Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Beautiful German Bild Lilli

 We’ve all seen pictures of the amazing Bild Lilli doll, but few of us are lucky enough to own one. The Bild Lilli has a fascinating history, and if you thought she started as a beautiful doll, have I got a story for you!

It all started back in 1952, in the bustling city of Hamburg, Germany.  Reinhard Beuthien, a cartoonist for the Bild-Zeitungm Newspaper, (or the Bild for short) created a new cartoon for the enormously popular tabloid style newspaper.  The paper published gossip stories, had topless women on the front page, and reported other (often inflated) dramatic stories.  Today it is still Germany’s largest newspaper, in terms of circulation.
The star character in Beuthien’s cartoon was named Lilli.  She was a beautiful, sexy, blonde woman who you’d often find sitting in a fortune-tellers tent. The cartoon showed her with her girlfriends, men, and sometimes even her boss.  Despite the era, she had no problem talking about rich men and sex.  During the day she worked in a newspaper office, and after hours enjoyed the company of rich men. She wore tight skirts and low cut shirts. She would often ask taboo type questions such as “Can’t you tell me the name and address of this rich and handsome man?” or “I could do without balding old men, but my budget couldn’t”. The highly popular cartoon ran daily from June 24, 1952 to January 5th, 1961. 
In 1953 the Bild contacted Max Weissbrodt, a designer from the O. & M. Hausser Toy Company in Germany, and asked him to design a novelty doll based on the cartoon character. Using Reinhard Beuthien’s drawings he designed the first prototype doll.  On August 12, 1955 the first Bild Lilli doll was available for purchase.   She came in two sizes;   7 ½ and 11 ½ inch.  Each doll came in a clear plastic tube, with a tiny Bild Newspaper, and eventually a round stand captioned “Bild Lilli”.  The majority of the dolls had blonde hair, but there are a few rare brunettes out there too.  The dolls are unmarked and very fragile. They have unsealed hand painted faces that can be washed off with water.

Bild Lilli was originally marketed as a gag gift.  She could be found in bars, cigar shops, and other male establishments.  Some people even referred to her as a sex toy. Parents did not approve of the doll, but in spite of their disapproval, she eventually became very popular with children. Many beautiful clothes were created for her in the styles of the 1950’s.  There were furnishings and other accessories designed specifically for her too. 

Over 130,000 dolls were produced in the eight short years she was for sale.  In 1964 Mattel acquired the rights to the doll and production was immediately halted.  The Bild Lilli doll was removed from the marketplace.  

Today the German Bild Lilli is extremely collectible and commands a high price on the secondary market. The 11 ½ inch is more popular to collectors than the shorter version. She was exported to the United States and other European countries, but her name was changed to Lilli Marlene” or just “Lilli”.  Don’t get her confused with all the clones (such as Hong Kong versions) on the secondary market that were produced in the 1960’s.  Once Mattel owned the rights, the Hausser Company sold her head molds to a British Hong Kong based company (Dura-Fam Ltd.). Later they leased or sold other head molds they still had on hand to other companies around the world.  Even though the dolls look similar, they are much lower quality and they are not the true Gorgeous German Bild Lilli.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Barbie Display Cabinets

The months of waiting for my Barbie display cabinets to be built seemed like an eternity, but was certainly worth the wait!  I designed the cabinets exactly how I had envisioned them. First, I carefully measured my dolls and their boxes.  Next, I applied painters tape onto the wall, making sure I wasn’t going overboard in size.  Then I presented my drawing to my neighbor Jim (the guy who can make anything) for his input.  His only major change was two smaller cabinets side by side rather than one really large cabinet.  And then there was all the little stuff I didn’t think of! 

                                                                (Photo Removed)

Before, most of my dolls were displayed in a jamb-packed curio cabinet in an area of the house where I couldn’t enjoy looking at them nearly as often as I would like, and it didn’t showcase them like they deserved.  I moved my entire Barbie collection (well, the majority of it) to my home office, where I spend probably way too much of my time.  In my office I still have a couple large curio cabinets with my gifts sets, rare dolls, Skipper size dolls, furniture, and cars displayed. With the new “Shadow Box” style cabinets for my Barbie and Ken size dolls I am now set.  Of course I have other Barbie memorabilia on the walls and anywhere else I can make it fit without it looking cluttered.   With my office located just off the kitchen behind double French doors, there’s still a great view even from the kitchen! 
My museum quality collection had to have labels. So being the organized person I am, I made table tent cards.  I listed each doll by name and the year they debuted.   Next I put them in order by year, but at the same time keeping the Ponytails, Bubblecuts, etc. grouped together, which I think makes a more interesting display.  It also helps me find the dolls I want to see quickly or the ones I would like to sell and upgrade in a pinch.

My new display cabinets have made collecting Barbie’s just that much more fun! 

