In 1980, the late Ruth Cronk co-founded the first national Barbie convention in New York City. There were 150 attendees who received a Beauty Secrets Barbie with a special sash, a 14K gold miniature Barbie charm, a souvenir book, and a button. Matching balloons were also available.
Barbie’s parents are named George and Margaret. Though never released as dolls, they were mentioned multiple times in a series of books released by Random House in the 1960s.
Many child actors have been featured in Barbie commercials, including Pamelyn Ferdin, Mila Kunis, Fergie, and Maureen McCormick. In one case, actress Brooke Shields was even featured on a product box – the 1976 Ballerina Barbie Dress Up Kit. This was notable because a few years later, Shields would have her own doll, not with Mattel but with rival company LJN.
The first designer to collaborate with Barbie was Oscar de la Renta in 1985 with a series of specially branded, high-end boxed fashions.
Andy Warhol painted his iconic portrait of Barbie in 1986, a year before he passed away. At the time, his intention was not to paint Barbie, but rather his friend, Billy Boy. However, Billy Boy didn’t want his portrait painted, though he eventually told Warhol that if he felt he “had to do a portrait,” then paint one of Barbie because in Billy Boy’s mind, at the time, he and Barbie were one. Mattel owns at least one of the paintings (as Warhol always painted a series of images) and it was last publicly displayed for the “Barbie Fashion Experience” at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in 2009. Billy Boy eventually sold his Barbie portrait through Christie’s Auction House for more than $1 million dollars.
A smaller version, though still an exact replica, of the original Superstar face mold can be found on Mattel’s series of Dazzle dolls. At 4.5” high, these dolls often wore scaled down versions of Barbie fashions and reused much of the same fabric.
The only real “threat” to Barbie’s reign as Queen of the Fashion doll world came from the Jem dolls made by Hasbro. Hasbro built the Jem line off of the old Darci doll body molds by Kenner (Kenner lines were merged into Hasbro a year or so before) hoping to capitalize on the fact that, with the same body proportions, Jem could wear any Darci fashions a child already had. They also developed highly sophisticated and realistic box art designed to appeal to moms and a cartoon aimed at kids but with slightly more adult themes. Mattel’s response was to rush Barbie & The Rockers to market, capitalizing on the popularity of Jem but touting Barbie’s pre-existing wardrobe and more “squeaky clean” image since, at the time The Rockers hit the market, on her TV show, Jem was in a messy love triangle (actually more of a love square) with two different men. Although Barbie and Ken would later split up, it was made clear at the time that, although Derek was a member of the Rockers, Barbie only had eyes for Ken.
The 1994 convention Barbie “The Magic of Barbie in Birmingham” uses the same facial screening as the 1992 Neptune Fantasy Barbie by Bob Mackie. It is the only known instance of a convention doll using the same base facial screening (and possibly old, unrooted Neptune Fantasy heads) as a regular line production doll. The only major difference was black eyeliner added over what had been green on Neptune Fantasy. Another case of Mattel not wasting anything.
In 1967, Twiggy became Barbie’s first celebrity friend.
Jack Ryan, an engineer who once worked at Raytheon and made missiles for the Pentagon, was hired by Mattel to help give Barbie her bendable legs and twist waist. He and Ruth Handler eventually disagreed on who was more responsible for Barbie’s design and they eventually had a falling out. He is also famous for being the sixth husband of Zsa Zsa Gabor.
One of the rarest vintage Barbies is not the #1 ponytail, but rather “Barbie Loves The Improvers.” Made in 1967, it was a promotional set commissioned by the Inland Steel Container Company and sent to their clients. The doll, which was not a TNT as many believe, but rather a Standard, wore a “container” dress modeled after a Paco Rabanne design. They are nearly impossible to find and only a few have ever come up for sale over the years.
Barbie’s original wardrobe was designed by Charlotte Johnson. Though this is common knowledge now, it wasn’t at the time, and it wasn’t until later years that Ms. Johnson received recognition for her work, including the difficult task of fashioning realistic garments in such a small scale. These days, Barbie designers are well known and credited with their designs, but in the case of Ms. Johnson, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s that she received any kind of public recognition at all when the words “Fashion Originals by C.J. of Mattel” was added to the back of the boxes for the newly released, higher end fashions.
The face mold for the original Dolls of the World: Italy Barbie was used only three times. It was used on the two Guardian Goddess dolls made by Mattel – Moon Mystic and Sun Spell, as well as Italy. The mold was broken soon after Italy was released and never recreated.
