The last six months have brought me into the Ken and Barbie collecting world. It was something my husband had been into years ago and, on buying a Victorian house, had decided to sell most of them since they didn't fit the aesthetic.
Last summer we found a bag with two beat-up vintage Kens and some outfits at a local junk shop and we'd had fun fixing them up. For me it was like having a couple miniature Don Drapers! I've grown to appreciate my husband's doll fanaticism and appreciate them as artifacts and art, but something about these really clicked. I bought this guide and it's companion from the Schiffer backlist catalog at the store.
The quality of these toys is astounding. I remember my sister's dolls and their flimsy synthetic clothes with Velcro. The vintage dolls and the clothes on the other hand are as detailed as they could be with that scale. The clothes were fitted so close it can be a struggle to get them on, which is why so many of them are in poor condition, but they are so cool when they're all together. For example:
On the left is Allan in 'Fun on Ice' and on the right is Ken with 'Ski Champion' both outfits are from 1963. I'll have to take some proper pictures for another review so the whole outfit and their accessories are visible. I only have a few reference pictures on my phone at the moment. You can still see some of the construction of the clothes.
Now if you're a collector yourself, you'll understand, to everyone else...we went a little crazy. Our collections were pretty restrictive before based on scarcity and/or high prices. Suddenly, we were interested in something that they made millions of in the 1960s. Millions. So we started finding them. And finding them. And finding them. Factor in also that prices for Barbies have dropped precipitously in the last decade. "This is such a good deal, let's buy it!"
So now we have a guest room with a dresser crowded with Barbies, Kens, Allans, Midges, Francies, Skooters, and Skippers. We've also made room for two Julias and a PJ. We're working on a display that looks a little more sane, but at least most of them have stands.
Oh yeah, and the actual book:
The full title of this is a real mouthful: 'The Complete and Unauthorized Guide to Vintage Barbie Dolls: With Barbie & Skipper Fashions and the Whole Family of Barbie Dolls' by Hillary Shilkitus James. I give this guide a lot of credit because it does provide photographs for all of the vintage outfits for Barbie & co. up to 1972 with some including original packaging. The book inspired the above.
What she doesn't do is list or picture any of the original outfits/swimsuits that the dolls came with. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you get into the late 60s there were many new characters released, variations to the original Barbie and her friends, etc. and they all had a suit they wore. If I didn't have any other guides how would I know what to find if I wanted to restore an original bend-leg Francie or talking Ken? Its a minor thing, because we do have the internet and there are plenty of other books out there, but it just seemed like a glaring flaw to the book. The other failure is that while she pictures every doll that had tagged outfits for itself, the author does not picture the different faces or even name the various other 'same size' dolls that didn't have tagged outfits of their own.