Those old Barbie clothes? They’ll pay your way through college! (Not!)

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O P I N I O N

BOOMER LIFE

by Annette Kurman

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BOOMER LIFE 1When I was in my early 30s, my father handed me a baggie with perhaps a dozen original (used and wrinkled) Barbie clothes that somehow remained 30 years after I stowed them away somewhere in a house we no longer lived in and said, “Save these. They will pay for college.”

Along with the worn and sometimes tattered Barbie-sized outfits, he had cut out and saved newspaper stories about the Barbie doll and her apparel. Dated in 1989 and 1994 and probably meticulously ripped out of the Philadelphia Inquirer or Bulletin (RIP), our local newspapers, many stories were celebrating the fact that Barbie was 30 years old (she was “born” in 1959).

“Save these. They will pay for college.” Well I had already attended college — twice (Temple University and then nursing school), so they wouldn’t be paying for my college degrees. But I was married, and maybe he was looking ahead at becoming a grandfather and granter of free college tuition via Barbie. He underlined certain sections of the newspaper articles to bring to my attention to the fact that, yes, Barbies that had not had their hair pulled out or had magic marker all over their lovely faces or had even been played with and were in their original boxes, were worth lots of money. And here I was handed a bunch of wrinkled Barbie clothing, looking just like my real clothes in the laundry basket prior to washing. But they were considered “vintage.”

According to a Copley News Service story by Linda Rosenkrants (no date on my hand-ripped yellowing newspaper story, but according to Wikipedia (remember when we weren’t to used that site for “factual” information?), “In 1986, Rosenkrantz began writing a weekly column, “Contemporary Collectibles”, which was widely syndicated by Copley News Service (founded 1909, dissolved 2009) for 25 years.” 

Now as you read the following, the clothing estimates are most likely from 1989. Costs have gone up and down.

image1 2Titled “Ken & Barbie’s dreamy duds”, Barbie’s navy polka-dot bubble dress (1959), accessorized with a veiled matching blue tulle hat, fluffy rabbit fur, satin-lined stole, long white gloves, and open-toed mules which may have originally sold for five dollars, was selling, according to this story, for $2,500, as did “Easter Parade”, “Roman Holiday”, and “Barbie’s Hostess Set”.

A quick look at eBay, showed what I determined was that outfit, Gay Parisienne, tracking at $530 with a day of bidding to go. $2,500? I don’t think so.

Other potential $2,500 outfits mentioned in the article? Our gal’s 1959 “Easter Parade” ensemble sold on e-Bay for $603.99 (plus $5 shipping) and not $2,500. “Roman Holiday” outfit and accessories went for $330.97 (plus $8.60 shipping), again not for $2,500.

Personal note: If you’re selling Barbie clothes for a 12” doll that you can stuff into a bubble envelope, can’t you offer your buyers free shipping?


Astronaut? Rosenkrantz: $300. E-bay: $521 (FREE SHIPPING!) for the 1964 Miss Astronaut, complete with accessories, including an American Flag. That’s a win (I think).

Pan Am stewardess outfit from 1966 (remember Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991) Rosenkrantz: $2,000. E-Bay: $139 ($9.55 shipping).

What if your parents were prescient and just knew that an original #1 Barbie (who knew there were early, looking-like-the original #1 Barbie, but numbered #2, #3, #4, #5.) that was new in box could pay for college? These days, she perhaps could contribute to one semester at an in-state school. According to Jeanne Marie Laskas writing “America’s Playmate” celebrating  Barbie’s 30th birthday for a Philadelphia publication, in speaking with Barbie Hall of Fame owner Evelyn Burkhalter, an original 1959 Barbie doll costs about  $1,750, blondes slightly less. 

Again, according to eBay, this original Barbie hasn’t been sold yet and has been reduced from $24,000 to $19,200 or best offer. She even has holes in her feet for the stand she stands in when not being played with, although I don’t know how much “play time” she got.

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But, alas, this blondie is the exception. A brunette #1 Barbie sold on February 11, 2024, for $7,999. (plus $23.10 shipping. (Really, she charged shipping?) Another #1 brunette Barbie sold for $8,499 plus $18 shipping on April 7. (Can you tell I have an issue with shipping charges?)

And what’s the difference between Barbie #1, #2, #3, #4, #5? You may not be interested, but I am, so I’m including that information here. According to the Mattel Creations Community Board, “Kendu”:

The basic differences, as I understand them, are as follows:

The #1 Barbie dolls have no eye color, V-shaped eyebrows, skin tone that fades to a very pale white, and holes in the bottom of her feet that allow her to be mounted on the prongs of her stand. The copper-lined holes in the bottom of her feet are the primary feature that identifies the doll as a #1 Barbie doll.

The #2 Barbie has the same features as the #1 doll, but she does not have holes in her feet… The key features of a #2 are the lack of eye color, the V-shaped eyebrows, the faded skin tone, and the lack of holes in her feet. The stand for the #2 Barbie doll does not have two prongs that insert into her feet. Instead, the stand holds the doll in place under her arms.

The #3 Barbie doll was the first to correct some of the facial features that Mattel had originally intended to change on the #1 dolls. Barbie now had blue eyes, and her eyebrows were softly curved rather than V-shaped…The #3 doll still has a very pale skin tone. The #1, #2, and #3 dolls all have a distinctive smell; collectors compare it to the smell of crayons.

The #4 Barbie doll uses a different material for her body, so she retains a realistic skin tone, and she does not have the crayon smell.

The #5 doll is the first Barbie doll to be made with a hollow body, so she is much lighter in weight than the #1-#4 dolls…That is the list as I understand it, but I would not claim to be a vintage expert.” 

So, to conclude another lengthy article, no, you most likely can’t send your grandchildren to college, even with a NIB (new in box) Barbie or her wardrobe. Maybe you can help her buy her textbooks.

Now a vintage car in better-than-new condition may be another story!


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You can reach Annette Kurman at annette.kurman@gmail.com.

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About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”