Barbie can be found at various Smithsonian museums. For instance, an original #1 Barbie can be found in the “American Enterprise” exhibit at the National Museum of American History while various Astronaut Barbies can be found at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.
Midge has been the only Barbie family member to be the singular official convention doll. She was the souvenir doll for the “World Of Barbie” convention held in Orlando in 2003. She was designed to celebrate Midge’s anniversary but she was not what the conventioneers were expecting and remains one of the least popular convention dolls ever made. After that, other dolls, most notably Ken, have been included in convention giftsets, but always with Barbie as a part of the set.
In 2004, and just after “re-coupling” them at the end of the 1 Modern Circle line, Mattel officially announced that Barbie and Ken had broken up. Barbie was then paired with an Australian surfer named Blaine Gordon, likely hoping to spur new doll sales. Unfortunately for Mattel, the plan backfired and on Valentine’s Day 2011, just in time for Ken’s 50th birthday, the company announced that Barbie and Ken were a couple again. In 2016, Advertising Age magazine ranked the Barbie & Ken breakup as one of the “Top Ten Worst Marketing Ideas in History,” along with products like New Coke.
Barbie’s iconic fashion “Solo in the Spotlight,” was also designed in both red and white versions. The white version, a verified Mattel sample, was once owned by Kari Hart, a childhood neighbor of a Mattel employee. The so-called “White Solo” was sold at auction by Theriaults for $600, much less than expected. It was also featured in an issue of Barbie Bazaar.
Former Mattel employee, Gwen Florea, was the voice of the first talking Barbie and even wrote a book about her time at the company.
Most of Barbie’s siblings have survived, at least in some form, throughout the years. The noted exception is Tutti who disappeared in 1971, mostly due to manufacturing issues. There is some suspicion that Stacie, who was introduced in 1992, is Tutti reincarnated, though it has never been confirmed by Mattel.
Released in 1979, Black Barbie was the first time Barbie herself was ever sold as an African-American. Before that, Barbie had black friends (and a relative in “black Francie”) but she herself had never been sold as an AA doll.
Bob Mackie hated the smiling Superstar Barbie face mold though the first Barbies to carry his name did use the mold. He wanted a more elegant look and helped to design the closed mouth or “Mackie” face mold that became so popular – hence the name.
“You’ve Come A Long Way Barbie” from the Baltimore convention in 1993 is considered the first “modern” Barbie convention souvenir doll and changed the way convention dolls were designed, created and manufactured. She was designed by the late Mark Ouellette, who specialized in OOAK Barbies, and was the convention chair.
Barbie has a history of doing things before they are actually done in real life. She traveled into space in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon and in 1973, Mattel sold a Get Ups n’ Go fashion pack featuring her as a surgeon, long before female surgeons were common. Unfortunately, in 2019 for her 60th birthday, a magazine included a doll wearing this fashion in its article on Barbies it was pleased that Mattel had made over the years, sparking a nationwide hunt for “Surgeon Barbie,” which never actually existed.
Since 1959, there have been over one billion Barbies sold. In 1997, Mattel released Billions of Dreams Barbie to commemorate this accomplishment. Designed by Robert Best, the doll had a short first production run resulting in a temporary shortage and sky-high demand for the doll, even with its approximately $250 price tag.
According to Barbie’s bathroom scale from 1965, she weighs 110 lbs. She also once had a fashion sold with a book of diet tips that included a tip that simply stated: Don’t eat.
In the early 1970s, Francie’s friend Becky was advertised on clothing packaging and featured in fashion booklets with a short flip. However, the doll was never produced. While that might have been the first recognized time that such a thing happened, it was not the last. Everything from dolls tied-in to Planet Hollywood to a Nancy Kerrigan figure skater to Sugar’s Daddy Ken (a Silkstone) were either released as prototypes or sketches and later dropped from production for any number of reasons. Some, like Planet Hollywood, were even shown at Toy Fair. After that first doll? Anything shown as a prototype that was not released, is often said to reside in “Beckyland,” according to early Barbie ID books by the Manos family. However, in the case of Becky herself? She was eventually made into a doll under the creative direction of Mattel designer Bill Greening. The set proved to be very popular with collectors, especially vintage collectors.
Barbie Bazaar magazine began publication in August of 1988 and published its final issue in May 2006. During that time, it underwent a larger number of changes, including officially allying itself with Mattel in later years to prevent the sort of lawsuits that plagued other magazines, most notably Miller’s. Many Barbie historians cite the publication of the magazine as one of the things that helped legitimize Barbie collecting as a hobby and give rise to the collector’s line that we know today in the days before the Internet became popular.
