Recalling the Christmas of 1983, I remember my sister sitting patiently after each one of our presents was opened, until she broke down in tears when she didn’t receive her most treasured gift: a Cabbage Patch Kid.
My mother had tried for months, yet we simply couldn’t afford to pay more than retail for the toy. However, my sister had even already constructed a name for her Cabbage Patch Kid—Kimberly Ann Bellomo—but it seemed that she was doomed to be a pariah in her school; the only young girl without a Cabbage Patch doll.
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All seemed very grim that cold, winter’s morning, until my mother, waiting with a grin on her face, pulled out the package. Never have I seen my sister so excited; never have I witnessed a smile plastered on her face so genuine and pleased.
Cabbage Patch Kids were the brainchildren of Xavier Roberts, who originally sold the hand-crafted “Little People” though his nascent corporation, Original Appalachian Artworks, with the help of four other artists. Roberts sold the license to Coleco in 1982 and when Cabbage Patch Kids made their debut in 1983, they became the most popular toy fad of the year, and one of the most popular in all of the ’80s. The dolls made the cover of Newsweek before Christmas, and stories of their success were heralded around the world.
But what was it about these now mass-produced characters that set young children’s hearts all aflutter? Was it the fact you could actually “adopt” your very own child? Pick your own name, mail it to Babyland General Hospital, where Roberts would sign each set of adoption papers, as he hand-picked each kid out of… well…a Cabbage Patch?
Heck, you could even purchase Cabbage Patch Kid diapers, your own officially licensed “Sticker Baby Book” to record “Baby’s Birthday Party,” “Dreams for Baby’s Future,” Baby’s [First Day] at the Circus,” etc. It was an ingenious combination of marketing and timeliness; one that caused the FIRST Capra-esque “run on the toy stores in Christmastime” of 1983 in recent memory. Although retailing for $25, there were black market sales of Cabbage Patch Kids recorded as high as $2,000! Tickle me Elmo had nothing on Cabbage Patch Kids.
For extra added entertainment, if you get the chance in life, I recommend you take the advice listed on the Birth Certificate packaged with every Cabbage Patch Kid since their inception: “to prove the authenticity of being an official Cabbage Patch Kids Doll…look for the signature birthmark on each baby’s bottom.”
As for collectors, Cabbage Patch Kids may hold great sentimental value but not much collectible cache. Through the years, more than 130 million Cabbage Patch Kids were “born.” Celebrities from Ellen DeGeneres and Al Roker had a Cabbage Patch Kid look-alike made especially for them. They were everywhere.
While it’s true that certain dolls, such as some “Baldies,” “Red Fuzzies” (rare red yarn-like fuzzy hair) and some of the other very early Coleco dolls bring over $100, and even some pre-Cabbage Patch Xavier Roberts dolls can bring over $1,000, most dolls sell for $10 to $30 and have not changed much from the original retail price.
For more ’80s fun check out Totally Tubular ’80s Toys.