No other doll in American history is more famous than Barbie, whose full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She is what every girl wanted to have as a child. With her critics and admirers abound, Barbie now celebrates 60 years since her first release.
Like all people, Barbie’s looks, hobbies, and careers have changed over the years. Sometimes she follows trends; sometimes she sets them. And other times she breaks boundaries.
Barbie was first introduced by toy company Mattel in March 1959. Her creator, Ruth Handler, got the idea from watching her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls and giving them adult roles. Handler realized there was a gap in the toys’ market that could be filled with an adult-looking doll as most dolls then looked like infants.
The original Barbie’s look was designed after a German comic strip character called Lilli. Lilli was intended as a gag gift to adult men in tobacco shops, but somehow became very popular with kids in Germany. Mattel bought the rights to Lilli and created a new version, more suitable for children — Barbie. After the first TV commercial about Barbie came out in 1959 in the United States, the doll became a hit. Naturally, after popular demand, Mattel released a boyfriend for Barbie, named Ken, after Barbara’s brother.
More than a billion Barbies, and her friends, have been sold all over the world, resulting in over $3 billion in sales since her release and as of 2009. This makes Barbie one of the best selling toys ever.
Over the years, Mattel has designed different Barbies, perhaps due to market pressures, or after being criticized for lack of diversity. Now Barbie looks more like realistic women – and comes in various shapes, colors, styles, and careers. She also comes in different versions inspired by influential women all over the world.
As the 60th birthday of Barbie nears, 24/7 Wall St. has created a list of 30 of the most popular Barbie dolls of all time. Mattel provided the information for the most popular Barbies of every decade, and the rest were selected from the company’s site.