I started the summer with two vintage Barbie dolls in my collection. After going on vacation, I came home with a third, thrilled to finally give my pair of dolls a new friend.
Little did I know that her arrival would trigger a vintage windfall. A simple visit to eBay (to help me identify the new girl and assess her condition) lead to a little browsing of other vintage Barbies and fashion.
Most vintage listings are way beyond what I can afford, but hidden in between the rare and pricey dolls are those that have seen better days. Those are the dolls I started looking at and I ended up finding a beautiful doll for only $19.
She’s a Brunette Bubblecut Barbie (1964-67). While I already have a blonde Bubblecut, something about this doll really appealed to me. She has a different look and is in better condition for the most part.
On the pro side her face paint is nearly perfect, fingernail paint is only a little faded, no cracks or splits on her body or limbs, no green ear, and perfect hair.
On the con side, she has two head splits. One is at the base of the head on the left side. Luckily, it can’t be seen from the front! This should be a relatively easy repair with a little plastic bonding glue.
The other split is on top of her head. I’ve decided to leave it be as I don’t want to risk getting glue in her hair. A little creative combing of her hair should hide the split!
Just as I was putting the finishing touches on Little Miss Bubblecut’s new blue dress, (the one she’s wearing in the pics!), another vintage doll fell into my lap. This time around, my sister was shopping at a local thrift shop when she spotted a “old looking Barbie.” It was half price day at the store, so she picked it up for only $12.50. When she dropped it off at my house, I almost died. This was a special doll that needed a lot of love.
This “old looking Barbie” is actually a Ponytail #5 Barbie (1961). Her hair has been pinned up into a bun so it’s hard to tell! Ponytail Barbies are a sought after bunch in the vintage world and I can’t believe one just landed on my doorstep.
All things considered, she’s in decent shape. Her face paint is largely in place (with exception to a few lip paint chips), her fingernail and toenail paint is perfect, and she has no green ear.
However, she also has some serious issues. Her hair is pinned up with straight pins that have rusted. I pulled them out, but one hole has turned green (thankfully, her hair covers it up). I have to clean that entire area to make sure the green stops spreading.
Like many Ponytail #5 dolls, she has a greasy face. This is the result of the type of plastic that Mattel used during production. As it degrades, it releases a sticky film. There’s nothing I can do about it except to keep her face clean with warm soap and water.
The “grease” on her face has also leached into her hair. While, the original styling is still in place, her hair is in dire need of a good washing. Between the rust residue and grease, there is also the problem of the original rubber band disintegrating into the strands of her ponytail. At the moment, I’m researching how to properly clean and restore her hair.
Her legs are another problem. Ponytail #5 dolls are notorious for “splayed legs” and mine is no exception! One of her legs is bent so far out of alignment she can’t stand. Little by little I’m bending the leg back into shape by heating it in the blistering Arizona sun and tying her legs together at decreasing widths with ribbon.
The same leg is stained with dark marks that start beneath the knee and travel down to her foot. I’m working on bleaching them out with a little acne cream and the sun.
The last issue is an odd one, but I believe it is fixable. Her torso is split at the very bottom across a mold seam between her legs. It’s a clean split and should repair easily with some plastic bonding glue.
After just a little work, she’s already looking better! I made her a pretty little yellow dress to make her feel better and show off the progress on her leg.
Some would say these dolls are a mess and not worth the time and energy I’m putting into them. Some might even say they are ugly, but to me they are beautiful. Despite the damage and scars, I look at them and see stunning dolls that have inspired little girls for more than 50 years. How could I not save them?
Now that I have the dolls, I’ve started the process of acquiring vintage clothing that also needs a little TLC. Stay tuned for vintage style on these vintage dolls once I get some of the repair work done!
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