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Might Be Glad You Did!

Just recently I received an email from a lady whose home was burglarized. Her vintage Barbie dolls and their clothes were stolen.  She didn’t have any pictures of her items, nor did she have them scheduled on her homeowner insurance.  She turned in her claim and her insurance adjuster was quoting current “store” prices for her dolls, not vintage collectible values!  Since my husband is an insurance agent I thought this would be a good topic for me to address.

First and foremost, take pictures of your collection.  As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words.  Not only should you take pictures of your Barbie collection, but you should take pictures of everything in your house.  It’s easy in the digital age!  Just open up your cupboards and drawers and start shooting.  How much easier will it be when it comes time to make a list of everything you lost in a house fire or the items that were stolen, if you’ve got pictures?  And yes, you will be required to make a list.  This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway!  “Store the pictures in a different place than where you live!”  I actually have a second copy of mine on my phone, because my phone goes everywhere with me, and when I update my pictures my phone is updated at the same time.

If your collection is valuable, then you definitely should insure it.  Read your insurance policy and see how much coverage you have on fine arts, jewelry, and collectibles without scheduling your items and you’ll probably find that there isn’t that much!  Make a list of your items with values and send it off to your insurance agent to add to your policy.  It’s that easy!  Although I must mention, I had to change companies because the company I was originally with didn’t want to insure my collection.  They didn’t think Barbie’s were a collectible!  Isn’t that amazing?  Fortunately my husband is an independent insurance agent, and he was able to search his other companies for one that had no problem at all insuring my prized possessions!

This may sound like very basic information, but it’s always a good reminder for those of you who are planning on “getting around to it”.  Don’t plan to, get it done.  You just might be glad you did! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Barbie: Family Friendly or Dangerous Threat

Controversy is an everyday event in so many of our lives, and it certainly has been no different for Barbie.  Just last year we saw how Tokidoki Barbie, with all her tattoos, stirred up a bit of commotion.  In 1975 Growing up Skipper and Growing up Ginger were released, and mothers everywhere had plenty to shout about!   The ability to enlarge dolls breasts by a turn of their arm was just a bit more than they wanted to see in a toy for their child.  Newspapers reported nationwide about the upset public. Mattel also got their share of letters from angry moms.  Many stores pulled these busty teenagers from their shelves.

If we look even further back, 1967 brought us the rare, beautiful, and highly sought after Black Francie (that we all wish we had in our collections).  Believe it or not, she was originally named “Colored Francie” which is another example of how drastically our society has changed. She ignited her own negative controversy. Black Francie had black skin, but her facial features were that of a Caucasian person. Of course the African-American community wanted to know what that was all about!  So Mattel fixed that problem only one year later (1968) by introducing what the public considers the first black Barbie, Christy! Christy finally had the black features that the buying public wanted to see.  So for that reason, you will see Christy called the first Black Barbie over Francie.

In 2001 (box marking) another contentious doll that did fine on the shelves for a short time was Oreo Barbie. It was a promotion that Mattel did with Nabisco.  They released the white version of this doll earlier, and sold her in grocery stores alongside their yummy Oreo cookies.  But once the black version of the doll hit the shelves, it became more than just a small issue! It was said that the word “Oreo” can be used as a derogatory term meaning an African-American is black on the outside and white on the inside, or basically that person is a sellout.   Not surprisingly, these dolls immediately disappeared from the market!

In 1997 Mattel decided Barbie’s waist should be larger. The reports of Barbie’s measurements were getting more attention.  The claims she had a 36-39 inch bust, 18 inch waist and 33 inch hips with a height from 5 feet 9 inches all the way up to 6 feet tall, Mattel increased her waist by a 1/8 of an inch! I guess they were hoping for a more socially acceptable doll, but I doubt that anyone really thought her measurements were much more realistic.  Seriously!  Oh, and another interesting tidbit of trivia:  If you look closely at Barbie’s bathroom scale from 1965, you will see that it is permanently stuck on 110 pounds!  With such a voluptuous figure I’m certainly impressed with her weight!

In 2002 Pregnant Midge hit the stores.  She had a magnetic stomach with her plastic baby inside it, and when she was ready to deliver her baby; little girls could just pull out the newborn.  In one case, Wal-Mart pulled all the dolls from their shelves because parents insisted that the doll promoted teenage pregnancy, and she was sending the wrong message to their young girls.  Since so many girls wanted to be like Barbie, the last thing parents wanted was their eight and ten year olds thinking it was glamorous to be pregnant. Interestingly, the very early Pregnant Midge dolls even lacked a wedding ring, but of course that was rapidly fixed!  It must have been a man that missed that one in the R & D department!

