Since March 1959, girls the world over have played with the fashion doll known as Barbie and collected not only the doll but also her friends and family. Barbie dolls have become collector's items. But how do you know if you have a vintage Barbie doll that may be worth something more than sentimental value?
Remove the clothes from the Barbie doll.
Look for markings on the buttocks. Use a magnifying glass if necessary. The markings indicating where the doll was manufactured, a year and "Mattel" were located there on many early Barbie dolls. Note that a date of 1966 was stamped on many Barbie and friends dolls but does not positively affirm the doll was manufactured in that year. Vintage Barbie dolls are from the years 1959 to 1976 and bear the country name of Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Korea.
Look for markings (country of manufacture, year, and company name) on the lower back in the waist region. Many dolls made in later years have markings in that area. From 1978 on, Barbie and her friends were manufactured in the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Mexico and Indonesia.
Look for markings on the back of the head on the neck or along the hairline.
If you have the original box or the original clothing the doll came with, these will give you some clues as to the date the doll was manufactured. The first Barbie doll from 1959 came clothed in a one-piece swimsuit with black and white stripes.
Look for features that may indicate a Barbie doll was manufactured in the early years. One of the original Ken dolls had fuzzy hair on his head, while most later Ken dolls had molded plastic hair. Some of the early Barbie dolls had eyelashes that seemed almost real. Later Barbie dolls had painted-on eyelashes. Totally Hair Barbie, a best seller in 1992, had floor length hair that could be styled. Some Barbie dolls manufactured in later years had molded-on underpants or tights. They also sometimes had arms that were bent at the elbows.
After noting the markings on the body, the original clothing or box, and special features, look for those identifications in the collector book.
Trying to figure out the exact date a Barbie doll was manufactured can be difficult. Before spending a great deal of money on what you think might be a vintage Barbie, do research in the many books on the subject.