The History of Cabbage Patch Kids

The Doll That Created a Toy-Buying Frenzy in 1983

A picture of a Cabbage Patch Kids doll.
A new Cabbage Patch Kids doll is displayed at the Toy Industry Association & Toy Wishes Holiday Preview show October 5, 2004 in New York City.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

During the 1983 Christmas season, parents in the United States frantically searched everywhere for the coveted Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. While many stores had extremely long waiting lists, others had a first-come, first-served policy, which led to shocking, vicious fights between potential buyers. By the end of the year, approximately 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids dolls had been "adopted."

The Cabbage Patch Kids frenzy of 1983 was to be the first of many such holiday-season toy frenzies in the years to come.

What Is a Cabbage Patch Kids Doll?

In 1983, a Cabbage Patch Kids doll was a 16-inch doll, usually with a plastic head, a fabric body, and yarn hair (unless it was bald). What made them so desirable, besides the fact that they were huggable, was both their supposed uniqueness and their "adoptability."

It was claimed that each Cabbage Patch Kids doll was unique. Different head molds, eye shapes and colors, hairstyles and colors, and clothing options did make each one look different than the other. This, plus the fact that inside each Cabbage Patch Kids box came a "birth certificate" with that particular kid's first and middle name on it, made the dolls as individual as the kids who wanted to adopt them.

The official Cabbage Patch Kids story tells of a young boy named Xavier Roberts, who was led by a Bunnybee through a waterfall, down a long tunnel, and out into a magical land where a cabbage patch grew little children. When he was asked to help, Roberts agreed to find loving homes for these Cabbage Patch Kids.

The real Xavier Roberts, who invented the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, had no trouble "adopting" out his dolls in 1983, for real kids around the country vied to be one of the few whose parents were able to buy them one.

The Real Story Behind the Cabbage Patch Dolls

The real history of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls had little to do with Bunnybees; instead, the real story began with 21-year-old Xavier Roberts, who, when he was an art student, came up with the beginning doll idea in 1976.

By 1978, Roberts joined up with five of his school friends and started a company called the Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc., which sold the entirely plush, hand-made Little People dolls (the name was to change later) at a retail price of $100 or more. Roberts would travel to arts and craft shows to sell his dolls, which already had the signature adoption aspect to them.

The dolls were a hit even with the first buyers and soon orders started to pour in. By 1981, Roberts and his dolls were being written about in many magazines, even appearing on the cover of Newsweek. The marketing included a "birth certificate" and "official adoption papers." Each doll was individually named and accompanied by a matching name tag. Consumers were even sent a birthday card on the first anniversary of the date of purchase, established when the customer filled out and mailed the adoption papers to the company.

In 1982, Roberts and his friends were unable to keep up with the orders and thus signed a contract with Coleco, a toy manufacturer, which could mass-produce the dolls—which were now to have plastic heads and be called Cabbage Patch Kids. Coleco sold the dolls for $35–45.

By the following year, Coleco couldn't keep up either. Kids were demanding the doll, causing a buying frenzy at the end of 1983.

A Few Things You Don't Know About Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls

Later, when Hasbro took over manufacturing (1989 to 1994), the dolls shrank down to 14 inches tall. Mattel, which manufactured Cabbage Patch Kids from 1994 to 2001 also kept the smaller, 14-inch size. Toys "R" Us produced 20-inch kids and 18-inch babies between 2001–2003. The current official licensee is Wicked Cool Toys (since 2015); the latest 14-inch dolls still feature a unique name, birth date, birth certificate, and adoption papers.

On the left side of every doll's tush, you can find the signature of Cabbage Patch Kids inventor, Xavier Roberts. However, what you might not know is that just about every year the dolls were made, the color of the signature changed. For instance, in 1983, the signature was black but in 1993 it was forest green.

If you are an avid fan of Cabbage Patch Kids, you can go visit the Babyland General Hospital, and see the birth of a doll. Located in Cleveland, Georgia, the large, Southern-style house holds thousands of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Be forewarned, it is highly unlikely that you could bring kids here and escape without buying them a doll.

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