If only I had saved my Barbie dolls. It's one of those laments you hear from online sellers when they discover the value of Barbies.
Barbie has been around since 1959, and the hundreds of varieties of Barbies can sell for anywhere between $5 and $5,000 dollars. With those kind of prices, there is no doubt that Barbie is as hot as ever.
If you are looking to either buy or sell Barbies, the trick to getting the best value is doing your research up front. It makes little sense, for example, to put up a vintage Bubble Cut Barbie for auction at a low opening bid with no reserve, only to discover that you could have received twice the amount (or paid half the price) had you done your research.
Fortunately, the Internet is filled with doll collecting sites that provide enough pictures, information and pricing suggestions to enable you to do your research quickly and on the cheap. Three particular sites are worth digging into.
One of the best starting places is a site called Doll Reference (http://www.dollreference.com/). The site is a general, and very large, doll-collecting site, and the Barbie section is unsurpassed for pictures, descriptions and pricing guidelines. In all there are currently 156+ pages and close to 2,000 pictures covering Barbie and her friends from 1959-1976. Click on the link in the left hand navigation column that says "1959-1976 Mattel: Barbie Doll & Friends."
In any online Barbie research, it would be a mistake to skip the official Mattel Barbie site called Barbie Collectibles. It covers both vintage and modern Barbie and friends dolls from 1959 to the present. Additionally they cover Barbie fashions and provide members with a newsletter and an opportunity to showcase their own Barbie collections http://www.barbiecollectibles.com.
Now that you have a starting place for pictures and description, the third pick will help you with Barbie lingo. For the uninitiated, looking at Barbie listings seems like looking at alphabet soup. There are all sorts of letters and abbreviations attached to the title and description. They all mean something and this one page glossary of "Barbie Collecting Terminology" will help you decipher the code http://www.dollectibles.com/terminology.htm.
Finally, here are a few quick tips. Absent the pictures, the key to identifying your Barbie is the manufacture markings, which appear primarily on the back of the neck and the backside. These marking do not give you the exact date of manufacture, but they will help you match the Barbie to the style. Barbies, like all other collectibles, are also valued by condition. The condition of the hair, face, torso, clothing, paint, etc., helps determine price. If you are a seller, it's important to note the pros and cons of these features. If you are a potential buyer, be assertive and email the seller with questions on these features if they are not listed.