BRADFORD - An estimated 35 little (and big) girls were in attendance Saturday morning when Bradford Public Library hosted Barbie’s Birthday Bash in observance of the famous doll’s 55th-year milestone.
Librarian Maddie Mullins, who spoke on behalf of Marla Spencer, who coordinated this event but was unable to attend, indicated that those in attendance would be registering and that gift bags and door prizes would be given away throughout the event. The attendees could go to three stations…to make paper dolls, color pictures and make accessories.
That was followed by a style show, with each girl taking the doll she brought to the birthday party down the makeshift runway inside the library.
Another special guest at the bash was Bob Honeyman, an appraiser from Ludlow Falls, who spoke with those interested on the value of the dolls and their fashions.
He could be heard telling one of the women who stopped by with a 1970s doll, “All Barbies are collectibles, and most collectors now are little girls.”
History has it that Barbie was introduced in 1959 at a New York toy show. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.
Handler, according to one account, watched her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children’s toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel’s directors.
“It took Ruth a while to develop the doll,” Honeyman said. “Ruth would rather have her daughter playing with a more realistic idea of what girls could be when they grow up. She created a three-dimensional doll with actual clothes.”
Honeyman said he sees an awful lots of dolls and clothes when he is appraising them. Mattel, he said, made an awful lot of accessories for Barbie.
“This is my first exclusive Barbie Doll appraisal I’ve done,” he said.
He has had a Barbie Doll go for $300-plus, but at one point knew that someone paid $1,200-plus for a doll in its original condition.
“That was at a specialized auction,” said Honeyman, a Miami County auctioneer.
Honeyman said he has done appraisals for the Miami County, Tipp City and Montgomery County historical societies, for Miami County Fair events and for local churches.
“They call me and say they’re having an event and ask me if I would help do appraisals,” he said. “We see Barbies from time to time at auctions. I’m by no means an expert. I go online and check out an awful lot of prices so I know. Internet is unbelievable.”
When Barbie was first introduced, Mattel created her for Ruth.
“Since then, there have been a lot of knockoffs, with the Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese producing them too, since there is no international patent on the doll. There are billions of Barbies produced over the years. After the 1960s and 1970s, it exploded and there were billions of dolls.”
He went on to say that an original Barbie cost $3 brand new and that included a striped swimsuit.
“Then Mattel made accessories more than dolls,” he said. “Barbie had been everything you can possibly imagine. I read somewhere where she had over 2,000 occupations…”
Honeyman said Barbie is celebrating her 55th birthday this year, and indicated she’s going to get a lot older.
“Barbies are here to stay,” he said. “Very few Barbies are valuable. They made so many of the dolls that supply and demand creates price, so it lowers the value. And, the attrition rate has taken over.”
He said Barbie’s first outfit was a striped swimsuit, and one of the women at the birthday bash on Saturday had one and showed it to him. It was worth more than the doll she had, he claimed.
“Dolls are a real good teaching aid,” Honeyman said. “They are designed to be treated as a baby, but Barbie was designed to be an adult.”
The first Barbie doll, whose official birthday is March 9, 1959, was introduced in both blonde and brunette.
Barbie’s appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll’s eyes were adjusted to look forward rather than having the demure sideways glance of the original model.
Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
She has an on-off romantic relationship with her boyfriend Ken (Ken Carson), who first appeared in 1961. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced that Barbie and Ken had decided to split up, but in February 2006 they were hoping to rekindle their relationship after Ken had a makeover. Barbie has had more than 40 pets including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub and a zebra. She has owned a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers, and jeeps. She also holds a pilot’s license, and operates commercial airliners in addition to serving as a flight attendant. Barbie’s careers are designed to show that women can take on a variety of roles in life, and the doll has been sold with a wide range of titles including Miss Astronaut Barbie (1965), Doctor Barbie (1988) and NASCAR Barbie (1998).
All around the one area of the library, many Barbies were on display as were her accessories, which was sure to bring back a lot of memories.