When Barbie first premiered in 1959, the head executives at Mattel didn't have a lot of faith in the toy's concept. Barbie was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, the wife of Elliot Handler who was a co-founder of Mattel. Handler got the idea for Barbie while watching her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls - yep, Barbie is named after Handler’s daughter. Handler noted that the dolls that little girls were playing with during this time looked infant-like or child-like, and there were no grownup-looking dolls in the toy industry. When Handler first approached her husband and the toy company about this potentially lucrative gap in the market, they weren't interested in the idea. But when the Handler family took a trip to Europe, that changed.
While in Europe, Handler saw a German doll by the name of Bild Lilli, which was a doll inspired by a comic book character - a beautiful blonde woman who didn’t need a man to get by in the world. While the doll was originally made for adults, it became a hit with children because they liked to dress her up. The doll was exactly what Handler had in mind for Barbie. and so she bought three dolls to take home with her. One doll went to her daughter and the other went to Mattel. After Handler worked with a toy engineer and clothing designers, Barbie became a reality on March 9th, 1959. Mattel bought out Bild Lilli and discontinued the German dolls in 1964.
Since Barbie was first released into toy stores, there have been hundreds of variations of the doll including Barbie’s on and off again boyfriend, Ken, her siblings Skipper, Todd, and Stacie, and numerous companions of different races. Over the decades, people started collecting Barbie dolls and many of them are now extremely valuable.
What constitutes a valuable Barbie doll and accessory? First, of course, the age of the doll is significant in determining whether it’s vintage. Other variables include the condition of the doll, the hair color, hairstyle, eye color, eyeliner, clothing, body type - everything down to where the eyes are looking! The most valuable Barbies ever sold run into the tens of thousands; it's worth noting that the following ten most expensive Barbies only include dolls that were in mass production and had been bidded on either the web or in person, and does not include the dolls that were one-of-a-kind and custom made for auctions.
10 Barbie Mila Fashion Model (2010) - $127.50
This particular Barbie was part of the Fashion Model collection and was a “Gold Label” doll with a silkstone body. Mila emulated the fashionable women of Russia, and sports a beautiful red dress with fishnet stockings and a style that's similar to the beautiful traditional Russian dolls. Because of the silkstone body, Mila was marketed towards the adult collector, and her dress won't fit any other Barbie doll. The latest Mila doll sold on eBay recently for over $125, which is $40 over the value that's listed on Barbie collector websites.
9 Bob Mackie Empress Bride Barbie (1992) - $221.50
Fashion designer Bob Mackie did a series of designs for Barbie, and the Empress Bride was fifth in that series. She was considered to be the ultimate bride in her gorgeous ivory brocade gown with golden fleur-de-lis pattern layered over a tulle skirt and accented with pearls. She also wore a rhinestone crown and a beaded choker accented with pearls. If you want to find her in mint condition and new in the box, be prepared to shell out at least $200 and hope the other bidders don’t get in there first.
8 Tokidoki Tattoo Barbie Doll (2011) - $256
The tokidoki Barbie doll was probably one of Mattel’s most controversial variations of America’s favorite blonde bombshell. They took away her long blonde hair and gave her short pink hair. Instead of her usual preppy fashions, she was donned in black with skulls. a pink miniskirt, and leggings. To top it all off - she had tattoos. Because she was a limited edition Barbie, she didn't last very long on the shelves, but that didn’t mean that she wasn’t in high demand. On eBay today, you’ll find that numerous people want her, and are willing to pay over $250.
7 Live Action Christie Barbie Doll (1971) - $281
Christie was the first African American barbie doll, first introduced in 1968. While she didn't have her own wardrobe, she wore variations of Barbie’s outfits. The Live Action Christie doll explored different ways that the doll could move her body, and was one of the few versions of Christie with long hair. The value of the Christie dolls are dependent on whether her hair is still dark or not, as time has shown that her hair tends to turn red with age. The Live Action doll has Christie dressed in beautiful orange and purple stomach-baring threads and fuschia shoes.
6 Barbie Brass Compact (1959) - $330-$1500
If you run into a Barbie brass compact from the Roman Holiday collection, you might have found yourself a little gold mine. The Roman Holiday ensemble only sold for one year, and the brass compacts will vary in value from $330 to $1500 depending on the condition. Brass compacts in mint condition have sold for nearly $2000. Even if the condition isn't all that great, there are buyers that still want it. Want to know the crazy thing? The compact is tiny - in fact, it's Barbie-sized.
5 Put-Ons and Pets Kitty Kapers (1972) - $500
The Put-Ons and Pets series came in three ensembles, each came with a pet for Barbie. To find any of the three ensembles is extremely rare - so, when they're listed for auction, they often have a hefty price tag. The series was released in the seventies, and is considered to be part of the vintage collection of Barbie. You could get a cat - the “Kitty Kapers” version, with a skirt and shirt - and the other two variations were dogs.
4 Barbie, Ken, and Midge on Parade (1964) - $500
This collectible came with three dolls; Barbie, Ken, and Midge. Barbie and Ken are dressed as drum majors and Midge is dressed as a cheerleader. Each doll is straight legged with the faces painted on for that classic vintage Barbie look. It’s difficult to find all three dolls together, and collectors will often have to purchase the components individually. But recently, complete sets have been sold, with a few in mint condition in the box, which is probably why the price tag gets so bit steep.
3 Barbie Japanese Outfit (1967) - $510
In the 1960’s Jackie Kennedy was a fashion icon for many people around the world, and Barbie was no exception. This Japanese outfit comes in plum purple and a pillbox hat. This particularly pricey set is brand new in the box and has never been opened, hence the bidding exceeding $510. What makes this outfit so valuable? The intricate design and detail. If you can find the whole set with no missing pieces, then you might have something valuable on your hands.
2 Pink Splendor Barbie (1997) - $900
Would anyone really buy a $900 doll? In 1996 and 1997, JC Penney sold the Pink Splendor Barbie for around $749-$900. What made her so expensive? Her dress was made of pink satin, and had about 24K in gold around the trim, as well as being accented with genuine Austrian crystals. If you were to look up the Pink Splendor Barbie now on eBay, she’s actually depreciated in value (going for around $200 or $300), but she's still technically worth almost a thousand dollars.
1 The Original 1959 Barbie - $27,450
Of course, nothing is more valuable than getting your hands on an original blonde Barbie doll in her classic black and white swimsuit with her hair in a ponytail, and her eyes looking coyly over to the side. It was this Barbie that started the doll revolution that we know of today. In fact, this doll caused some controversy with her realistic curves and bust. A brand new mint condition original Barbie went for over $27k in auction, and other dolls like her come with a hefty price on auction websites and at collector expos.