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Barbie movie fuels demand for collectible dolls

Dec 07, 2023

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DALLAS — Inside Dallas Vintage Toys, there’s an entire aisle filled with Barbies -- from Malibu Barbie to cheerleader Barbie or Tooth Fairy Barbie.

“A lot of people have gone to see the movie,” owner Shaun Neinast said. “A lot of people are calling. They’re going through their childhood collections.”

The new ‘Barbie’ movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling has pulled in nearly $800 million in box office sales worldwide.

“We do have a lot more collectors coming in,” he said. “We sold quite a few Barbies today; a lot yesterday.”

For 30 years, he’s collected and sold toys and even used his initial collection to pay his way through college.

No toy, though, from Transformers to Star Wars has seen the surge in interest that Barbie has.

“I think this is a little different because there’s never been a Barbie movie,” he said.

For every new buyer, there’s a seller going through storage or a patient collector trying to cash in.

This week, they’re scheduled to meet with one seller bringing 120 Barbies and another with around 200. Last week a 34-year Mattel employee brought in several hundred Barbies to sell.

Not every doll, though, is valuable.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls, but a lot of them were holiday ones or ones that don’t really move that well for us,” Neinast said.

They’re most interested in cross-promoted, pop culture dolls that have a connection to movies, music or TV shows. They’re also most interested in Silkstone Barbies that are denser, heavier, and more detailed. They try not to overstock and emphasize buying models customers have been asking about.

Older Barbies are also more valuable because by the 1990s people began collecting and keeping Barbies in boxes.

“The 70s and 80s stuff is always going to be worth a little bit more because I would say not so many people were buying them to collect,” he said. But the people who grew up through [the 90s] either bought doubles or forced it on their kids.”

To figure out fair pricing, they keep a database of the previous prices of countless models sold. Right now, the average in the store is about $30. The most expensive is a Russian doll Barbie made with Silkstone and priced at $800.

It’s not too late to start buying the decades-old doll. Teenager Landry Corkran began collecting a couple of years ago.

“I look up how much they’re worth, how much they possibly could be worth in the future, and I look at what I’m interested in,” she said.

Last week she joined millions of others in seeing the new film.

“I thought it was really good,” she said. “I liked how they made the jokes about the vintage ones like they tied it all together really well.”

For anyone, young or old, the issue is trying to preserve the quality.

“It’s so tempting to take them out of the box because you just want to touch them and feel them and look at their costumes,” she said.

About 40% of Dallas Vintage Toys’ sales are online. While it lets them sell worldwide, Neinast said they try to keep their prices below the max value to keep their volume as high as possible.

He’s already excited Mattel greenlit more toy-themed films from Polly Pocket to Major Matt Mason.

“If you would’ve told me in elementary school I’d be playing with dolls,” Neinast said with a laugh. “I’ve just always loved dealing in toys. It’s a labor of love.”