Early versions of Barbie and G.I. Joe.
Early versions of Barbie and G.I. Joe.

Who needs plastic surgery when you’re made of plastic to begin with? Certainly not Barbie, the iconic doll that made its first public appearance in March 1959 at the American Toy Fair in New York City.

Barbie was created by Ruth Handler, who named the doll after her daughter, Barbara. And when it was time for Barbie to hook up with a male companion in 1961, Handler name Barbie’s new beau after her own son, Ken.

Mattel’s success with Barbie (and Ken, et al) spurred rival toy maker Hasbro to develop a similar doll for boys, though the company coined the term “action figure” knowing boys would shun any product referred to as a doll.

Stan Weston and Don Levine created G.I. Joe in 1963 and, like Barbie, introduced it to the public at the Toy Fair in New York in February 1964.

Did you know?

  • Barbie’s real name is Barbie Millicent Roberts
  • When Barbie hit the store shelves soon after, she sold for $3. Today, collectors pay as much as $10,000 for an original Barbie in mint condition.
  • Barbie is from Willows, Wisconsin.
  • Barbie has four sisters: Skipper (introduced in 1964), Stacie (1992), Kelly (1995) and Krissy (1995)
  • The original G.I. Joe action figures were 11.5 inches tall.
  • The first G.I. Joe prototypes were named “Rocky” (the marine or soldier), “Skip” (the sailor) and “Ace” (the pilot). Levine eventually settled on the generic G.I. Joe moniker after watching the 1945 movie, “The Story of G.I. Joe.”
  • Hasbro introduced a G.I. Joe with “Kung Fu Grip” in 1974.
  • Levine’s hand-carved, wooden G.I. Joe prototype sold for $200,000 in 2003.
  • The number of G.I. Joes sold worldwide tops 400 million.
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