The doll brand that has been around for decades has become a popular collectible, sometimes fetching thousands of dollars.
Toy company Mattel first released the Barbie doll back in 1959. Ruth Handler, the company’s co-founder, spearheaded the introduction of the doll and created a toy that would eventually cement itself in pop culture history.
Handler was inspired after seeing her daughter playing dress-up with paper dolls. The idea was that rather than playing with baby dolls and assuming the role of the mother, little girls who played with dolls depicting adult women could imagine what else they might be when they grew up. She later named the iconic doll after her daughter, Barbara.
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Director and writer Greta Gerwig said that this story also inspired her re-imagining of Barbie. “A Barbie movie is only ever going to be a mother-daughter movie on so many levels because it was Ruth Handler and Barbara—that was the relationship,” she told TIME.
While we often think of Barbies as children’s playthings, they have also become some of the most expensive and sought-after collector’s items in the world. Here are some of the most valuable Barbies ever sold, from vintage dolls to collaborations with esteemed designers.
Lorraine Schwartz Barbie
In 2010, Lorraine Schwartz styled a Barbie doll as part of Mattel’s collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. 12 designers who were members of the CFDA each created one-of-a-kind dolls for the Barbie Basics collection.
With flowing auburn hair and a chic little black dress, Schwartz gave her Barbie diamond-encrusted earrings and bracelets, as well as a belt with a huge letter “B” dangling from it.
The 12 dolls in the collection were then put up for auction on eBay with proceeds going to charities and foundations sponsored by the CFDA. Schwartz’s Barbie ended up fetching $7,500.
Gala Abend Barbie
Originally released in 1965 exclusively in the Japanese and European market, the Gala Abend Barbie was sold in 2006 for more than $9,000. It was part of an auction Christie’s hosted, in which 400 Barbie dolls from a private collection were up for sale.
This rare model realized a price 12 times above its high estimate. The doll’s gala gown featured intricate details and in its hands were a tiny purse and dance program. It also had bendable legs, which wasn’t commonly found in Barbie dolls at the time.
The Original Barbie
The very first Barbie dolls, wearing a black-and-white striped bathing suit and white sunglasses, retailed for only $3 back in 1959.
These days, it’s dubbed as a collector’s “holy grail,” due to its historical significance and how difficult it is to find. It’s even tougher to find one that’s still in good condition.
In 2006, Sandi Holder, owner of the Doll Attic, sold an unboxed original Barbie for $27,000. This set a Guinness World record for “highest price paid for a Barbie doll in an auction.” The record has since been broken.
De Beers 40th Anniversary Barbie
Marking Barbie’s 40th anniversary in 1999, Mattel tapped De Beers to design a commemorative doll. Dressed in a Princess Leia-esque bikini and flowing skirt, the outfit also featured a belt studded with 160 diamonds.
The doll went straight to auction and was priced at $85,000. It’s now one of the rarest and priciest toys out there.
Stefano Canturi Barbie
At the top of the list, and by a large margin, Stefano Canturi’s Barbie fetched $302,500 at auction. The doll styled by the Australian jewelry designer went under the hammer at Christie’s in 2010.
Featuring a custom-made choker with real diamonds, the doll owes its price tag mostly to the rare one-carat pink diamond at the center of the piece. The colored jewel itself was worth $300,000.
“I wanted the jewelry design to pay homage to Barbie’s modern yet timeless style over the ages,” said Canturi. The designer hand-selected the precious diamond himself, effectively turning the doll into an investment piece.
Once it was sold, proceeds directly went to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Canturi said it was in honor of the women who inspire him and for whom he designs.
Banner image via Barbie Media’s website.