Crazy About Collecting: Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies & Beer Cans?
When it comes to collecting, the options are endless! From Barbies and Beanie Babies to Cabbage Patch dolls and beer cans, our August 2019 issue of ReMIND Magazine showcased the most valuable, largest and rarest items in a variety of collections.
Barbie has been the fascination and fun-time pretend play for young girls for decades. Her perfect figure, amazing fashions and hip-and-trendy accessories (have you seen her Dreamhouse or Townhouse?) have made her a hot collectible for years. The world was first introduced to Barbie — her official name being Barbara Millicent Roberts — on March 9, 1959, when she debuted at the New York Toy Fair. Barbie was a stunner in her zebra-striped swimsuit, with her voluptuous curves, skinny waistline and shiny, cascading blond hair. She stood a mere 11 inches tall. Over her 60 years, Barbie has evolved and has been showcased in different careers, ethnicities, fashions and special occasions, and collectors have snatched up the dolls in all of her variations. Some of the most valuable Barbies produced by Mattel, however, are not from her vintage days, but more so the specialty Barbies created for charity. While the price of a mint-condition Barbie from her earliest days (1959 to 1960) can run up to $25,000, the most expensive Barbie ever sold, that we researched, was a Stefano Canturi Barbie for $302,500. Created to raise money for breast cancer research, the doll wore a necklace made of an Australian pink diamond and three carats of white diamonds.
When it comes to the more affordable, everyday Barbies, you’ll find those and thousands of others in Bettina Dorfmann’s collection. Dorfmann lives in Germany and is the current Guinness World Record holder with 15,000 Barbie dolls (she’s held the record since October 2011).
Cabbage Patch Kids
In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon swept the nation over a doll that came from, of all places, a cabbage patch. Frantic parents chased rumored shipments, camped outside of stores, rioted and fought in the aisles. The craze led to a secondary market where parents resold the coveted toy for several times the dolls’ $25 purchase price.
The folk-art-inspired dolls were the creation of artist Xavier Roberts, who based his dolls on folk artist Martha Nelson Thomas’ soft-bodied “Doll Babies.” Roberts mused that his dolls were “born” in an enchanted cabbage patch and taken to BabyLand General Hospital before being sent to a toy store where loving children would “adopt” them. Roberts’ dolls originally were called “Little People,” and when they debuted in 1978, they were hand-stitched creations with soft bodies and faces. These early dolls are sought after by collectors, and the official Cabbage Patch Kids website claims that some are valued over $37,000! After Roberts licensed the brand to Coleco in 1982, the toys were relaunched with vinyl heads and were renamed Cabbage Patch Kids.
One of the country’s biggest collections is owned by Iowa resident Donna Brown (above). When she received her first Cabbage Patch doll in 1985, she found that the thrill of the hunt was a fun hobby for her and her husband to enjoy on their family trips. “When we went on vacations, we’d look for Cabbage Patches, and that was kind of our thing, and then we decided to build a museum.” Visitors to her Cabbage Patch Fantasy Land Museum near Griswold, Iowa, can marvel at Brown’s assortment of over 3,000 Cabbage Patch-related items, including rows of dolls in their original boxes, a classroom, an infirmary for “sick” dolls and a display of space-related Cabbage Patch Kids.
Toy manufacturer Ty Inc. introduced the world to the adorably named Beanie Babies in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1995 that these floppy, understuffed toys — each with a unique name and birthdate on its ear tag — became a cultural phenomenon. The toys were originally priced at just $5, but some owners netted thousands in resales thanks to the toys’ rarity and/or retirement status. According to antiques expert Dr. Lori Verderame, the original nine Beanie Babies that were launched in 1993 — Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Spot the Dog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus, Brownie the Bear (later renamed Cubbie) and Pinchers the Lobster — are the most valuable, and if in good condition can get around $125 to $150. Chocolate can get up to $250. Mistakes on the ear tag or tush tags and scarcity sometimes equate to more money.
For example, the red bull named Tabasco, whose name was forced into early retirement to avoid lawsuits from the company that makes Tabasco sauce, was replaced by Snort. A few people have Tabasco on eBay for for as much as $15,000 (good luck with that!); we saw one at a flea market for $10.
Collecting breweriana (anything with a brewery or brand on it) actually started in the 1890s with bottle caps, expanded in the 1920s with Prohibition (scarcity) and later led to beer can and beer can opener collections. It wasn’t until the 1970s, however, that beer can collecting was at its peak as one of the country’s fastest growing hobbies. The popularity of the hobby led to the formation of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA), originally called the Beer Can Collectors of America. The club has roughly 3,200 members and local chapters around the nation. According to Kevin Kious, the club’s office manager, members’ collections range from very small to tens of thousands. One of the more famous club members is Jeff Lebo, who has accumulated over 87,000 beer cans over the course of 40 years. Lebo’s labor of love started when he was just 13 years old, and today his collection is valued at $3 million and is partially kept at his rental home, Brewhouse Mountain, in Pennsylvania.