Maybe your thoughts are turning towards Christmas gifts now – yes I know it seems premature – but some people start buying early, maybe to spread the cost, or are looking for the right present for that special child who is hard to buy for.

It reminded me of toys from the past, ones maybe we don’t see any more, or have outlived their popularity, but their inventors made millions from them at the time.

Cabbage Patch Dolls

Cabbage Patch Dolls – remember these? Women panicked at stores and queued up for hours. They were inspired by the Little People dolls sold by Xavier Roberts as collectibles and registered in the US in 1978. The brand was renamed 'Cabbage Patch Kids' by Roger L. Schlaifer when he acquired the licensing rights in 1982. They have continued to be manufactured – by several different manufacturers, and in various sizes - and the range expanded to include clothing, and special editions. The manufacturers have changed, from Coleco through to Hasbro to Mattel and so on, to today’s owner of the license, Jazwares.

The thing about Cabbage Patch Kids is that, to this day, each one is unique. When you see them lined up, they vary by hair, skin colour, eye colour, and outfit. Of course, this meant that the receiving child must learn to love the one they were gifted. This is easier to understand for children because the dolls come with a birth certificate and adoption papers — and the request to swear an oath of adoption. They were asked to parent a unique doll, and that felt like something special. These facts are maybe what makes these dolls so special, and could very well be the reason they never seem to wane much in popularity.

If you can find one of the originals in the toy cupboard, one called Teresa Ann sold on eBay for over €2,000. The red hair made this doll one of the most desirable amongst all Cabbage Patch Doll collectors, and if you can find one with a pacifier, it can be worth close to €830. Another element that increases value is having the doll’s birth certificate and its adoption papers. It is unlikely to find one in a box, but the doll’s condition will ultimately determine the value.


Barbie Dolls are another that seem collectable - particularly the earlier ones - and are getting wildly excessive amounts in auction houses. Did you know Barbie had a full name? Barbara Millicent Roberts. She was a 29 cm tall plastic doll with the figure of an adult woman and was introduced by Mattel, Inc. Ruth and Elliot Handler, who co-founded Mattel, on March 9, 1959. Despite adding ‘Ken’ and all the Barbie outfits, Mattel has seen sales of Barbie spiral downward since 2009. Between 2012 and 2014 alone, sales apparently dropped by 20%. Part of this is that kids are increasingly playing touch screens games and electronic toys, rather than with old-fashioned dolls.

Remember the Slinky? A ridiculously simple spiral of metal, then later in plastic, invented as far back as the 1940s, originally intended as a tension spring in a battleship engine horsepower meter by Richard James, a marine engineer. Other than toys, Slinkies have been used for - among other things - pecan picking, drapery holders, antennas, light fixtures, window decorations, gutter protectors, birdhouse protectors, therapeutic devices, wave motion coils, table decorations, and mail holders. Here’s an interesting fact, Slinky has been to space, but didn’t slink, according to Dr. M. Rhea Seddon of the Space Shuttle Discovery, who found that Slinky behaved differently in space - it wouldn’t slink at all, but just sort of drooped.

G.I Joe

Last one I have space for – G.I Joe. This toy became so popular that it managed to build a worldwide fan base and even has its own annual convention. Hasbro released the G.I. Joe Action Figure into stores worldwide in 1964, and it quickly became one of the most popular toys ever. With that in mind, some G.I Joe collectable action figures and accessories have sold for huge sums - nearly €18,000 for The Missile Command Centre, and over €10,000 for others in the series.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan