Barbie’s timeless lure draws in Camden collector

Rebecca Gordon holds this year’s 2019 Holiday Barbie doll in her room full of other Barbie’s. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — It was a Sunday morning in 1994 when Rebecca and Emory Gordon saw a news story discussing a milestone anniversary of Barbie. In its original case, they learned, a 1959 Barbie doll would be worth thousands of dollars.

“My husband and I said, ‘Well, I think we should collect those,’” Mrs. Gordon said.

Right down the street from the bank where Mrs. Gordon worked was a Hallmark store, she said.

“I went in and I saw her and I said, ‘That’s a really pretty doll,’” she said. “And I bought the first one.”

That first one, the holiday edition from 1994, shows Barbie staged in the middle of an emerald box, decked out in a gold dress — lined with fur, of course — and adorned with holly.

Twenty-five years later, their collection nears 60 dolls. But, Mrs. Gordon notes, it’s not truly their collection: the collection is for their first granddaughter, Rachel.

Mrs. Gordon recalled their rationale at he time: “That could be a good thing for Rachel, and she could sell them and that would be her college fund,” she said.

Rachel, who is now 28, ended up earning a full scholarship to college.

“She didn’t need the dolls,” Mrs. Gordon joked.

But the dolls remain for Rachel — displayed on shelves in “Rachel’s room” in the couple’s Rockland neighborhood home — and the collection continues to grow each year when the Gordons purchase the Holiday Barbie.

This year, they’ll also be picking up the 60th anniversary doll, as Barbie, not looking a day past her 20s, reaches another milestone birthday.

The Gordons’ dolls are in mint condition, having never left their original packaging.

The couple used to select the dolls through catalogs mailed to the house, or through TV advertisements, but they mostly use the internet now, she said.

“I think it was the last year, or the year before last, we saw one in the paper at Target up at Christiana,” she said. “We called up there and asked them to save it for us and we drove up there to pick her up.”

From the “Gone with the Wind” or “My Fair Lady” collections, to a race car driver Barbie, to Barbies styled by Givenchy, Christian Dior and Byron Lars, the array of dolls runs the gamut.

“We tried to purchase the ones that we thought would be more valuable in the future,” she noted.

Mrs. Gordon said she isn’t sure of their exact value today as a group, but one of her favorites — the Dior doll — cost about $180 when they first bought it. Some of the dolls run for hundreds on eBay.

“I think it’s the dress,” she said.

As Barbie celebrates her 60th birthday, Mrs. Gordon noted that children still like her.

“I think they have so many different styles, that it’s not just one type of doll. She’s still Barbie, but her clothing can make her whatever you want her to be,” Mrs. Gordon said. “I think that’s why she’s so popular. When we started collecting them for our granddaughter, and she was she was little and she couldn’t play with these. So I would ask her, ‘Rachel, what do you want for Christmas?’ And she said, ‘I want a Barbie doll and I want to be able to play with her.’”

In the future, they hope that their granddaughter will be able to use the collection, either to cash in when she needs it, or to continue collecting. Though, Mr. Gordon noted, when Rachel was little, around 5 or 6, she stopped sleeping in the room.

“She said, ‘Those dolls are looking at me,’” he said.

Mrs. Gordon added that it has been fun to collect them.

“We’ll be sad when they’re gone,” Mr. Gordon said.

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