Barbie™ was introduced to us in 1959, but what about her boyfriend Ken™ – full name, Ken Carson?
Ken™ was the very next member to be introduced into the Barbie™ family. He was named after the son (Kenneth) of Ruth Handler, the creator of the Barbie™ doll. It was 1961 when Ken™ arrived on the scene. He sported flocked hair of either brunette or blond and he was 11 inches tall. Among collectors, the first Ken™ produced is known as “fuzzy head.”
Ken™ came dressed in red, cotton swimming trunks with a white stripe and red-strapped sandals with bottoms made of cork. His stock number is 750 and, mint in box, he can go for $200-$250. Many of these Kens™ in played-with condition have lost some or most of their hair. It was easy to rub off, especially after a child would let Ken™ go swimming with Barbie™ in the bathtub.
In 1962, Ken™ was changed up a little. His head mold was changed and instead of flocked hair, his hair (blond or brunette) is painted on. He is also wearing a red-and-white-striped beach jacket and his swim trunks were now made of either red poplin or red knit, one minus the white stripe. Mint in box, the doll would go for about $120. In played-with condition they can be found 1/5th that price.
Collectors prefer the vintage Barbie™ dolls verses the vintage Ken™ dolls, making the value of the Ken™ doll much lower. Ironically, Ken™ shares the same clothing phenomena with Barbie; some of the vintage Ken™ outfit sets are worth much more than the dolls themselves. A good example is #1426 “Here Comes the Groom” outfit from 1966-1967. Its value, mint-in-box, is $1000 – $1200.
Along with his girlfriend Babrie™, Ken™ has his friends and a little brother named Tommy™. Although not as popular as Barbie™, Ken™ has become a bit of an icon himself. He has gone through many changes. Keeping up with the latest styles, Mattel finally gave him some rooted hair in 1976. Stock #9342 was a set called, “Now Look Ken.” That same year, #1088, “Malibu Ken,” was introduced. He had the painted-on hair, but now had a golden tan. These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg on how many identities Ken™ has had and will continue to have. To name a few, he can be found as a snow skier, singer/rock star, cowboy, tennis player, body builder, roller-blader, military member, fraternity member, Olympic gold medalist, doctor, dancer, basketball player, as Barbie’s™ escort, a king, hunter, actor, airline captain, drum major, astronaut, a football player, a motorcyclist (Harley Davidson™), a sailor, and even sporting an earring in 1993 – which created a news media frenzy.
When Mattel tried to split he and Barbie™ up in 2004, the public responded in Ken™’s favor. The breakup was short-lived and Ken™ quickly came back. Whatever roles he may have taken on throughout the years, and whatever changes he has gone through, from fuzzy headed to tan, Ken™ is here to stay.