Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Grief

Does anyone else think the process for buying a Barbie Fan Club membership is ass-backwards?

I've been trying to complete the process for two days. (Granted, I haven't had a lot of free time to do it and have been trying to fit it in between work projects, but still. It seriously shouldn't take this much effort.)

I had a regular account, but that needed to be linked to a "shopping" account that I had to create. This I figured out after repeatedly trying to add a Fan Club membership to an online shopping cart that never materialized. Lame.

This membership had better be good!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CNN iReporters Share Their Collections

Barbie turning 50 continues to be a hot topic in the media, particularly with publications that want to get their readers involved.

CNN is encouraging their iReporters, regular folks who share their thoughts and lives with CNN, to submit pictures and comments about their own Barbie collections. Check it out here.

I like seeing how other people store their dolls and the different dolls they have chosen to collect. If I get a free moment, I may just share my collection on CNN, too...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Embarrassed Little Girls And Their Dads

This article reminds me of my childhood. 

I loved, loved, loved playing with Barbies. Unfortunately, it stopped being cool before I hit double-digits on my birthday cake. Since no one would play with me, I constructed an entire Barbie city in my basement with different houses, stores, cars and horses. (There was even an RV park with one lonely pink RV in it.) Consequently, I spent a lot of time alone in the basement with my dolls.

I dragged my dad into the action, too. In addition to building me massive pink dollhouses for Christmas, I made him sit with me while I set up what I called a "parade." I'd dress all my dolls up in the fanciest dresses I available in their massive communal closet. Then I lined them up. This process took hours. 

I can imagine that dressing dolls in puffy evening gowns (it was the 80s) and lining them up down the middle of a Barbie city was something my dad probably never imagined himself doing. Yet he sat with me and played all the time. 

He even carpeted the houses he made with leftover carpet from our house and wallpapered the little walls and nailed tiny pink shingles to the roof. That's dedication.

The little nine-year-old girl in the article probably will remember the embarrassment she feels about loving Barbies all her life. But she'll also remember how her dad played with her, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re-Root Pursuit

I've decided it's time I learned how to re-root Barbie's hair. I'm all for learning new skills. I've tried painting, pottery, screen-printing and sewing with various (low) levels of success. Now, I want to learn how to re-root.

Not everyone, however, shares my enthusiasm for the project. In fact, most people think it's downright weird. 

My mom is an avid garage-sale shopper, and I asked her to pick up cheap, used Barbies for me to experiment on. She met this request with silence and rapid eye blinking. 

"You mean you want to pluck Barbies," said Mom. 
"Sort of," I said.
"You mean you're going to have plucked, naked dolls laying around your house," she said.
"I'm going to put the hair back in," I offered, trying to be helpful.

I tried explaining that it's a skill I'd like to learn. I explained that I collect Barbies, and I like Barbies in general, so why wouldn't I want to acquire a fun, new Barbie-related skill? 

She met this explanation with more blinking.

So I tried explaining it to Dad. More blinking.

Then my husband. More blinking.

Then I stopped trying to explain it to people who don't have more than a dozen dolls in their basements. 

I can see how outsiders may have a hard time understanding why a presumably not-crazy adult would want to 1) play with dolls and 2) swap out their hair. I might have been able to explain number one on its own, but number two is just too much for them to understand. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

She's Everywhere

Either Mattel's marketing department is doing an above-average job or people think 50 is a more important anniversary than, say, 35, because Barbie is in everywhere in news headlines and in cobranded products.

I realized this when perusing the Fargo, N.D., newspaper online. The editors are holding a contest where readers can submit their ideas for "Fargo Barbie" in honor of the 50th anniversary. Hilarious. (Being a Fargo native, there are plenty of funny options. A Frances McDormand-inspired doll, perhaps?)

Barbie also made an appearance at New York's Fashion Week.

I recall the fanfare around the 35th anniversary pretty well, and I still have some of the commemorative dolls from it. The last anniversary Mattel promoted -- was it 40 or 45? -- I recall less well. The attention for this latest anniversary trumps all of that. 

I wonder if Mattel is promoting it so much because it's the big 5-0. Reaching half a century is a milestone for anything, whether its a molded plastic toy or a marriage. Or perhaps Mattel is trying to capitalize on this particular anniversary so much because it coincides with a crap economy where people are spending less on everything (like toys and collectibles). 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

373 Dolls

I dusted 373 Barbies this past weekend. The project used one box of swiffers and several hours of my time. At the end, the dolls and their shelves were shiny and clean.




A blogger with more forethought would have taken before, after and during pictures of the project. Unfortunately, that's not me (at least not yet), so here's the before-photo only.

I have a limited number of shelves, so storing all the dolls requires some skillful organization. Picture playing actual Tetris with hundreds of pink boxes. The smaller boxes on the lower shelves are layered three or four deep. (I couldn't fit all the shelves into one picture, so some dolls aren't pictured.)

In a perfect world, I'd have triple the number of shelves and I would display the collection not like encyclopedias but instead with each girl facing forward so she could be enjoyed by all.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Innie Vs. Outie

Since I began collecting Barbies as a child, I have been obsessed with the idea of Mint In Box. I come from a family of antiquers and collectors, who long have sought perfect, unspoiled finds. For Barbie, the highest value and prestige comes from having her preserved in her original box.

Getting beautiful dolls as gifts as a child -- and making the choice to keep them in their boxes -- was difficult. Perhaps it's an indication of how anal-retentive I've been since birth that I was able to keep at it. It's a strange idea in general: I buy something I love and set it in front of myself yet deny myself fun with it. Fun, in this case, taking her out of the box and dressing her up.

Not that I didn't play with Barbie dolls. Some I simply couldn't keep in the box, like Day To Night Barbie, which debuted in the mid-80s. She came with a business suit for day that turned into a party dress at night. I vividly remember my parents buying her at a department store (back when department stores had good toy selections). Her accessories, a purse, brief case and hat, were too good to pass up.

Other dolls my mother purchased for me at garage sales. She was selectively, choosing only the cleanest and nicest dolls (without haircuts or other play-time injuries). Sometimes they came with their original clothing, and sometimes they did not. My two favorite childhood dolls came from garage sales.

My collection today is housed like books on shelves, because there is not enough room for each one to face outward. I have some of the dolls I played with as a child, but most of them have been passed along to other little girls.

Thanks to a narrow and self-centered world-view, I hadn't considered others go about collecting Barbie in much different ways. Perusing some blogs and forums, I've found that many collectors enjoy their dolls most when they get to interact with them. 

It's a new perspective for me.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Barbie Feeling Her Age?

A number of newspaper headlines linked Barbie 50-year anniversary with the news of dismal financial results for Mattel.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sfl-flzmattel0203sbfeb03,0,2369594.story

Certainly, the economy is crap, and people likely are spending less on toys just as they are on everything else. (Sadly, the quilted toilet paper was among the first casualties of economic belt-tightening in our household.)

But things have to be looking up for Barbie, despite her "age." She just won a knock-down cat fight with slutty Bratz (http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/12/11/bratz.vs.barbies/index.html) and a slew of festivities and products will debut for her big 50-anniversary year.

As long as Mattel can keep up the quality and appeal of the new dolls (Time to go, horrid My Scene Barbie!!), there is little doubt Barbie will come around to be profitable for the toy manufacturer again.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I Bleed Pink

I have a lot of Barbie dolls. A lot. I've been collecting them for more than 20 years, which is most of my life.

As a 20-something Barbie collector, few in my peer group understand my obsession let along participate in it. I have one friend who claims to be a collector: She has every Holiday Barbie ever made. I have more than 300 dolls. It's not quite the same.

I don't know why I keep buying Barbies. Heaven knows I don't have the space to keep them, and I certainly don't have the disposable income for the hobby. But I keep on collecting.

I want to meet and communicate with other collectors like me, the ones who have custom shelving in their basement to house and display their dolls. Basically, I've been a one-woman collecting community my whole life, and now I'm ready to find others.