Curious Collector: Dolls Large and Small

(This article first appeared in the May 2013 issue of DOLLS magazine)

The flip hairstyle and spit-curl bang on this 1969 Barbie reflect the fashion of the day.

The swimsuit on this Twist ‘N Turn Barbie dates it to 1969.

QUESTION: I have a chance to buy this amazing Mattel doll with her original swimsuit. Neither the seller, who’s a friend, nor I know much about this era of doll or a value. Can you comment on this doll?

ANSWER: When Mattel first introduced the Barbie doll in 1959, little did anyone know the impact she would have on our culture. The first dolls sported a ponytail hairstyle with curly bangs—they really were a product of the 1950s. As the explosive 1960s progressed, so did Barbie. The changing hairstyles on the doll would reflect the looks worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Doris Day and many teen styles of the decade.

By 1967, it was evident that a new generation was playing with the legendary Barbie, who was more popular than ever before. Barbie got a whole new face and a twist waist, which allowed even more realistic play.

Child actress Maureen McCormick, who would become Marsha on “The Brady Bunch”, extensively advertised the doll on television.

Another group of hairstyles emerged in 1968, but times were changing very quickly in the late 1960s. The flip hairstyle had been around for decades but was enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

The doll your friend has is the 1969 Twist ’N Turn Barbie, with the new flip hairstyle and spit-curl bang. She is identified by her swimsuit, unique to that year. This hairstyle would remain in the line for three years. It is reminiscent of the hairstyle worn by Marlo Thomas in “That Girl” as well as Mary Tyler Moore and other icons of the period.

This doll is spectacular in every way. She has the rare dark brunette hair color—the doll also came in a lighter brunette and blond—and the hair is still in the original set. From your pictures, she appears to be in mint condition.

I would value your doll at $200 to $250 as shown in mint condition. You could add several hundred more to that value if the doll were still in the open-faced shrink-wrapped original box. Hope this helps.

The value of this Madame Alexander “Cissette” doll greatly increases with the wrist band.

QUESTION: I have this wonderful Madame Alexander doll that was given to me by an aunt when I was really too old to enjoy her. The box disintegrated, but I have kept the doll wrapped in a white towel all these years. She has never been displayed or undressed. The dress is tagged “‘Cissette’ Madame Alexander.” Can you tell me more about this doll?

ANSWER: From a collector’s viewpoint, you were lucky to have been too old to play with this wonderful example of Cissette by Madame Alexander. 

When the 21-inch Cissy doll was introduced in 1953, she was an instant hit with her full figure and arched high-heel feet. The doll was expensive, however, and large for many children.

Madame Alexander issued a smaller doll in 1957, which is your doll, in a demure 10-1/2 inch size. Her size would be the industry standard until the Barbie doll was released in 1959.

She was all hard plastic and jointed at the knees, hips, shoulders and neck. The doll features sleep eyes and a glued-on wig. The fashions were lovely and true to the Alexander tradition of high quality.

Your doll is from 1957, stock number 913. The wrist tag adds a great deal to the value of the doll. The box disintegrated because of the acids used in paper products at the time. I would value your doll at $225 or more to the right collector.

Send your queries about vintage and modern dolls with photos to or mail them to Curious Collector, c/o DOLLS, P.O. Box 5000, Iola, WI 54945-5000.

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