The Silkstone material was developed in the years leading up to its 2000 debut by the 3M Company (now BASF) exclusively for Mattel. The first dolls made from the material were the most eagerly anticipated Barbie debut at Toy Fair since Barbie’s 1977 makeover into Superstar Barbie. Robert Best has designed this line since the beginning.
One of the most expensive Barbie ever sold was auctioned off for $302,500 in 2010. It was a collaboration with Australian jewelry designer Stefano Canturi to raise money for cancer research. The doll wore a Cubism necklace with a rare Argyle pink diamond in the middle of white baguette and carre cut diamonds.
The first porcelain Barbie, Blue Rhapsody from 1986, is considered to the first collector Barbie ever made. She is also wigged, the first Barbie to be sold that way since the Fashion Queen/Miss Barbie era. Unlike other Barbies before her, she also wore undergarments when sold, though she did use the Superstar face mold.
The 1 Modern Circle line of dolls was introduced in 2003 and promoted heavily at the Orlando convention. Modern clothes with vintage face molds, these dolls were unlike anything on the market at the time. They also had an interactive website (unique for the time) and a very detailed storyline where Ken and Midge were actually a couple rather than Ken and Barbie. The line was, however, too far ahead of its time in both design and concept and was quickly discontinued. There are nine dolls in the series – four in daywear, four in evening wear, and one special convention edition from 2003.
Barbie has a long history of wearing fashions inspired by people-sized designs. According to former Barbie designer Carol Spencer, the Black Magic fashion was based on an identical fashion that Ruth Handler owned, loved, and wore often. In 1996, Escada Barbie was released wearing a doll-sized version of an Escada gown owned by Jill Barad, who was Mattel’s CEO at the time.
Before Barbie, advertising toys to directly to children via television had never been done.
In the early 1960s, Mattel partnered with the Whitman Company to produce Barbie and family puzzles, paper dolls, and other print material. Al Anderson was the artist at Whitman assigned to oversee the project. However, he disliked the flat, “lifeless and bland” graphic images of Barbie at the time, so he recreated Barbie on paper as a true, life-like “teenaged fashion model.” His images of Barbie, Ken, and their friends became so popular that eventually Mattel began using his artwork on everything from vinyl products to print material to board games. This practice continued until the mid-1980s. It is often said by Barbie historians that Ruth Handler created Barbie and Jack Ryan gave her movement, but that it was Al Anderson who truly brought Barbie to life.
Barbie has her own registered PMS – or Pantone Matching System – number, which is a proprietary color system used in a variety of industries, including print, television and other media. PMS 219C is officially known as “Barbie Pink” and there was a doll to celebrate the color whose dress was partially made out of mini Pantone sample tags.
At the time of her release in 1996, Pink Splendor Barbie was the most expensive Barbie sold by Mattel in a commercial setting – not counting special events and OOAK dolls such as those created for Dream Halloween and the National Barbie Convention. She was both praised and vilified by collectors, though in the end, she became a symbol of the era in which she was created, her price was reduced, and, though her dress is exceptionally large, is generally considered quite pretty.
When the first holiday Barbie debuted in 1988, many department stores, even though they had toy sections, placed the dolls elsewhere, likely because they had no idea what to do with a Barbie that was, in comparison to the other available Barbies, so expensive.
In 1999 Barbie was selected by the U.S. Postal Service to be a part of their “Celebrate the Century” campaign that featured important items and events in U.S. history. However rather than choosing the iconic ponytail Barbie in her black & white swimsuit, a raven bubblecut wearing Red Flare was chosen. This was likely done to capitalize on the popularity of the re-production doll wearing a similar fashion two years earlier. Publicity surrounding the stamp incorrectly identified the doll as wearing Silken Flame, the dress that was sold to coordinate with the Red Flare coat, though other than Barbie collectors, few people seemed to notice. The stamp proved to be so widely anticipated that it was also made into a Hallmark Christmas tree ornament and special First Day Issue framed sets were created by the postal service for sale in larger post offices across the country.
In 2000, Mattel also introduced Jewel Girl Barbie with her “Ever Flex” waist, which was made of a special kind of rubber and allowed her to bend and move easily. Though the Ever Flex material was eventually abandoned, the doll’s basic shape remained and became known as the “belly button body.”
