Antiques Column: Lasting appeal of a doll which broke the mould

Teacher Barbie
Teacher Barbie

Barbie was first made in 1959 by Mattel Toys, a company set up by Ruth and Elliot Handler in 1945.

It is highly probable that the doll was indeed named after their own daughter, Barbara.

It is understood that Ruth Handler came up with the idea for Barbie watching her daughter play with paper fashion dolls, realising there was a gap in the market for a three-dimensional version.

Barbie was introduced to the world at the annual Toy Fair in New York in March 1959.

Never had a doll so unlike the usual babies and toddlers been seen and she was received with some scepticism.

However, by 1960 she was a firm favourite.

The first Barbie, known as No. 1 is very rare and highly prized.

There was a first model, with holes in her feet to fit on a stand and a second model which had a stand fitted under the arms so no holes were required in the feet.

She was made from vinyl with pale fresh and her earliest eye colour was white, later changing to blue.

The earliest Barbies have their hair styled in a ponytail, this style continued until 1964 but in 1961 the ‘bubble cut’ was also introduced along with titian (red) hair.

There were more blonde dolls produced making the brunette or titian versions more valuable.

It is commonly acknowledged that collectors are more interested in ‘Vintage’ Barbies, in other words those produced prior to 1972 and particularly the ‘Pony Tail era’.

All dolls are marked, almost always on their bottoms, occasionally on the back of the shoulder.

The date shown is not, however, the date of production, but a patent date.