I've previously confessed my affinity for playing with dolls when I was little. My older sister was my only playmate from the age of 0 to about 9, so frequently I was at her mercy when it came to playtime. If it wasn't house, it was Barbies. So it was natural that I would want a Barbie of my own. My mom, if only to stop me from breaking my sister's Barbies, did eventually break down and buy me a Dawn doll (I'm sure nothing was said to my father), a knockoff, smaller version of Barbie who my sister and I would use as Barbie's sister. I did have a Ken doll as well as a 12-inch GI Joe (with kung fu grip) I would integrate into our storylines (Barbie always fell for Joe over Ken).
Anyway, these days, if I'm buying a Barbie at a sale, I assure you it's for a quick flip on eBay. Still, it does raise eyebrows in my household when I'm caught raising Barbie's skirt to look at her butt (I swear, that's where copyright information is printed). Even with the copyright information, it's always a challenge to pin down a year and model and can become quite an investigation.
First off, let me dispel a myth. Barbies really aren't worth that much. Unless you've found an original 1959 Barbie in pristine condition with the entire outfit and accessories, you're not looking at a whole lot of money. The majority of Barbies, even 1960's and '70's versions are worth $20 or less, particularly less if they're nude.
But when I found this lot of Barbies at a sale last week priced at $1 each, I figured I couldn't lose.
Most of them were marked copyright 1966, but as I mentioned, this is really just a launching point for determining the year and make of your Barbie. The copyright year is for the body style and it wasn't renewed each year. For example, the 1966 mark on these Barbies refers to the "Twist n Turn" body which was used well into the 1980's. An (only) slightly better indicator of the year is the country of manufacture, which appears just below the copyright. Mine are all marked Taiwan which placed them within a window from 1966 through about 1975. After that, you might see Hong Kong up into the early '80's followed by China.
You would think some manic Barbie collector out there (or even Mattel for that matter!) would have a comprehensive website with a complete listing of every Barbie ever produced, but the best site I found was this. Browsing year by year, I was finally able to pin down most of my Barbies as well as their clothes.
1973 Miss America Quick CurlThis Barbie originally came with a crown, bouquet of roses and a red velvet cape. This is the Barbie my sister received on Christmas Eve whose leg I immediately broke within the hour.
Melanoma Barbie. Kidding, this is a 1973 Sunset Malibu Barbie.
She's wearing the 8685 Jumpsuit from 1973
And finally, from a more bizarre chapter in Barbie history, comes this "Growing Up Skipper" doll.
Skipper starts out a tween, but with a twist of her arm, grows 1/2"(or scale 3 1/2 inches) and develops (literally) some more, shall we say, Barbie-like attributes. This is accomplished via a rotating cylinder within Skipper's chest. One side is flat, the other side has, er, bumps. Her skin is made of stretchable rubber allowing for the, um, expansion.
It's not fair to look back 40 years and judge Mattel's decision to release a doll like this, however, even at the time it caused a small furor with parents. But not enough that this model of Skipper didn't live (and grow) on for a couple years. You can read more about Skipper and other Barbies at myvintagebarbies.blogspot.com. (And no, that's not my blog! I swear!)