Economics

Barbie, Age 50, Still Has Legs

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Not an official Barbie but should be.

[Collector Joe Blitman] has charged up to $15,000 for a 1959 blond in condition that he calls "Christmas-morning-new." Such flawless pieces keep turning up, found slumbering in storage. "It's astonishing how much boxed stuff still comes to the surface," he said, "how often I get a call from the family of a woman who has died, and who left a closet full of dolls put away that she forgot about or never told anyone about."

In honor of Barbie's 50th birthday, Mattel has rereleased half a dozen retired models, including a 1971 Malibu in gauzy bell-bottoms, a 1977 SuperStar in feather boas and a 1986 Rocker in a spiky pink wig. The replicas, however, do not seem to dampen the prices for vintage stock. "Reproductions have actually strengthened the market for antiques by increasing interest in scholarship," Ms. Holder said.

Few things are more bizarre than the collectibles market, but the idea that reissues can drive up the price of originals makes total sense to me. And on some level is an argument for allowing non-authorized duplications of items as long as they are not passed off as authorized. More here.

Reason on Barbie the doll over the years.

Hat tip: Alan Vanneman.

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  1. Barbie needs to be banned because it sets an unrealistic image for girls. I learned this in wimmins studies.

  2. Since Barbie is now 50 (the same age as Madonna) perhaps they should come out with a “Madonna Barbie” (also age 50)with which young girls can recreate her recent concerts and have the doll grind dancing with a Ken who is young enough to be her son.

  3. Back in the Pleistocene (pre-internet) I called the Mattel 800 number for some reason that is lost to me forever. But what I do recall is

    If you are calling about Barbie products, press 1.
    If you are calling about Hot Wheels products, press 2.
    If you are calling about any other Mattel products, press 3.

    Ya think she’s a winner?

  4. Meanwhile, in China

    On Mar. 6, Mattel is opening a six-story, 38,000-sq.-ft. Barbie superstore in Shanghai. In addition to dolls – lots of dolls – the boutique will feature a hair salon, a bar and a $15,000, adult-sized Vera Wang gown.

    “This is not just a store for children” said Laura Lai, general manager of Barbie Shanghai. “Girls of all ages will love it.”

    Barbie’s made-in-China makeover is part of a push to re-brand the iconic American doll on the eve of her 50th birthday. With domestic sales slumping, Mattel has set its sights on China, hoping to the weather the financial storm in the relative calm of the country’s vast – and comparatively untapped – consumer market.

    The plan is to turn America’s favorite doll into fashion fodder for China’s upwardly mobile, trend-setting elite. By moving up-market and focusing on Barbie-branded merchandise, the company hopes to widen profit margins and attract a new demographic: Chinese women.

  5. We’ve all heard the joke about divorced Barbie, right?

    Well, I’ve referred to my ex as Barbie for about 8 years now. During the divorce speaking her real name seemed to conjure phone calls from lawyers and subpoenas. I have my parents calling her Barbie. I have slipped up and called her Barbie in court. Friends that I’ve made since the divorce think her name really is Barbie.

    On one occasion “Barbie” was dropping off the kids while I had company. One of the (younger-than-her, thinner-than-her, female) guests walked up to the ex and in an effort to be polite said “You must be Barbie.”

    Hilarity ensued.

  6. In other news, West Virginia legislator Jeff Eldridge has proposed a bill that would ban sales of Barbie and similar dolls in the state because, “I just hate the image that we give to our kids that if you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful and you don’t have to be smart…”

  7. I love this thread!

  8. We’ve all heard the joke about divorced Barbie, right?

    No. Please tell it.

  9. A man walks into a store to buy a Barbie doll for his daughter. “How much is that Barbie in the window?”, he asks the shop assistant.

    In a manner she responds, “Which Barbie? We have Barbie Goes to the Gym for $19.95, Barbie Goes to the Ball for $19.95, Barbie Goes Shopping for $19.95, Barbie Goes to the Beach for $19.95, Barbie Goes Nightclubbing for $19.95, and Divorced Barbie for $395.00.”

    The guy asks, “Why is Divorced Barbie different from all the others?”

    “That’s obvious,” the assistant states, “Divorced Barbie comes with Ken’s house, Ken’s car, Ken’s boat, Ken’s furniture…”

    —–

    also seen in the search:

    A little girl goes to see Santa Claus at the local shopping mall. When she arrives and sits down on Santa’s lap Santa asks “What do you want for Christmas little girl?”.

    “I want a Barbie and a GI Joe” says the little girl.

    “But Barbie comes with Ken” Santa says.

    “Nope,” the girl replies “only with GI Joe.”

  10. Ah.

  11. I saw somewhere that in China they are gonna have abortion barbie. If the doll you buy is preggers with a girl baby…

  12. No, she doesn’t.

    I put her legs in a blender with some chianti.

  13. Oh, brotherben, please post a link. I would so buy abortion barbie!

  14. Few things are more bizarre than the collectibles market

    Yeah, only stocks, commodities, drugs, and maybe a few others. I think maybe the market in collectables is one of the most rational supply/demand markets there is.

  15. ‘”Reproductions have actually strengthened the market for antiques by increasing interest in scholarship,” Ms. Holder said.’

    Only in America would items from the 1950s and later be classified as ‘antiques.’

  16. but the idea that reissues can drive up the price of originals makes total sense to me.

    I wonder if that is true for collectible records/music. Has the proliferation of music sharity blogs driven up or down the prices for rare vinyl?

  17. Not bad for a little girls’ toy that started out as an almost exact copy of a German adult-novelty item.

  18. All my Barbies were total sluts. They made out with everyone – He-Man, Skeletor, Boba Fett, *especially* Darth Vader.

    That’s pretty much what all the other girls did with their Barbies too.

    On time, I made them all have a giant orgy with all the Ken dolls and Barbies and action figures I could find.

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