Identifying, Purchasing and or Listing Vintage Barbie

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Identifying, Purchasing and or Listing Vintage Barbie
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How do I know what Barbie I have?  How do I know what I am buying?  Why are so many Barbie dolls made in 1966?  This will guide you thru the maze of identifying your Barbie and then having a successful auction.  If you are considering a purchase, this will help you select a Barbie that is a good investment.

History of Barbie

In the mid 1950's a woman named Ruth Handler envisioned a teenage fashion doll.  She and her husband had started a toy company in their garage years prior so she took her idea to the executives of her company, the Mattel Corporation.  The executives could not foresee a market for such a doll and the idea was scrapped.  Not to be deterred, Ruth found a doll in Germany called Bild Lilli who would be the predecessor to Barbie.  No one could have imagined the success that Barbie would enjoy, and still enjoys today.

Determining Production Date

1.  Probably the most important information regarding the age of a Barbie and the most common mistake made in determining age is that 1966 on the doll means nothing.  It is most likely not the year the doll was produced, it is the year of the copyright.  Many dolls produced in the 90's say 1966.

2.  The first tip that the Barbie of interest is vintage - Japan - Barbie was only made in Japan thru 1972, so if she says Made in Japan on her derriere, or if the bottom of her foot says Japan, then the doll, or at least the body, is vintage.  When listing a Barbie that has this imprint, always mention it in your listing, it is a common search parameter for collectors and vintage buyers.


Although there are hundreds of variations of Barbie and her family which make identification seem almost impossible, there are a few simple guidelines that will greatly increase the odds of a successful purchase or auction.

Once you have determined that the Barbie is vintage, it is time to identify who she is.  Begin with easily determinable physical characteristics.

Size of doll - Barbie, Midge, Stacey, PJ and a couple others are 11 1/2 inches tall and have the characteristic full breast torso and pointed toes.  Francie, Casey and Twiggy are 11 1/4 inches tall and have a your teenage torso and flat feet.  Skipper, Skooter and Fluff are 9 1/4 inches tall and have a boyish torso and flat feet.

Body style - Determine if she is a TNT (twist and turn at the waist), bendable leg or straight leg, or if she is a living or live action doll (wrists that bend and a torso that is made quite differently in the hip area than other dolls).  If she is a talking Barbie, she should have a pull string in her back.

Hair style - There are some hairstyles that actually name the doll.  The first Barbie, called Ponytail Barbie, has an easily recognizable ponytail, wrapped at the top with a section of hair and curly bangs.  Bubblecut Barbie has a short bubble haircut.  Many other Barbies are known for their hairstyle and may be rare due to this attribute.  A No Bangs Francie is quite rare and will demand a high price if she is in even decent condition.  A Sidepart Bubblecut Barbie is more rare than her counterpart.  If you are lucky enough to come across a sidepart American Girl Barbie you can expect to see high bids for this doll.

Hair color - Many time there are particular haircolors that indicate the age or value of a Barbie.  There is also a Color Magic Barbie that is easily identified by her bright yellow hair.

Eye color - Most Barbies have blue eyes, so brown eyes is a great identifier and narrows the field of options significantly.  The type of eyelashes is important and can either be molded and painted or rooted hair eyelashes.

Once you have identified the major characteristics of your doll or the doll you would like to purchase, use Ebay to determine the identity of the doll.  Go to Buy and search using the characteristics of the doll.  Once you have narrowed the number of responses to a reasonable amount, begin looking at the photographs for similar dolls.  If you find a doll that looks very similar or identical to yours, see if the listing has identified their doll.  Be aware that there are many misidentified Barbie dolls on Ebay.  Once you have an identifier (Bendable Leg Francie for instance) search Ebay for Bendable Leg Francie and see if the other dolls match your doll.  If they do, chances are good that you have a correct identification.


There are a few important things to look for in determining the quality of the Barbie, and thus the possible listing price or what you might expect to pay for this doll.


1.  Are there any nose nips, missing digits or limbs, chunks out of legs, arms, neck or torso?  Any chew marks, and if so, how severe?  These flaws are generally not repairable, and so devalue the doll greatly.

2.  Is the doll missing any hairplugs or does she have a neck split or green ears or other discoloration?  These flaws can be repaired by someone with the expertise to do so, and will probably result in continued expense after the purchase.  These flaws will also have a dramatic effect on the selling price of the doll.


1.  Is the hair sof and shiny or dull and dry?

2.  Is the facepaint complete and vibrant or are there rubs or a washed out look?

3.  Does the torso have scratches or indentations?

4.  In a bendable leg doll, do the knees bend and click correctly?

5.  How complete is the fingernail and toenail polish?

6.  How wide is her stance, does she have nice straight legs, or do they bow or sit wide apart?

7.  Are her limbs tight or swingy (have a loose feeling and fail to hold a pose)?

All of these items will affect the final cost or selling price of the doll and have differing degrees of importance depending on the purpose of your purchase, or the expected income from your auction.

The mint collector will not bid on a doll that has any of these flaws.  They look only for the flawless doll.  A mint collector is ready to pay a higher price for this excellence.

Many collectors will compromise on some of these flaws.  For instance, if one of her knees doesn't bend, but she is very displayable otherwise, you may still see a high selling price.

The type of Barbie will also determine how many of these flaws are acceptable.  If she is very rary, many collectors will lower their standards in order to have her in their collection.

If you are just beginning a collection, try to find dolls that have few, if any, difficult repairs.  Concentrate on how displayable a doll is, and if she has a look that pleases you.

If you are selling a Barbie, take lots of photographs so a collector has a good opportunity to get to know the doll and see all her attributes.  Make sure you post only quality photographs with good close ups.  The ability for bidders to visualize their purchase can have a huge effect on the final price.  It is easier to bid more if you have a very good idea of what you are getting and feel confident in your purchase.  This also makes an accurate description vital.  Describing vintage items is very subjective and one person's idea of mint or perfect may be quite different than someone elses.  Try to factually describe the major body parts looking specifically for the flaws that are noted above.  Make sure and address each area.  (There are no missing necksplits, etc).  Everything should be covered even if there is no flaw.  This will make for a much more successful listing if you are the seller, and a much more satisfying purchase for the buyer.

On a final note, if you still have questions or concerns, ask another Ebayer.  If you are considering a purchase, ask questions before bidding.  If you are interested in listing a doll, most ebayers that sell Barbie are happy to answer questions to those getting started.  I have had wonderful experiences with Barbie dealer who are much more knowledgeable that I am and have developed great relationships with many of them.

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