A Guide To Collecting Barbies: Preservation, Finding And Other Tips

Whether you have fond memories of playing with Barbies or simply wish to invest, consider the following tips before starting a collection.

Whether you have fond memories of playing with Barbies as a child, or simply wish to invest in a potentially lucrative collectible market, there are a few things you should consider before starting a collection.


The first decision a potential collector needs to make is which styles of Barbies he or she would like to collect. While it is possible to collect any and all Barbies you come across, most collectors will narrow their search due to personal preference, availability, or simply being overwhelmed by the number of different dolls available. Some common divisions include:

Vintage - any doll made before 1972

Pink Box/ Play Line - dolls intended for children

Collectible - dolls created especially for adult collectors

Artist/designer dolls - often one-of-a-kind creations

It is also possible to collect Barbie's friends, clothes, furniture and other accessories, and other Barbie-style dolls, such as celebrity likenesses.


The value of a doll is dependent on its condition. There are a few important acronyms when considering the condition of Barbie dolls:

NRFB - Never Removed From Box

MIB - Mint In Box

MIP - Mint In Package

MOC - Mint On Card (referring to accessories and outfits)

NRFB is quite a literal designation; if a box has even been opened, it can no longer be considered NRFB. All of the Mint designations mean that the packaging has been opened, and perhaps the doll was taken out to put on display, but otherwise it is just as it was when it came from the factory. There is also a C Grading System, with C-10 being perfect, NRFB condition and C-1 being the kind of well-loved Barbie that was perhaps a dog's chew-toy. A doll in the lower C-values could potentially be useful as spare parts for another doll or restoration practice.

In general, the higher the grade or the more pristine the packaging, the higher the value of the Barbie will be. However, this is only in relation to the exact same Barbie styles. Values also vary according to the age and rarity of a particular doll. So a C-10 Nutcracker Barbie is worth more than a C-7 example, while a slightly worn doll from 1963 will most likely be worth hundreds more than a NRFB pink box doll that came from the local department store last Christmas. For more information on values, price guides are available in bookstores and hobby magazines. Online auction sites can also give you a general idea of the current market value of dolls.


Online auction sites have also made collecting Barbies easier than it has ever been in the past. It's probably best to browse first to get a feel for what's available, and as you get more familiar with the dolls that you want to collect, then you can begin searching for specifics. You should also check out lots that include several dolls if you're just starting a collection. Barbie-related websites and magazines often have classified ads with numerous dolls for sale. If you prefer pink box and collectible dolls, heading out to your local toy or department store is a good first step. Watch for clearance prices to help you affordably build your collection. A collectible doll/toy show is a good place to go to browse and have the security of seeing exactly what you're buying. Flea markets and yard sales also hold great potential if you feel confident in your ability to recognize a hidden treasure in a box full of Barbies.


Once you've started your collection, maintaining it is simple but important for maximizing its potential value. Creating a display area from the very beginning, whether shelves or a curio cabinet, can help prevent wear and tear and will also let you appreciate what you've gathered. If you have children, emphasize the difference between your collectible dolls and the dolls they may play with. Nobody wants to find a formerly-NRFB doll with a new haircut provided by your daughter. Collectors prefer dolls that have been kept in a smoke-free household. You should also keep dolls out of direct sunlight to prevent fading.

It is possible to restore dolls that have minor flaws, such as chipped face paint, but it is important to be upfront about any restoration work if the doll is ever put up for sale. It is possible to learn to do your own restorations, although you should turn to a professional until you're absolutely certain of your skill. One condition unique to some of the earliest vintage dolls is green ear. The earrings that were used at that time tend to oxidize over time, slowly turning the vinyl of the head green. It is a difficult problem to remove, and each collector must balance the value of the doll against the potential danger of experimenting with cleaning solutions.

Now the only thing left to do is to enjoy your collection and to keep building and learning more about Barbie.

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