How to spot vintage Barbies and G.I. Joes

by Andrew Lang, Seattle Goodwill
January 27, 2017

She’s been a mainstay in children’s toy boxes for more than half a century. She’s got style, some notable friends, a dreamy boyfriend and enough dream houses to make the most successful real estate tycoon jealous. Who is this mystery woman that’s been a pop culture fixture ever since her creation in 1959 by Ruth Handler?

Barbie, of course.

For baby boomers, gen x, millennials and today’s youth there’s arguably no toy more iconic than the Barbie doll. Odds are, every child from the 60s and beyond at least once had an encounter with Barbie, sisters Skipper and Tutti or boyfriend Ken.

When Ruth bought the rights to Germany’s Bild Lilli doll in 1955, she was taking a risk. At the time, common thought was children, especially girls, only wanted to play with baby dolls. Handler broke that stereotype and opened toy manufacture’s minds on a different front, too.

Barbie’s success got toy maker’s thinking, maybe there’s a market space for a toy that caters to boys? Only a short five years later, the G.I. Joe was spawned by Hasbro’s Don Levine in 1964.

Joe, similar in size to Barbie dolls, debuted as an 11 ½ inch action figure with 21 moving parts. The doll was an instant success and paved the way for today’s modern G.I. Joe, which come in a number of different forms.

Because Barbie and G.I. Joe played such an integral role in our childhoods, they’ve become highly collectible, and Seattle Goodwill is a terrific spot to find some of the most rare, nostalgic dolls made during the past 50 years. Our site and eBay store regularly features new postings.

Here is a small guide and some things to look for when trying to determine Barbie’s value:

  • Copyright information—When looking for a vintage doll, if the copyright information appears on Barbie’s behind and not on the lower back, then your doll is considered vintage (1959-72).
  • Made in Japan—Barbie was only made in Japan until 1972, so if a Made in Japan marking can be found on Barbie’s behind or on the bottom of her foot, then the doll is vintage and could hold some serious value.
  • 1966—One of the biggest mistakes when determining Barbie’s value is thinking the 1966 copyright marking is important. There are millions of dolls with a 1966 marking, ones that were made during the 80s and even 90s.

Here is a small guide and some things to look for when trying to determine G.I. Joe’s value:

  • Size—G.I. Joes came in many different sizes: 12 inch, 11 ½ inch, 8 inch, 6 inch, 4 ½ inch and 3 ¾ inch. The full-sized G.I. Joes were among the first released, therefore they are often highly sought after, but because many of today’s-aged collectors played with the smaller Joes growing up, the smaller figurines also bring high value.
  • Condition—Original packaging is a huge plus and will make the action figure more valuable. Look for cracking or any obvious wear and tear. That will bring down the value.
  • Accessories—It’s not only Joe himself that is valuable. Many of his accessories can fetch a pretty penny. Helmets, first-aid kits, cloth caps and cartridge belts are all highly sought after. The 1967 GI Joe fighter pilot outfit is reportedly worth more than $6,200.

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Andrew is a Content Specialist for Seattle Goodwill and has a wealth of writing, communication and digital media experience. He loves all things sports related and owns a treasure trove of memorabilia. He also enjoys storytelling, the outdoors and sugar is his kryptonite.

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