How Much Are 1989 Holiday Barbies Worth?

To many young girls, dolls are priceless. Today, though, collectors put values on the Barbie dolls. The Happy Holidays Barbie line played a key role in the metamorphosis of Barbie buying from children's gift to collectible. Therefore, they hold a special place for most Barbie collectors. Pricing them, though, requires some careful observation.


The Barbie doll originated in the 1950s, when Ruth Handler noticed her daughter playing with adult female dolls. Ruth approached Mattel Corp. ad executives about an idea for a new doll. The company rejected her concept. Ruth, though, proved persistent, and Mattel agreed to produce the doll, which debuted at the 1959 American Toy Fair in New York City. Mattel sold 351,000 dolls in the first year, and Barbie's popularity has never faded. Ken was introduced in 1960, and Skipper, Barbie's little sister, was released in 1964. The first African-American doll, Christie, was introduced in 1968.

In 1988, Mattel introduced the first Happy Holidays Barbie. It was considered the first collectible Barbie. The dolls sold quickly and commanded above-retail prices on the secondary market. The Happy Holidays Barbie became a popular Christmas gift for young girls. In 2000, Mattel responded to collectors by reducing production quantities of its Limited Edition dolls to 35,000 or fewer.


The 1989 Happy Holidays Barbie was the second-ever holiday Barbie 1. Mattel sold thousands of regular Happy Holidays Barbie dolls, but it also sold a limited number of First Edition Happy Holidays dolls. The special-edition dolls were produced in fewer numbers, making them more scarce and, thus, more valuable.


Clothing, packaging and markings on dolls help collectors identify them. The 1989 Happy Holidays Barbie comes in a red box with a white snowflake on the front and a white band on the top that says "Happy Holidays." The doll wears a glamorous white gown with fur-like trim and a glittery underskirt. She also has a white stole, a necklace and earrings. The doll stands 11.5 inches high. The first-edition dolls say "First Edition" on the box. Mattel, the company that makes Barbie dolls, uses a unique number to identify all of its dolls, but the number is not always featured on the dolls. The 1989 Happy Holidays Special Edition Barbie is Mattel No. 3523.


Many factors affect the value of collectibles. With Barbie dolls, one of the top concerns is condition. Collectors prefer to purchase dolls still inside their original packaging, and the condition of the packaging also affects the price. Packaging can age and become discolored or tear. That reduces the value. Many ads for Barbie dolls feature the acronym NRFB, which stands for "never removed from box." According to Caroline Bigelow, a doll dealer who answers reader's questions at the Doll Habit website, "mint" commonly means the dolls were removed from the box but are in perfect condition. The scarcity and collector interest in a doll also affects its value. Dolls that are scarce often command a higher price. In the case of the 1989 Happy Holidays Barbie, the special-edition version brings a higher price largely because it was produced in limited numbers.

The Facts

One of the best ways to gauge the price of a collectible item is to gather information on what others are paying for the same collectible. The 1989 Happy Holidays Barbie, for example, auctioned on eBay for $51 on Aug. 17, 2009. The doll received 13 bids. Another doll brought $39.99 in an eBay auction, and a third doll received 24 bids and sold for $91.

Bookstores sell doll price guides that provide specific information about thousands of dolls. Some books are specifically designed for Barbie pricing. If you look at two different books, you are likely to see a discrepancy. Bigelow says discrepancies are normal. "No one is an actual authority on these prices," said Bigelow. "The only true authorities are the collectors and what price they are willing to pay."


According to Bigelow, most price guides misjudge doll values. She says guides often price dolls too high, compared to what a person would receive on the market for the dolls. "Even when you are in the Barbie market, it is very hard to determine a value," said Bigelow. Another common misconception is that a Barbie doll is extremely old. Barbie dolls were patented in 1966, and many more modern dolls still feature that patent date on their lower back. This confuses some collectors into thinking they have an older doll, said Bigelow.


If you want to sell your 1989 Happy Holidays Barbie, you have a few options. According to the Doll Habit website, the simplest way to sell a doll is to take it to a dealer. Dealers pay cash for dolls. The primary drawback is that dealers do not pay full value for dolls. Instead, they buy for a lower price and hope to profit by selling the doll at full value 2.

Consignment is another option. Some dealers help you sell your doll by spreading the word to customers. Sometimes, they display the doll in their shops. Consignment usually leads to a higher selling price than selling directly to the dealer 2. Selling the doll through consignment, though, can take weeks or months 2. Therefore, consignment is not a good option for someone looking to unload a doll in a matter of a few days. The third option is to sell the doll to collectors via online auctions, local newspaper ads or word of mouth. Selling this way often brings the best price, but you must do the marketing work 2.

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