If you’re a doll collector, you surely know the struggle of not being able to identify a new doll, especially if you’ve bought it secondhand or at your local thrift market. Here are some things to try!
Look at the Body
On the back of most dolls, there is a marking with a year. This IS NOT the year the doll was produced, it is the year the BODY was first produced.
Most dolls from the 2000s will use a 1999 body called the “Bend n Snap” body. In the United States, it also referred to as the ‘Belly Button Body,’ because it was the first body type to come with a belly button. It is the #1 most common body type, and basically this is where the knees “snap” so their legs can move in three positions. The dolls arms and legs will be rubber (easily bendable), and usually the underpants will have the Barbie logo pattern on them.
However, if you have a doll from the 2010s, it probably won’t have the 1999 body! This body type stopped being produced around 2013, when Mattel switched to more “stiff” bodies (where you can’t bend the arms or legs).
Does your doll have the first body type? (on the left) If so, this is called a “Made to Move” body. There aren’t many MTM bodies out there, so it should be easy to go through the list and work out which one you have.
Does your doll have the second body type? (on the right) If so, this is called a “Fashionista” body. There are actually two types of Fashionista bodies! The 2009 type has a much larger knee joint and the 2010-2013 type has a smaller knee joint (the type in this photo is the smaller joint).
If you have the 2009 (larger knee) type, that means your doll is from the first wave of the Barbie Fashionista series.
However, it is possible that somebody swapped the body and the head around! So you might have a 1999 body on a 2020 head! So that’s something to keep in mind.
Look at the Back of the Head
Just like the body, there are also markings on the back of the head that tell you what year the facemould was first produced! Most common is the 1998 “Generation Girl” facemould (you’ll find this on most 2000s dolls) and the 2013 “Millie” facemould (you’ll find this on more modern 2010s dolls).
Looking at the body and facemould years can help you to work to a process of elimiaton. For example, if the body is from 2015 and the facemould is from 2016, then you know that the doll must have been produced from 2016 onwards! This means you don’t have to bother looking at anything earlier than 2016.
An excellent resource for more information about facemoulds is: https://kattisdolls.net
Look at Anything A Bit “Different” About the Doll (for example; hair, tattoos, piercings, earrings, etc.)
If the doll has something a bit ~different~ about her (ie: not your everyday plain, blonde Barbie!) then you can use that your advantage!
For example, if your doll has an Afro hairstyle, you can just search ‘Barbie afro’ on Google and go through the results.
The Mattel Customer Service Website
Personally, my #1 favourite resource is the Mattel Customer Service Website – this is basically a huge DATABASE (created and regularly updated BY Mattel themselves!) of most Mattel products produced since the early 2000s.
For example, you can search “Fairytopia Elina” and it’ll show a list of all the Elina dolls ever produced. Pretty handy, huh?
Check it out here > https://service.mattel.com/us/home.aspx
HOWEVER! There are some limitations. For example, you have to know kind of what you’re looking for! You can’t just put in something simple like “Barbie” or “Ken” because there are just way, way too many Barbies and Kens out there! There would be hundreds and hundreds of pages to look through.
It also doesn’t show everything. For example, tonight I was trying to identify my Fashion Fever Kayla doll, so I searched “Fashion Fever Kayla” and then just “Kayla.” I scrolled through pages and pages of Kayla dolls, but I couldn’t find my specific doll. So while there are a LOT of dolls listed, there’s not everything!
(A bonus – this site also has all the instruction manuals, and there’s also a section to order replacement parts for playsets. Neat!)
Ah, a classic! Again, this only helps if you kind of know what you’re looking for! For example, if you need to identify a Barbie house and you think it was produced in the mid 2000s, you can try:
“Barbie house 2004” “Barbie house 2005” “Barbie house 2006” and so on.
Keep looking through the results and eventually you should (hopefully) be able to find a match! Once again, this only helps if you have a ~general idea~ of what you’re looking for.
Did you know that most products, even if they have been discontinued for years, are still listed on Amazon? They’ll just say they’re “out of stock.” (Yes, even products that were discontinued back in 2007!)
This is a really great resource because it can help you figure out what year something was produced. For example, if you know you have a Barbie Hair Salon Playset, you can see whether it was the 2015 or 2017 version.
If you are in any Instagram or Facebook groups for Barbie collectors, share a picture of your doll and ask if anybody recognises it! Hopefully a fellow collector can help you identify it.
You can also research on doll blogs to find out more information. For example, if you have a black Barbie, you can read a blog such as this one which focuses specifically on black dolls.
And that’s all my tips! Of course, I’m not an expert, but that’s just some things that I can think of to help you! Honestly, learning to identify dolls is just something that you pick up from collecting for a long time. It’s a database of knowledge that you slowly build over time, so don’t stress if you are a new collector and you can’t identify everything straight away! Good luck!