13 Vintage Barbie Dolls That Are Worth a Fortune Today
The same Barbie who inspired imagination—and evoked controversy—for generations is worth a fortune to collectors worldwide today.
OK, so this doll isn’t technically a Barbie doll, but she was the inspiration for Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, so many collectors view her as a Barbie. Bild Lilli was made popular by German cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien who created a comic based on this sassy, sexy, fashionista who knew what she wanted and how to get it. “Her curvy figure and arched eyebrows were controversial then and Barbie’s figure is still controversial today!” says Britten Follett, Barbie Collector, a 2005 Mattel Barbie Collector Advisory Panelist. Handler wanted her own daughter, Barbie to have a doll that inspired her (and other girls) to know they could be anything they wanted to be. Auction site Ruby Lane currently lists a Bild Lilli for $1,195. Did you know Barbie has a last name? Here’s Barbie’s official name.
Barbie debuted on March 9, 1959, at the New York Toy Fair to skeptical buyers. After all, little girls loved their life-size baby dolls that they could cuddle and “nurture,” while Barbie was miniature in comparison and not the least bit cuddly. In stark contrast, she was adorned in a black and white swimsuit, signature ponytail, and had a “Bild Lilli-esque” sideward glance. Still, Barbie took the toy world by storm and has been popular ever since. “Every collector dreams of the day they find her hidden at a garage sale,” says Britten Follett, collector. Barbie originally cost just $3, but Follett says you can expect to shell out between $8,000 to $10,00 for a mint-in-box (MIB) edition. Check out the most popular toy from the year you were born.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.
Collectors consider Black Christie to be the first real Black Barbie, even though Black Francie was introduced a year earlier. Collectors viewed Francie as a “white” version of Barbie with the exact same facial features while Christie had a new mold creating her own look and when you pulled the string, she talked. But Black Francie actually sells for more than Black Christie at $500 to $2,500 dollars, depending on condition. Black Christie is currently listed NRFB (never removed from box) on eBay for $599.
Barbie Loves The Improvers (1968)
This Barbie, who was available as a blonde or a redhead, was part of an Inland Steel gift set promotion and only a handful of these dolls were ever made. “This doll’s unique outfit is inspired by Inland Steel (a company that made steel drum containers) and modeled after a Paco Rabanne design,” says Follett. Rabanne was famed for his controversial designs made of materials such as metal, plastic, and paper. “These dolls are on eBay for $10,000 right now!” You might be sitting on that kind of money, if you own one of these other 10 vintage toys worth a toy box full of cash.
African-American Midnight Tuxedo Barbie (2001)
This limited edition Barbie is stunning in a glamorous floor-length sleek black gown with matching faux fur stole. Who couldn’t imagine her at the Oscars or a posh black-tie gala? She’s a limited edition and one of the Official Barbie Collector Club℠ Exclusives. Follett estimates this Barbie will fetch about $1,000 dollars MIB.
AKA Centennial Barbie (2008)
“I was a part of the Barbie Collector Advisory Board when collector Kia Jefferson suggested Mattel produce an homage to the AKA sorority centennial,” says Follett. Alpha Kappa Alpha, founded in 1908, was the first sorority for black women and for its 100th anniversary in 2008, the AKA Centennial Barbie was born. She sold out quickly, and Follett says if you can nab one MIB, it will probably set you back about $500. Don’t miss these 17 fascinating facts about every girls’ favorite doll.
Fabergé Imperial Elegance Barbie (1997)
Just as impressive as a shiny jewel-encrusted Fabergé egg, comes this elegant Barbie. Decked out in a lavish satin gown, with lattice stitching, jeweled beadwork, and gold lamé petticoat, this 1997 Barbie has probably never seen the inside of a toy box. She wears a 22K gold-plated tiara on her head and carries a 22K gold-plated egg-shape evening bag (which displays a tiny Swarovski crystal heart). The dress sparkles with 175 hand-sewn Swarovski crystals. Follette says this doll is very desirable and continues to hold her high value at around $500 to $600.
Karl Lagerfeld Barbie (2014)
There’s no denying this Barbie was inspired by the famous Chanel creative director and Fendi designer Karl Lagerfeld. Barbie looks positively chic and dressed in Lagerfeld’s dapper signature style, with tailored black jacket, white high-collar shirt with French cuffs, black satin cravat, and skinny black jeans. Plus, check out those accessories—silver chain, sunglasses, fingerless black gloves, ankle boots, and a leather purse with silver metallic accents. This doll even comes packaged in an avant-garde box. “There were only 999 dolls made, and they sold out quickly. They are going on eBay today for $4,000,” says Follette.
Miss Barbie (1964)
This swimsuit-clad Barbie was another first in Barbie history, in that she featured bendable legs and eyes that opened and closed—probably so she could close them under water. When she wasn’t wearing her chic pink fringed swim cap, you could dress her in one of three wigs (blonde, brunette, or redhead), included. She sadly was not very popular, as some thought she looked scary. It’s rare to find one these days but if you see her, snap her up; she’s rare but not particularly expensive. PicClick estimates are around $300. Here are more inexpensive items that could be worth a fortune later.
Empress Josephine (2005)
Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife, comes dressed to impress her royal subjects in a gown inspired by historic records. She’s so lifelike, you can almost imagine her sauntering along hallowed castle halls, pausing to gaze out a window overlooking Tuileries gardens, or to read a steamy love letter from her beaux Napoleon. Fittingly, Her Imperial Majesty comes with a jewelry suite of faux-pearl bracelets, earrings, and necklace. If you’re looking for her extensive royal wardrobe, she has none. Alas, Empress Josephine is one of the few Barbie dolls whose clothes are not removable; what you see is what you get—and it all rings in at about $1,000.