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The History of Cabbage Patch Kids

The Doll That Created a Toy-Buying Frenzy in 1983

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A picture of a Cabbage Patch Kids doll.

A new Cabbage Patch Kids doll is displayed at the Toy Industry Association & Toy Wishes Holiday Preview show October 5, 2004 in New York City.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
During the 1983 Christmas season, parents in the United States frantically searched everywhere for the coveted Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. While many stores had extremely long waiting lists, others had a first-come first-serve policy, which led to shocking, vicious fights between potential buyers. By the end of the year, approximately three million Cabbage Patch Kids dolls had been "adopted."

The Cabbage Patch Kids frenzy of 1983 was to be the first of many such holiday-season, toy frenzies in the years to come.

What Is a Cabbage Patch Kids Doll?

In 1983, a Cabbage Patch Kids doll was a 16-inch doll, usually with a plastic head, a fabric body, and yarn hair (unless it was bald). What made them so desirable, besides the fact that they were huggable, was both their supposed uniqueness and their adoptability.

It was claimed that each Cabbage Patch Kids doll was unique. Different head molds, eye shapes and colors, hair styles and colors, and clothing options did make each one look different than the other. This plus the fact that inside each Cabbage Patch Kids box came a "birth certificate," with that particular kid's first and middle name on it, made the dolls as individual as the kids who wanted to adopt them.

The official Cabbage Patch Kids story tells of a young boy named Xavier Roberts, who was led by a Bunnybee through a waterfall, down a long tunnel, and out into a magical land where a cabbage patch grew little children. When he was asked to help, Roberts agreed to find loving homes for these Cabbage Patch Kids.

The real Xavier Roberts, who invented the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, had no trouble "adopting" out his dolls in 1983, for real kids around the country vied to be one of the few whose parents were able to buy them one.

The Real Story Behind the Cabbage Patch Dolls

The real history of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls had little to do with Bunnybees; instead, the real story began with 21-year-old Xavier Roberts, who, when he was an art student, came up with the beginning doll idea in 1976.

By 1978, Roberts joined up with five of his school friends and started a company called the Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc., which sold the entirely plush, hand-made Little People dolls (the name was to change later). Roberts would travel to arts and craft shows to sell his dolls, which already had the signature adoption aspect to them.

The dolls were a hit even with the first buyers and soon orders started to pour in. By 1981, Roberts and his dolls were being written about in many magazines, even appearing on the cover of Atlantic Weekly.

In 1982, Roberts and his friends were unable to keep up with the orders and thus signed a contract with Coleco, a toy manufacturer, who could mass produce the dolls, which were now to have plastic heads and be called Cabbage Patch Kids.

By the following year, Coleco couldn't keep up either. Kids were demanding the doll, causing a buying frenzy at the end of 1983.

A Few Things You Don't Know About Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls

Later, when Hasbro took over manufacturing (1989 to 1994), the dolls shrunk down to 14 inches tall. Mattel, which manufactured Cabbage Patch Kids from 1994 to today also kept the smaller, 14-inch size.

On the left-side of every doll's tush, you can find the signature of Cabbage Patch Kids inventor, Xavier Roberts. However, what you might not know is that just about every year the dolls were made, the color of the signature changed. For instance, in 1983, the signature was black but in 1993 it was forest green.

If you are an avid fan of Cabbage Patch Kids, you can go visit the Babyland General Hospital and see the birth of a doll. Located in Cleveland, Georgia, the large, Southern-style house holds thousands of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Be forewarned, it is highly unlikely that you could bring kids here and escape without buying them a doll.

Do you have a Cabbage Patch Kids doll in your garage that you're hoping will eventually bring you lots of money? Check out the Doll Collecting site at About.com to find out if what you have is worth anything.

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