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Monday, April 20, 2009

Buying Barbie Cardboard Structures & Furniture

"The purpose of this guide is to inform and educate about the wonderful line of Barbie structures and furniture which were manufactured by Mattel between 1961 and 1966. With Barbie 'real estate', it's condition, condition, condition. I will outline some buying tips, questions to ask, and care instructions.
There were eight of these ingenious structures made of cardboard, and beautifully decorated/accessorized. They are:
The Barbie Dream house
The Barbie Fashion Shop
Barbie Goes to College
Barbie & Ken Little Theater
Barbie Dream Kitchen/Dinette
The Barbie New Dream House
Skipper Dream Room
Barbie & Skipper School
They are ingenious, because they were designed to contain all the furniture and accessories that came with them. A child could store the furniture and play accessories, and in a couple cases, clothing, inside their play set. They were practical in the way they folded up into themselves for storage. Even though the plastic handles and wing nuts to keep them closed were somewhat fragile, they did fold away beautifully for storage in a closet!
They were made with a paper 'veneer' that was glued to the cardboard. This worked well for construction, but tape, used to try to repair a structure or piece of furniture, would almost always permanently damage the surface. Staples were another amateur way to attempt to fix these structures and furniture. It wasn't pretty.
There are a few common problems that each of the structures have, that you should be aware of.
Many pieces could suffer from 'splaying'. This is where the cardboard layers have split from each other and spread out. It could also happen if the structure was put together carelessly, or by frequent removing and inserting the tabs into the slots. Many desks or tables have this problem.
Water damage caused the cardboard to split apart also. If you see a structure with water damage, it looks like a cardboard box that's been left in the rain. It becomes warped and very difficult to repair. It was also susceptible to mold, if it got wet and not dried properly.
Ask the seller if any of these types of damage are present. A reputable seller will disclose all types of damage, and give you the condition of each piece.
Many times the seller says a structure is complete, but truly isn't. Perhaps the structure is a childhood treasure, and they truly don't remember that they lost a piece or two. Do your homework and find out what pieces go with that structure. There are reference books that have wonderful photos that show what pieces go with each structure.
Their care and maintenance are relatively minimal, and its commonly believed they are extremely fragile. If you are careful with them, and store them properly, they can last for a long time. Storing and restoration are another topic.
A word about price. Auctions reveal only what the buyers interested in the item at the time of the auction are willing to pay. Price guides are a place to start, but should never be referred to as 'gospel'. The item is worth what someone is willing to pay. Research several auctions of the structure you are wanting to purchase, its condition, and the pieces that are included. If you want a structure, MINT and complete, you will pay more. If you want one that is in good condition and incomplete, you will get it cheaper. Buying more than one structure to put together to have your MINT structure, MAY cost you as much as buying one complete and mint. It's your decision. Again, do your homework.
Keep them out of the sun, dusted (cosmetic pads and Q-tips work the best) and away from water and small children and you'll have a lifetime treasure. I am not an expert, however, I have enjoyed them and collected them for years.
As an additional note- two Barbie 'clone' style houses were manufactured during this time period, also. One was made by Toy master, and the other is a 'mystery' house. No copyrights or manufacture stamps have been found on this house, however, when you see one (they are quite rare), you will recognize it by the black and turquoise checked floor.
Also, as a point of reference, the Little chap family had 3 cute little structures, a bedroom, family room and Dr. John's office. Tressy also had 3 structures, a Millinery shop, a Hair Salon and her Penthouse Apartment. Tammy (by the Ideal company) had two houses, the 'Ideal' house, and her 'travel house'. These were all manufactured using similar techniques, and experiencing similar storage problems.
Repair of these little structures is a little tricky, but rewarding. Tape and water are the worst enemies of these little pieces of 'Fashion Doll Real Estate'. However, they are the perfect setting to display your treasured dolls."

(eBay guide - 10000000000852001, by julieb2772)

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