Bob Young stood in a crowd of men and women and searched for old clothes for his Barbie doll. "My parents believed that boys shouldn't play with dolls, so I had a hard time geting them," said Young, 34, a road repairman in Phoenix, Ariz.
"When I was 11 I got my first Barbie, and when I was 12 I got my first Ken," Young said. "I've been fascinated by the dolls ever since."
Today, Young is associate editor of the Barbie Bulletin, a newsletter based in Arizona that goes to Barbie aficionados around the world. The newsletter has a circulation of 1,375.
Young is far from alone in his adoration of Barbie. More than 250 people were at Morgan Park in Baldwin Park last weekend to attend a show hosted by the Golden State Chapter of the Barbie Doll Collectors Club. The chapter, which meets monthly at the park, has 24 members from throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
There are more than 3,000 Barbie collectors nationwide, according to a spokesman for Mattel, the toy manufacturer in Hawthorne that created the dolls in 1959 and is still making them. This year there are five different types of Barbies being produced. One doll costs about $12 off the shelf.
Barbie is one of the top-ranking collector dolls in the modern doll category, said Ruth Cronk, president of International Barbie Doll, a Barbie information group based in New York.
What makes Barbie such a hot number? According to collectors it is because Barbie has kept up with the times for 26 years. She goes to school, lives on farms or in cities, dates, gets married and has business careers. Over the years she has been an astronaut, Olympic skier, ballerina, surfer, roller skater and horseback rider. She has something to appeal to nearly everyone.
Barbie is scaled from a 5-foot-7 model who measures 36-19-35. The doll stands 11 1/2 inches tall, has blue eyes, blonde hair and bendable limbs. She wears lipstick and her clothes resemble current fashion trends. She is pretty--in fact, her good looks make her a dream girl.
People came to the Baldwin Park show to meet with other Barbie doll devotees, to collect Barbie dolls, even to learn how to properly wash Barbie's hair.
The show included original Barbie doll clothes from 1959 to the present; the first Barbies made by Mattel, including the No. 1, 2 and 3 Barbies made in 1959; talking Barbie dolls made in 1968; Malibu Barbies made in 1971, kissing Barbies made in 1979 and black and Latino Barbies made in 1980.
International Barbie dolls, Barbie-family dolls--including Ken, Mitch, Christie and
Skipper--and a Barbie doll beauty pageant set also were displayed. In addition, there were boxes of Barbie doll heads, shoes and other accessories available.
"These Barbie heads are very popular," said Gloria Yokubaitis of Torrance. Because the heads come off, she said, people sometimes buy the dolls without heads or discover that the wrong head is on the wrong body.
"A lot of times when you go to garage sales or the swap meet, all they have are the bodies so you have to hunt for the heads," she said. "I have a doll I've been looking to put a head on for two years."
A Barbie head costs from $5 to $25, depending on its condition and the year it was made. A body might cost $15 or more, depending on its rarity. A complete collector's Barbie might cost from $20 to more than $1,000.
Kept From Daughter
When Jan Peterson, president of the Golden State chapter, bought her first Barbie, it was intended as a present for her daughter. But her daughter never received it. Thinking Barbie was "a bit risque," Peterson gave her a Thumbelina doll instead.
"I thought a doll with a full figure and bustline was too much for my daughter to handle," Peterson said. "So I kept Barbie for myself."
In the last seven years, Peterson, 59, of Baldwin Park has collected more than 500 Barbie and Barbie-family dolls and spends much of her time knitting sweaters and sewing clothes for them.
Perry and Shirley Pond of Redlands also have an extensive collection. The couple have attended Barbie shows ever since Perry, 60, inherited his mother's doll collection four years ago. While going through the collection, he found an old-looking Barbie doll which he later discovered was one of the first made by Mattel. He said the doll is worth about $1,500.
"No. 1 Barbie dolls are worth anywhere between $500 and $1,500, depending on the condition of the doll and if they've ever been removed from the original box," Peterson said.
Wanted 'Barbie Talk'
To keep up on Barbie information, the Ponds joined the Barbie Collectors Club. Although they have not attended club meetings since Perry's heart attack in January, they decided to attend this latest Barbie show because they wanted to purchase doll clothes and talk "Barbie talk."
A paper doll designer, Shirley Pond planned to buy several Barbie outfits.
"I like her clothes, too," Perry Pond said. "Barbie always was a sharp dresser."