Bidding on Barbie: Dolls are in Demand

Vintage Barbie with Stand

This vintage Barbie ponytail doll with a stand sold at auction for $700.
Photo credit: Jimmy Garcia/EJ’s Auction & Appraisal.

Barbie is back and in a big way. The blockbuster Warner Bros. movie directed by Greta Gerwig recently surpassed $1 billion in worldwide box office sales. The marketing blitz has been touted as one of the best campaigns this year, resulting in a renewed interest in Barbie and dolls in general.

During the pandemic, there was a decline in doll sales, but according to a recent Euromonitor International report, sales of dolls and accessories in the doll industry are predicted to increase by 16 percent by 2026.

How does this affect sales of vintage dolls in the secondary market? According to eBay, the number of collectible Barbie Signature dolls sold globally was up over 900% between 2021 and 2022 amid the “increasing buzz” for the movie release.

Over the years, the Barbie dolls and accessories we’ve auctioned have sold for a wide range of prices. In 2019, a vintage Barbie ponytail doll with a stand sold for $700. That same year, a 1959 ponytail Barbie with the original box and book realized $375. The sunglasses were missing an arm, and the box was not in good condition. In 2015, an auction lot of vintage Barbie, Ken, and Skipper dolls and cases sold for $450. And, in 2022, a Barbie Collectibles Enchanted Mermaid doll sold for $700.

Various factors determine the worth of a Barbie doll, including:

Age. The first Barbie doll was introduced to the world at the New York Toy Fair in 1959. The original price was $3. Those early Barbie dolls were blonde or brunette, but by 1961, Mattel introduced red-hair Barbies. It was also the same year that Mattel introduced Ken. Some of these dolls produced between 1959 and the late 1960s can do very well at auction. In fact, some of these rare dolls in mint condition have realized more than $25,000.

Condition. Most of the vintage Barbie dolls and accessories we see have been played with by several generations of kids. Any type of damage, including missing parts, matted hair, chipped paint, torn apparel, or other things that affect condition will decrease the value significantly.

Markings. Sadly, counterfeit Barbies exist, so it’s important to make sure the dolls are authentic. Look for the Mattel copyright and trademark on the right side of the hip. Vintage Barbies also have holes in the bottom of their feet. A stamp saying “Made in Japan” indicates the doll was made between 1959 and 1972. Later models were made in other countries, including Mexico and China, and are not considered to be vintage.

The Barbie craze is helping to boost interest in vintage dolls and accessories. Whether you are selling your doll collection or you’re a bidder on the hunt for a rare doll, do your research. When in doubt, consult a professional appraiser.

Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale. Contact him at erik@ejsauction.comwww.ejsauction.com or 623-878-2003.

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