Cash in the attic: Barbie dolls

Barbie was created by Ruth Handler who founded Mattel Creations with her husband Elliot. Her inspiration was watching her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls of grown-up women, imagining herself in grown-up roles. She realised that there was a gap in the market for a teenage fashion-doll for young girls to play with, so in 1959 Barbie Millicent Roberts from (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin was born.

The most expensive original Barbie ever sold for £17,450

Mattel bought the rights to the German fashion doll Bild Lilli, produced from 1955 to 1964. The appearance of Barbie is largely based on Bild Lilli however she was given more natural-looking lips. As Barbie’s predecessor, a Bild Lilli doll can command several thousand pounds at auction.

Online search engine Barnebys brings together 550 auction houses worldwide, and one of its recent lots was the world’s first Barbie, which sold for £2,865. The most expensive original Barbie ever, in mint condition, sold for a whopping £17,450 at auction - which is quite a step up from its original retail price of £2!

Spot a real original by its milky-white tint as this is unique to the 1959 production number ones. The dolls usually fetch between £1,000 to £5,000, depending on condition.

Did you know: One Barbie doll is sold every three seconds somewhere in the world, says Barbiemedia

  • Want to know what's collectable today? Find out here. Plus check out the most valuable Star Wars collectables here.