Designed by Bill Greening and released in 2007, the Jazz Baby line introduced the collector quality Pivotal body, with its 12 points of articulation, to the Barbie line. The line consists of five regular line dolls (Cabaret Dancer - blonde, Mistress of Ceremonies, Jazz Diva, Cabaret Dancer – redhead, and Cabaret Dancer – Brunette) and one special doll, The Grand Dame, an OOAK made for the live auction at the 2007 national convention.
Presenting the gallery of each and every U.S. national Barbie convention souvenir doll ever made. Some are basic. Some are elaborate. A few I’ve had to borrow photos as my own dolls are in storage. But they are all a part of Barbie history in their own unique way.
If you hover your mouse over the thumbnail image, a caption will pop up giving you the year and host city for each doll. Clicking on the thumbnail will, of course, bring up a larger version of the image.
Previous Convention Locations
Here is a list, by year, of every U.S. national convention host city with the convention theme…
1980- New York, NY (no theme)
1981 - no convention
1982 – Troy, Michigan (Michigan Entertains Barbie)
1983 – Phoenix, AZ (Barbie’s Pow Wow)
1984 – New York, NY (Barbie Loves New York)
1985 – Romulus, Michigan (Around the World Barbie Festival)
1986 – Phoenix, AZ (Barbie’s Reunion)
1987 – Oklahoma City, OK (In Oklahoma, Every Day Is Christmas With Barbie)
1988 – Seattle, WA (Barbie In Seattle Rain Or Shine)
1989 – Garden Grove, CA (Barbie Forever Young)
1990 – Dallas, TX (Barbie Deep In The Heart Of Texas)
1991 – Omaha, NE (Barbie Loves A Fairy Tale)
1992 – Niagara Falls, NY (Barbie Wedding Dreams)
1993 – Baltimore, MD (You’ve Come A Long Way Barbie)
1994 – Birmingham, AL (The Magic Of Barbie In Birmingham)
1995 – Albuquerque, NM (Barbie Ole!)
1996 – Philadelphia, PA (Barbie And The Bandstand)
1997 – San Diego, CA (Beach Blanket Barbie)
1998 – Atlanta, GA (A Date With Barbie In Atlanta)
1999 – Pittsburgh, PA (We Can Do Anything, Right Barbie!)
2000 – Tulsa, OK (Barbie In The Old West)
2001 – Dearborn, MI (Queen Of The Prom)
2002 – Denver, CO (Rocky Mountain Mod)
2003 – Orlando, Fl (The World Of Barbie)
2004 – Chicago, IL (We Are Family)
2005 – Boston, MA (Midnight Masquerade)
2006 – Los Angeles, CA (Lights! Camera! Barbie!)
2007 – Dallas, TX (Denim To Diamonds)
2008 – Kansas City, KS (Barbie On The Runway)
2009 – Washington, D.C. (Barbie 50th Anniversary Gala)
2010 – Cleveland, OH (Barbie & The Rockers Reunion Tour)
2011 – Ft, Lauderdale, FL (Spring Break 1961)
2012 – Los Angeles, CA (Barbie The Grand Tour)
2013 – New Orleans, LA (French Quarter Fantasy)
2014 – Nashville, TN (Every Day’s A Holiday With Barbie)
2015 – Arlington, VA (A Star Is Barbie)
2016 – Jacksonville, FL (A Pop Art Happening)
2017 – Houston, TX (Blast Off With Barbie)
2018 – Phoenix, AZ (On The Avenue)
2019 – Kansas City, KS (Diamond Jubilee)
2020 – Las Vegas, NV (Forgotten Paradise)
Barbie Convention Through the Years
Philadelphia, PA 1996 presented by Margie:
Dearborn, MI 2001 presented by Bethany in PA:
Dearborn, MI 2001 presented by Margie:
Chicago, IL 2004 presented by Bethany in PA:
Los Angeles, CA 2006 presented by MArgie:
Dallas, TX 2007 presented by Patty:
Kansas City, KS 2008 presented by Patty:
Washington, D.C. 2009 presented by Patty:
Washington D.C. 2009 presented by Bethany in PA:
Cleveland, OH 2010 presented by Stacy in IL:
Cleveland, OH 2010 presented by Bethany in PA:
Garden Grove, CA 2012 presented by Patty:
This site is dedicated in honor of collecting the Barbie doll, her family and friends. Disclaimer: This site in no way is affiliated with Mattel Toys or Barbie Collector. Disclaimer: In The Pink is not sponsored by or affiliated with PinkFriday.org.
We are an independent Barbie and family doll collector. Views expressed are independent. Enjoy collecting for the love of the hobby. ITP sponsored by NS Transportation.