Art doll

Dr. Lori: Big spike in the Barbie doll market

Barbie has been making headlines lately ahead of the upcoming release of the Barbie movie. Barbie, which was introduced in the late 1950s and skyrocketed in popularity in the 1960s, has recently made great strides in the collectibles market.

German Bild Lilli dolls, post-war adult fashion dolls, first inspired the birth of Barbie. These German dolls have exploded in value on the auction market. Recently, a Bild Lilli doll sold for a whopping $5,000, making all Barbie collectors sit up and take notice.

From where I sit, appraising 50,000 items each year, this German Bild Lilli Doll Auction predicts a big spike looming on the horizon in the Barbie doll market ahead of the new Barbie movie.

The American Barbie doll market has responded with great interest in many antique and vintage Barbie dolls made by Mattel Inc. The appraised value of a vintage collectible Barbie is high, well into the thousands for a single doll. The original Barbie #1, with her black and white striped swimsuit (1959) still brings high values.

Be sure to check the markings on a Barbie doll’s back or butt for information on when your Barbie was made. Don’t discount post-’90s Barbies, because they’re valuable too.

Valuable Barbies

Barbie was a different type of doll. Teenage girls were not what traditional dolls typically looked like in the 1940s and 1950s. Prior to the introduction of Barbie, most dolls were dolls, porcelain dolls, or dolls aimed at young children. The popular dolls were not dolls representing teenagers and certainly not dolls that looked like adults.

Barbie highlighted teenage and young adult issues, an interest in contemporary clothing, and how young people thought about jobs and the future. Barbie was different from other dolls of the time.

Barbie had her own character. She was not a doll imitating other characters from literature or cinema. This is the great attraction of Barbie. Barbie didn’t follow the pack; she was a leader and young girls and teenagers were attracted to this new concept of dolls.

Barbie’s different concept made Barbie unknown in the market, which made market insiders think. Such dolls had not been tested in the market, but Barbie persevered. Quickly, it became clear that the new concept of doll put forward by Barbie was desirable. Buyers bought Barbie dolls. Unexpected, but a great result for the new Barbie doll and its creators at Mattel Inc.

Barbie remains influential today because Barbie changes with the changing tides. The collectible toy market and big movies have kept Barbie in people’s minds. Barbie adapted to the cultural and social changes of the decades from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Barbie had various careers, changed over time and even embraced new technologies. Mattel Inc. has also done a great job of allowing Barbie to change over time.

Collectors or people looking to sell a vintage Barbie doll should look for good condition, rarities, and quality. Condition is most important when it comes to appraised value. Barbie dolls must not have any stains, dirt or damage. Collectors like to collect dolls and their accessories like clothes, shoes, sunglasses, etc.

Ph.D. Dr. Lori, antiques appraiser, author, and television personality, appears in “The Curse of Oak Island” on the History Channel. She provides appraisal value information at, or call 888-431-1010.