Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Barbie is one of the most iconic and popular girl’s dolls in the world. Whether or not you like her style, you’ve heard of her. But Barbie isn’t just all about fashion, she has a pretty interesting backstory. For instance, Barbie and Ken are in a long-term relationship. She’s also had over 200 careers, and some vintage Barbies sell for thousands of dollars.
Barbie has inspired so many little girls around the world to be who they want to be. But that doesn’t mean you know everything about her. Here are 10 fun facts you didn’t know about Barbie.
1. A Former Pentagon Engineer Helped Design the First Barbie
Engineer Jack Ryan graduated from Yale, then went to work at Raytheon designing missiles. Later, he joined Mattel as head of research and development. There, he used his talents to design and patent the very first Barbie doll. He created her twist-and-turn waist and her knee joints. During his time at Mattel, he also helped design Chatty Cathy and Hot Wheels.
Unfortunately, he left Mattel on a bad note in 1980. He sued Mattel for nonpayment of royalties, which totaled in the millions. He held over 1,000 patents when he died in 1991.
2. Show Buyers Weren’t Interested When Barbie Was Introduced
The North American International Toy Fair debuted in New York in 1903. Now called the Toy Fair, it gave new toys a chance to build their popularity among other popular toys. Barbie made her big debut at the Toy Show in 1959. The show buyers weren’t convinced Barbie would be popular among young girls. After all, most dolls were modeled after babies and toddlers.
But that didn’t stop commercials from rolling. Barbie’s commercials premiered during the Mickey Mouse Club House TV show in 1959, skyrocketing her popularity among young girls.
3. Barbie is named after Barbara Handler
Ruth Handler was inspired when she noticed her daughter Barbara preferred to play with paper adult dolls rather than her baby and toddler dolls. She named the first doll Barbara Millicent Roberts after her daughter Barbara, but the nickname Barbie stuck.
She’s also from the fictional town Willows, Wisconsin, and attended high school there.
4. Barbie Started Dating Ken in 1961
Ken’s full name is Ken Carson, and he was named after Handler’s son Ken Handler. He joined Barbie in 1961. Barbie and Ken met at a television commercial, and it was love at first sight. Ken was originally sold in blonde and brunette versions, with red swim trunks and a yellow towel. Both versions had blue eyes and plastic hair.
Throughout the 1960s, fictional novels were published that detailed Barbie and her friend’s stories. Throughout these novels, Ken was always her on-again-off-again boyfriend.
5. Barbie Has Never Been Married
Surprisingly, Barbie has never been married. Barbie and Ken broke up in 2004, and Ken was devastated. That year, Ken underwent a makeover from designer Phillip Bloch, which matched his look to popular dark-haired singers at the time. This Ken was designed to win Barbie back.
In 2011, his dream finally came true. Mattel confirmed that after some very romantic gestures, including personalized cupcakes to billboards professing his love, Barbie took him back. But they still remain unmarried. Despite all the bride Barbies through the years, it seems that Barbie just loves trying on wedding dresses.
6. Barbie Has Had Over 200 Careers
From the very beginning, Barbie served as an inspiration to young girls. They could be whoever they want to be. One of the ways Barbie influenced girls was by trying many careers. She started in jobs dominated by women in the late 1950s through early 1960s, such as:
● Teenage fashion model
● Fashion editor
● Fashion designer
● Flight attendant
● Registered nurse
Then Barbie began to take on careers where women were traditionally underrepresented. In the 1960s, she broke the “plastic ceiling” and became an astronaut 4 years before Neil Armstrong. In the 1970s, she became a surgeon when very few women were applying to medical school. Then in the 1990s, she ran for President before any female candidate got on the ballot.
Today, Barbie represents women in STEM. She’s recently been a:
● Computer engineer
● Robotics engineer
● Video game developer
● Mars explorer
Barbie has earned an impressive $45.2 million from all her careers. But her true purpose is to encourage girls to imagine what they can be when they grow up while they play.
7. Barbie is a Fashionista
Mattel collaborated with luxury designers to give Barbie some limited-edition clothes. Some of them even custom-created their real designs to fit Barbie’s small frame. Some of the most notable designers that dressed Barbie are:
● Oscar de la Renta
● Donna Karen x Bloomingdales
● Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren
● Alexander McQueen
● Vera Wang
● Giorgio Armani
● Juicy Couture
● Karl Lagerfeld
● Elie Saab
● Yves Saint Laurent
One of the rarest Barbies was dressed by Valentino. Mattel only produced around 300 of these dolls. She’s dressed in the black and white gown worn by Julia Roberts at the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001.
8. Barbie was $3 in 1959
In 1959, the annual wage was $5,000 and a gallon of gas was 3 cents. You could purchase the first Barbie for $3, and additional items for her wardrobe ranged from $1 to $5. In her first year, Mattel sold over 300,000 dolls.
The first Barbie donned a black and white bathing suit, with a curled ponytail, gold hoop earrings, and red lips and blush. They came in blonde and brunette. Today, these vintage Barbies are considered the most valuable Barbies because they were the first models.
9. Auction Barbie
Today, an original 1959 Barbie doll is worth about $8,000. But you might catch more than a pretty penny for an original doll at an auction. A mint condition ponytail Barbie sold at auction for $24,450 in 2006.
If you have a vintage Barbie doll, she may be worth some money. Vintage Barbies from the 1950s to 1960s are prized among collectors. Those Barbies will usually have bendable legs or red hair. But if you have some newer Barbie dolls, they may be worth some money too. Totally Hair Barbie from 1992 is currently being sold for about $160 on eBay.
10. Twiggy was the first Celebrity Barbie
We know many celebrities have Barbies made after them, but that wasn’t always the case. The first celebrity to have a doll made in her likeness was supermodel Twiggy. Then Mattel started making dolls in other notable stars, and they continue the tradition today. Some superstars that you may not have known that have Barbies are:
● Grace Kelly
● Reba McEntire
● Elvis and Priscilla
● Martina McBride
● Cyndi Lauper
● Audry Hepburn
● J.K. Rowling
● Joan Jett
● Katy Perry
● Jennifer Lopez
● Marilyn Monroe
● Nicki Minaj
Barbie continues making celebrity Barbie dolls for celebrities and popular fictional characters. For example, some popular fictional character Barbies are Wonder Woman, Bella from The Twilight Saga, and Effie from The Hunger Games.
Whether or not you’re a Barbie doll fan, you can’t help but deny that she’s an icon. For more fun facts about antiques, visit my website.
● Vintage barbie
● Barbie and Ken
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- “Hollywood Dolls.” - https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-signature/barbie-signature-gallery/barbie-hollywood-dolls#facet:&productBeginIndex:0&orderBy:&pageView:grid&minPrice:&maxPrice:&pageSize:&contentPageSize:&