Barbie’s controversies continue to this day, and I’m sure we’ll see even more in the future. There are still mom’s out there whom would never allow their daughters to play with a Barbie doll.  But, for better or worse, this mom isn’t on that list!   I played with them, my girls played with them and my granddaughters will play with them. And girls across the globe will continue to make wonderful memories to carry with them into their adulthood.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hunt

Everyone has a different story as to why they started a particular collection. Mine was undoubtedly because my mother was an avid doll collector.  I noticed her excitement over the years as she headed off to the local flea markets and doll shows in our area.  She didn’t care if anyone wanted to look at her collection; it was purely for her personal enjoyment. If anyone wanted to admire her trove, then that was just an added bonus!  She didn't collect Barbie dolls, although she did pick up a few of those along the way (which I now have!).  But she did have many other lovely dolls.
If I had to pick a timeline as to when I officially started my collection, it would probably be 1989, with the purchase of the number two “Happy Holidays Barbie”.  Of course my original Barbies from when I was a kid were on display in my home long before the purchase of my first “collectors” Barbie.  The initial Happy Holidays Barbie debuted in 1988 and is considered Mattel’s first official "collectible" Barbie.   Once that collecting bug hit me, I was off and running with my new passion; Vintage Barbies! 

Peace & Love 70's Barbie (2000)
Twenty-three years later my collection has grown to include at least a sample of almost every doll available from the vintage years, along with many of the beautiful fashions and accessories!  Of course I've added some new ones too, such as Holiday Barbies, the gorgeous Silkstone dolls, and some fun ones like the “Peace and Love 70's” doll (I had to have her since I was a teenager back then!).  I've picked up porcelains, reproductions, and new collectors dolls over the years too. But the vintage dolls remain my passion. 

I’m hoping the next decade will bring me some prototypes, the harder to find dolls, and the more unusual ones, as well as a few more of the amazing Silkstones!  I know my Barbie collection will never be complete.  And I wouldn't want it to be, because half the fun of collecting is the hunt!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snow Days

It’s a beautiful snowy day here in the Pacific Northwest.  It takes me back to the days when I was young and it was a “snow day”, meaning my school was closed.  I got to go outside and play in the white fluff.  I lasted just long enough til my hands and feet were so cold that I had no other option but to go back inside.  I’d warm my hands by the hot fire burning in the woodstove, and my mom would offer me hot chocolate with marshmallows.   The remainder of my day would consist of pulling out all my Barbie’s and turning our family room into a big Barbie playhouse!  Those were the days!

My snowy backyard today
Times have changed a lot since the last century, but little girls everywhere really haven’t.  They still love to fix their hair, wear pretty clothes, and look at older kids, teenagers, and moms, and dream about being their age.  I love their imaginations when playing dolls.  It can take them to the moon or a castle in the sky, or just a simple moment pretending to talk on the phone to their sister or friend.  Barbie has given us every beautiful fashion imaginable for special occasions; she’s embraced family while at the same time showing us we can be career women; as new professional working women dolls are still being released.  
After all these years she still keeps me looking for the next creations!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Beautiful Blues

1967 was probably my favorite year for Barbie because the Twist n’ Turn Barbie (#1160) with beautiful long straight hair and long rooted eyelashes was released, as well as the trade-in promotional doll (#1162), which I purchased.  They were both the same doll, but with different packaging.  This same year Sears released the exclusive and very rare gift set #3303, Beautiful Blues Set.  This magnificent ensemble came with a blue sparkle one shoulder dress accented with a white satin bow and white satin trim, matching blue satin coat with white fur trim, blue heels, and a blue clutch purse.  But this elegant set wasn’t complete without a Twist n’ Turn (#1160) Barbie Doll.  This doll had one stunning feature which the other dolls on the market didn’t have. She wore blue eyeliner!   This week one of those special girls showed up at auction (without the outfit).  She sold for a cool $530.99.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Look at what Tokidoki (Tattoo) Barbie is selling for now!

Have you checked out the price of the Tokidoki Barbie lately? 

This controversial gold label doll was released for $50.00 on October 13, 2011 with a limited edition of 7400 worldwide.  Simone Legno designed the doll.  It is now selling in the hundreds and sometimes even thousand dollar range. 
 If you need a refresher course about this doll, she came in a pink miniskirt, logo leggings, black top which featured a skull heart and bones design.  Her accessories included bracelets, a belt, tall silver heels and a large bag.  She had a pink bob haircut and held a leash that was attached to her cactus friend, Bastardino.  And finally, the reason she was so controversial: the tattoos she had all over her chest, back, and arms! 
 Are you thinking “I should have bought that girl?”  Probably, because I did!  But for most of us, collecting Barbie isn’t about the dollar value and what she’ll be worth someday; it’s all about how much joy our collection brings us!  But if you are curious, as I was, the highest price I see on eBay today is a signed, autographed doll for $1500.00.  The average price is around $500.00, with some sellers asking less and some asking more.