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COLLECTIBLES : Barbies Can Come Out, but They Can't Play

November 19, 1992|KATHIE BOZANICH | Kathie Bozanich is a member of The Times Orange County Edition staff.

It's a sure bet that many girls will be getting the limited-edition "Happy Holidays" Barbie this year. But it's also likely that their mothers will be giving one doll while stashing another as a collectible to be sold later.

This is the fourth year that Mattel has come out with a limited-edition holiday Barbie.

Included on the box for the 1992 doll--in which she's clad in a full-length white and silver dress, complete with "jewels" dangling from the bodice--is a mention that it comes with a "collectors stand," in case there was any doubt these dolls were aimed at the collectibles market.

But the problem with saving these recent dolls as collectibles is that "everyone is putting them away," says Fullerton resident Barbara Peterson, who has been collecting Barbie dolls for about seven years. "You don't have the attrition that you had in the vintage Barbie market, when you didn't have anyone putting them away."

Because vintage Barbies (those sold through the mid-1980s) are more difficult to find, they "have a much better chance of appreciating," Peterson says.

Barbie hit the toy shelves in 1959. Ken came into her life a year later.

Collector Donna Purkey of Anaheim says that although No. 1 Barbie, as the 1959 dolls are called, can fetch thousands of dollars depending on condition, Ken is worth a fraction of that.

"At a recent auction in Los Angeles, a No. 1 Barbie, which was never removed from its box, sold for $4,000," Purkey says. "A No. 1 Ken in mint condition, never removed from box, is worth about $350. . . . He's just not as popular."

Peterson and Purkey will each have a booth at the Barbie Show and Sale this weekend at the La Mirada Golf Course.

About 50 Barbie collectors will be on hand, selling dolls, outfits, accessories and other Barbie-related items. Between 300 and 400 people are expected to attend the show.

Both Peterson and Purkey say that because Barbie was first and foremost a toy to be played with, many of the dolls they see are in less-than-pristine condition. "I've seen dolls with pin pricks, teeth bites . . . and a lot with their hair cut," Peterson says.

Condition is key to any sale of Barbie doll or related item.

Also, "original packaging in good condition really increases the value," Peterson says.

Poor storage is another culprit in ruining the condition of vintage Barbies. "I've seen Barbies that have turned green from their ears all the way to the eyes. It's because if she has earrings and they're made of metal, the metal will oxidize around the vinyl and turn green," Peterson says.

To prevent this from happening, she tells Barbie owners to "carefully remove her head, take out the earring and clean the inside and outside of the head with a Q-Tip soaked in rubbing alcohol. Then run a thread dipped in alcohol through the ear hole."

Temperature control is the best thing to stop damage to the vinyl, Peterson says. Heat and light accelerate aging, so it's best to keep Barbies to be preserved inside the house and not in the garage.

"Throw in a few mothballs, too," Peterson adds. "The wools and silks they used on Barbie's clothes get bug-eaten. I've seen some outfits that were in shreds from the bugs."

She says there are three Barbie outfits that are extremely rare and command the highest prices--Gay Parisienne, Roman Holiday and Easter Parade. Each are from 1959 and, if found in good to mint condition, are worth $500 to $1,000.

Other outfits are more common and average about $30.

"I get a lot of calls from people who want to sell (a doll or an outfit), and they're disappointed when they find out it's not going for anything close to what they've heard," Peterson says.

"Many of these outfits, which are equally as old, still go for about $30, because so many of them were made and are still available. It's the rarity of the three that makes them so valuable."

Surprisingly, although Barbie and her outfits are popular among collectors, many of the accessories--including Barbie's van, beauty salon and other settings--are not.

"Collectors shy away from them because they're big and they're hard to store," Purkey says, adding that the vast majority of these items sell for less than $50.

The Barbie Show and Sale, at La Mirada Golf Course, 15501 Alicante Road in La Mirada, takes place Saturday, Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $3.50. Information: (714) 525-8240.

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