Into the valley of the dolls

Collecting: All dressed up and somewhere to go: vintage Barbies can fetch thousands of pounds

She's 45 years old, had a number-one pop song written about her and recently dumped her long-standing boyfriend - not bad going for a 12-inch-tall doll.

She's 45 years old, had a number-one pop song written about her and recently dumped her long-standing boyfriend - not bad going for a 12-inch-tall doll.

Untouched by Botox, Barbie's pulling power remains defiantly undiminished. After bursting, fully formed, on to the scene in 1959, the toy made by Mattel and christened Barbie Millicent Roberts is today a business worth almost £2bn a year.

One of the most recognisable 20th-century toys, she is also the biggest-selling in history: three Barbies are sold every second.

Despite being recently deposed as the top-selling UK fashion doll by rival Bratz, her continuing commercial success has been shored up by her value as a collectable. That is because she appeals to both kids and adults, and especially those who, as youngsters themselves, were deprived. "Part of it is to do with having something you didn't have as a child," says avid collector Avril O'Reilly, a picture editor who has been collecting Barbies for six years. "When I was a child, I had a [rival] Sasha doll, [whereas] my sister had a Barbie.

"Now I can afford to buy my own Barbies - so I do, and now have around 30."

So-called "vintage" Barbies made before 1972 can fetch astonishing prices, particularly in the US. A pristine doll that rolled off the production line in 1959 selling for $3 recently went for $47,500 (more than £25,500). That was an exceptional price but on internet auction sites many models from that era, in very good condition, change hands for thousands of pounds.

"She was a real style icon and followed all the fashions," says Daniel Agnew of the auction house Christie's.

"Where Sindy was the girl next door, studying ballet and going horseriding, Barbie was much more glamorous with her sun specs and high heels."

Barbie's ability constantly to reinvent herself and reflect the times has made her attractive to the style gurus: designers from Vera Wang to Versace have worked with her.

Outfits range from life as a mod in the 1960s to a disco diva in the 1970s. And when aerobics caught on in the 1980s, Barbie donned legwarmers. Rock star, medic and astronaut Barbies have appeared too; for investors, the question is one of focus.

The sheer range of Barbie products means that collectors tend to specialise in one small area - and most choose from vintage "Pink Box" and special- issue "Collectors" dolls.

If you want to make money, stick with old models. An original 1959 swimsuited and boxed Barbie, in mint condition, can now fetch around £8,000. Look for holes in the feet to see if she is one of the earliest models.

Outfits and accessories are collectable too: you can spend around £45 on a pair of tiny, vintage Barbie sunglasses.

Check the country of manufacture to give you an idea of a doll's age: pre-1973 Barbies were made in Japan, the US, Mexico and Taiwan.

Pink Box Barbies are toys specially made for children and are widely available; they are not as valuable. The trick here is to predict those that will become collectable in the future.

As a rule of thumb, go for the models most prized by today's little girls. They are the ones who will pay over the odds in 20 or 30 years' time for the dolls they were denied as children.

Lastly, there are Barbie Collectors, designed for display rather than play and available since the 1980s. These range from dolls dressed by top designers to "television" models (Barbie and Ken as Mulder and Scully from The X Files).

When it comes to picking up bargains, the dedicated collector may still track some down at auctions and car boot sales. Even the odd charity shop will have a good-quality version, but it is unlikely to be very valuable.

If you discover a collection in the attic, Christie's will value Barbie items from photographs.

Once you have decided which part of the Barbie universe to concentrate on, there are a few basic collecting rules. Scour specialist magazines and websites first to see what is available and compare prices (see the box below).

Look for dolls with a variation in eye colour or hairstyle; this can make them more valuable. And try to keep your dolls and outfits boxed; in other words, don't play with them.

Although unboxed dolls are still saleable (one was recently auctioned at a London saleroom for £2,500), boxed examples always fetch more.

TOYS FOR THE GIRLS

Prices

An original 1959 Barbie in mint condition can fetch £8,000. Barbie Collectors cost £100 or more. The Versace Barbie is exclusive to Harrods for £120.

More information

www.barbiebazaar.com (the official Barbie doll collectors magazine).

www.barbiecollector.com (official site for collectors. Includes doll value guide and collecting terminology).

www.britishbarbie.co.uk (has useful links to Barbie retailers and collectors' groups).

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

    £30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice