A Peek at the World's Top Barbie Collectors
Are you a Barbie collector?
Ever since there have been Barbie dolls, there have been Barbie doll collectors. And what's not to like?
There are the vintage dolls from the 50's and 60's with their sweet and sultry glances, the bright fashions of the 70's, the dolls of color introduced in the 80's, numerous body mold changes in the 90's, and the glamorous looks of 2000 through today. Oh, and don't forget OOAK dolls (that's one-of-a-kind, for non-collectors!)
Be it clothes, accessories, furniture, homes, cars, Barbie herself, Ken, or another of her numerous "friends", everyone has a little bit of the collector in them.
"These are little pieces of plastic, and when little girls play with them, they're the boss."
- Evelyn Burkhalter
Evelyn Burkhalter, Barbie Hall of Fame
Evelyn Burkhalter's experiences with Barbie began when she started sewing doll clothes for fundraising events for a school her husband founded. She opened the Barbie Hall of Fame museum in 1985 in Palo Alto, CA and it was very much a part of her life. A warm, gracious, and knowledgeable collector, she was always very willing to display and discuss her dolls.
The museum was popular, but eventually the building lost its lease. Burkhalter had to put the collection on the market. As of 1994, her collection had 17,000 dolls -- one of every Barbie Mattel had ever issued... and in 1996, the number had jumped to 20,000.
Mattel came to the rescue. The company bought the collection in full for an undisclosed amount of money in 1999. Back then it had been worth approximately two million dollars -- what would they be worth today?
"They meant everything to me. I could do without eating. I don't know if I can live without them."
- Glen Offield, to The Los Angeles Times
Glen Offield, Barbie Collector
Glen Offield is right up there at the top as well, with over 5,000 dolls... including 200 one of a kind Barbie prototypes. He was photographed for the cover of Smithsonian magazine in December 1989, and his collection is so extensive that he had agreed to allow Mattel to photograph his dolls over time for a shoot of "Barbie's wardrobe" trading cards.
But one day in October 1992, the worst thing possible happened to his million-dollar collection. They had been stolen from his house in San Diego! To add insult to injury, two fires had been set as well.
Luckily, the dolls turned up within two weeks... albeit shoved into a storage pod under the freeway, abducted by one Bruce Scott Slogett, Offield's sometime employer. I shudder to think of the damage done to those pretty dolls.
"You made us Barbies before there were Barbies."
- Gene Foote's cousins
Gene Foote, Barbie Collector
Gene Foote is another serious, long-time collector. A producer of musical theater by day, by night he stages shows with numerous Barbies, taking pictures for a book he is writing (entitled For the Love of a Doll).
As a youngster, Foote cut out underwear-clad figures from the Sears catalog, stuck them to cardstock, then drew and colored clothing for them to keep his younger female cousins entertained.
Foote is on the docket as one of the speakers at the 2012 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention in Garden Grove, CA (July 11, 2012 through July 14, 2012). He will talk about not just his extended Barbie collection, but some particularly rare European Barbie items. (I sure wish I was going to be there!)
"A little playful irreverence is good."
- Sheila Wilding, founder of the Barbie Club of San Jose
Sheila Wilding, Anti-Barbie Collector
"Anti-Barbies" may look like Barbies, but that's where the similarity ends.
Imagine Trailer Trash Barbie (with a cigarette and baby); Hooker Barbie (wearing a negligee and holding accoutrements of the trade); and Drag Queen Barbie (Ken, in a dress). Yup, there are collectors for all types of dolls.
Mattel may not be enthused, but Wilding is... as of 1996 she owned over 6,000 dolls and a great deal of them were Anti-Barbies. But she is quick to remind us to keep things in perspective... Barbie is, after all, just a toy.
Are you a Hard-Core Barbie Collector?
Do you collect Barbie dolls?
- Lord, M.G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1994
- Barbie Convention Speakers Series and Events
- Palo Alto Barbie Collection Sold to Mattel for Museum
- Step Right Up for Trailer Trash Barbie and More
- Ken Who? -- Barbie's Beau? He's Just An Accessory