant. The unique thing about this doll was that her hair could change color when the solution was applied. A vintage Color Magic Barbie doll can be worth quite a lot of money if she still has the vibrant makeup and outfit she originally came with.
Barbies Produced During the 50’s Worth a Fortune
Original Barbie Doll (Blonde) – 1959
Estimated Current Re-Sale Value: $27,450 USD
While there are 7 different variations of the Original Barbie Doll, each wore a black and white swimsuit. The very first dolls produced by the company and still among the most expensive when sold at auction featured a low ponytail either in brunette or blonde. The other editions came in the next two following years. These dolls were the start of the Barbie revolution.
Where Can I Purchase Vintage or Collectible Barbie Dolls?
It is estimated that globally there are 100,000 collectors of vintage Barbie dolls.
While many parents choose to hold onto their children’s Barbie dolls to pass from one generation to the next, other families compile them in the clean up to be passed on to others or charity stores. At a second-hand store, Barbies are commonly found in the children’s toy section although the condition of these dolls is generally quite poor. In some rare cases, you may stumble upon a Barbie doll at a second-hand store that has been well looked after over the years, and she should have a relatively low price tag.
Vintage or collectible Barbies can also be found at doll shows and exhibitions, auctions, markets, and collectible shops. As well as in person, many online antique and collectible sites will have a section for dolls and more often than not, you’ll find a handful of differing priced Barbies there.
Identifying a Genuine Vintage Barbie
Over the years since Barbie first hit the toy store shelves, many replicas and similar dolls have been produced. If you are on the lookout for a specific vintage Barbie or a Barbie doll from a particular era it is important to do your research to ensure she is not a replica. If you are paying a fair amount for the Barbie, ensure that all original accessories are included and where possible, the original box. Barbies that are missing accessories or are in poor condition should have a price tag to reflect this.
Consideration When Purchasing a Vintage Barbie Doll:
- All Barbie dolls have a manufacturer stamp. Those produced prior to 1972 will read: ‘Made in Japan’. The manufacturer stamp can be found on the Barbie’s foot, neck or lower back.
- Compare the current hairstyle of the doll to the original hairstyle. Dolls who still sport the original hairstyle are much more valuable.
- Barbies produced during the early 60’s have eyes that look off towards each side.
- Barbies produced from 1961 had blue eyes (generally).
- In 1965 Barbies began to be produced with bendable legs.
- In 1967 the bendable Barbie was introduced which allowed her more flexibility.
- In 1971 Barbies’ eye were faced to look forward.
- In 1977 Barbie was given an open-mouthed smile for the first time.
- During the 1980’s the first Barbie sporting a darker skin tone was introduced.
- In 1986 the very first Barbie limited edition collectible doll was released.
- In 1988 the first Happy Holidays Barbie doll hit the shelves.
- The very first produced ‘ponytail’ Barbie dolls had holes in their feet.
If the Barbie you are interested in purchasing does not match up to the features introduced during the decades, question the seller.