by Candace RichComment — Updated August 3, 2023


Personal Preamble to Barbie Story
In the 45 years since Barbie has lived in my house and we have gone our separate ways, I have noticed a couple of things. Barbie is doing much, much better in life than I am.

The cars, boats, houses, furniture. The clothes. Face it, Barbie has good stuff. And, careers galore! Is there anything she can’t do?

But what I find really, really annoying…

None of HER moving parts seem to be drifting southward with middle age.
by: Candace Rich

       *NEWS FLASH*
Barbie turned 50 years old on March 9th, 2009.
She was seen filling out an AARP application today. When questioned however she flatly denied the rumors and stated for the record that she is only 39.

The Barbie Story

Barbie - 1959 The First Barbie
Known to Collectors as #1 (left)

Barbie was the inspiration of Ruth Handler, founder with her husband Elliot, founders of Mattel.

Barbie as not their first success. In 1955, the Handlers bought 52 weeks of advertising on the new “Mickey Mouse Club” television show, marking the first time toys had been advertised on a year-round basis. In conjunction with the company’s sponsorship of the show, Mattel introduced a child-size”Mouseguitar,” which became an instant sensation in the industry.

Lili Doll
Lili Doll
As the story goes, Ruth Handler saw these kinda sexy German Lili (pictured left) dolls in Europe but wanted her doll to be a model of bubbly teenage innocence. But with the same curvaceous look. (39-18-33 in human terms.)

She named the doll after her daughter Barbara’s nickname – Barbie. Ruth knew her girls and dolls. In 1959, its first year, 351,000 Barbie dolls were sold at $3 each. Had you saved that doll, in the box no less, it would be worth over $5,000 today.

The first Barbie doll sported a ponytail hairstyle, black and white zebra-striped bathing suit, open-toed shoes, sunglasses and gold-colored hoop earrings. She had 2 holes in her feet because her stand required them and stood 11 1/2 inches tall. She is identified as #1 by collectors.

She had white irises, red lipstick and nails, and arched eyebrows. Blondes outnumbered brunettes two to one.

Barbie Photo
Barbie – 2 Provisional
Later that year, #2 was released and as her stand didn’t require them, she had no foot holes. A Provisional #2 (left) exists with only 1 foot hole.

First Barbie Commercial

Then there were the beginning of what would eventually become an enviable wardrobe. All the original ensembles were hand-sewn: every zipper, silk lining and pearl choker. That first wardrobe to collectors, are known as the Commuter Set™,Plantation Belle™, Wedding Day™ Dress and Barbie-Q Outfit. Other 1959 outfits were Gay Parisienne®, Roman Holiday, Sweet Dreams, the Baby Doll Nightie, and Suburban Shopper. Ken, named after the Handler’s other child, premiered as Barbie’s “handsome steady” in 1961. The issue of whether he would be anatomically correct was temporarily solved with non-removable shorts.

To answer your purient question – no, never. They will always be “just good friends.”

Yes, they have last names. She’s Barbie Millicent Roberts and he’s Ken Carson. She’s from Willow, Wisconsin.

Barbie’s birthday is March 9, 1959 – just in case you wanna send an e-card.

In 1965, Barbie got bendable legs. With the Twist ‘N Turn Barbie of 1967, she also could be twisted at the waist, thus the name.

FYI – Limited Editions are produced in quantities up to 100,000 worldwide. Collector Editions are produced in quantities over 100,000.

Ruth Handler died April 27, 2002.

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