As you should already know, the majority of my collection is vintage Barbie. I started off with a very modest collection, and these past few years I've been very successful in adding a variety of dolls. Usually I'm not too picky about which dolls I add to the collection. If I find a doll at a fair price I will get it. However there is a mental list of dolls that I would really like to add to the collection. Usually they are the expensive ones or the very rare ones, but sometimes I do luck out and are able to find one that's within my price range.
That's what this post is about.
One of those dolls is the Japanese Living Barbie. In the early 70's Mattel was still using Japan to make Barbie dolls, however the cost of doing business was getting too high for their profit margin so they started shopping around for new countries to make Barbie in. By the mid-70's, Japan stopped being used and they moved into Taiwan and Korea. I believe the early Malibu dolls are the last Japanese dolls to be sold. Typically all the Living Barbie dolls were produced in Taiwan, however Japan had their own Living Barbie that was made in Japan. A small number of them were sold in the USA as part of the Sears Action Accents Giftset. Living Barbie in Japan had a friend called Ellie who used the Living Barbie Body but the Sweet Sixteen head mold who unfortunately was never sold stateside.
How do you know if you have a Japanese Living Barbie? Well, there somewhat difficult and somewhat easy to identify. The easiest way is to just look at the markings. Dolls from Japan are marked on the back as Japan. They also have it molded onto the bottom of their feet (Taiwan dolls have blank feet). However, as I found when searching online for these dolls, very few sellers list the doll's markings in their ads. Unfortunately, the Japanese dolls are actually nearly identical to the Taiwan dolls looks wise. They are made from the same molds. However a helpful starting point is you're looking for a Living Barbie with red head. The Japanese dolls will only have red hair, that's the only hair color she was sold with. Taiwan dolls came with red hair too so it's not an automatic distinction, but if she's a blonde or a brunette then she cannot be the Japanese Living Barbie. I also read that her hair is slightly longer and darker than the Taiwan dolls but that's so subjective I would not really be able to use that as a clear sign she's the Japanese version.
The Japanese Living Barbie is one of the dolls that I have been wanting to add to the collection. I figured that since it did get a USA release I'd have a greater chance of finding one. I have done a few searches for this doll before hoping to find one that was just listed without markings that I could get for the price of a regular Living Barbie. I did find one about a year ago, but she was in such bad shape that I decided to pass on her and hold out for a better conditioned one. Usually I'd do a couple searches, and when I didn't find anything I would give up and move onto something else.
So the desire the find one came back and I was over on Ebay doing searching on a variety of terms hoping to find her. There were several different Titan Living Barbies and I found one that I thought could be the Japanese Living Barbie. She was a redhead and was wearing a TLC version of the swimsuit from the Sears gift set. Of course the doll's markings were not included in the auction. I sent the seller a question asking for the marking information, then I waited. And waited, and waited. Of course impatient me was chewing my fingernails to nubs waiting for a reply and hoping she wouldn't sell out from under me. After waiting a while (but not a super long time) I decided to act rashly and just get her. However, I was not willing to pay the seller's original price, so I made an offer. I think I offered 35 dollars. A few hours later the offer was accepted, and then the seller replied to my comment. However, it wasn't really an answer just a "I saw this after your offer, would you still like me to check?". I told them it would be fine, at that point I think my hands were tied. I had to get the doll either way. So I nervously waited for the doll to arrive. It didn't take very long since I had paid for priority. She arrived and I quickly opened the box, took off the TLC swimsuit, and read with a sinking heart "Taiwan" on the doll's backside. She was wearing the right swimsuit but was the wrong doll. Luckily (for me) she also had melting at the armholes which the seller had not disclosed (I don't think they knew about it) so I was able to return her despite their return policy. They did offer a partial refund but I (A) did not want them to think I was scamming them and (B) it wouldn't be worth their while to refund what I really thought she was worth so I would keep her. So back she went. That little experience cost me the return shipping, but I guess I should be grateful I didn't have to keep a doll I didn't want especially at that price.
While I was doing my original search for the Japanese Living Barbie on E-bay there was another one listed. This one was an auction for the doll. It also included several pieces from the gift set. Unlike the first doll this one was listed as the Sears Gift Set. It was originally listed as a Buy-It-Now of 100 dollars with an opening bid of 75 dollars. I thought about bidding on it, but 75 dollars was a lot and I was hopeful that the other doll would have been the right doll. Also, I'd be fine just buying the doll. As you know I rarely seek out vintage clothes. But as I said above that first doll didn't work out, so I was still Japanese Living Barbie-less. After I had returned that first doll and gotten my money back I was back to Ebay doing a vintage Barbie search when I stumbled upon the Living Barbie's auction again. This was actually a relisting since the first one had ended without any bidders. The seller had lowered the prices, the BiN was now 75 and the opening bid was 50. I waited a few days, and when I saw that nobody had bid on it, I was the opening bid (to get rid of that pesky buy it now option). It was a tense couple of days where I obsessed over the auction (but I did try my darndest to not get my hopes up), but I was the only bidder so I got her for 50 dollars plus shipping.
I was surprised that I was the only bidder. The doll was TLC, but not totally wrecked. The doll's head had fallen off (which is so common for Living and Live Action doll) so I'm wondering if that's what kept people away.
Anyway, she was mine so let's talk about her! Like I said the auction included the doll as well as several pieces from the gift set. So I'm going to break it down to each outfit section.
Up first we have her stock outfit. The Japanese dolls and the Sears dolls were sold wearing a pink
bodysuit with separate pink tights. On mine the bodysuit is missing, but I did get the tights. They are made from a deep almost rose pink jersey knit. They are mostly in decent shape. They do have popped stitching in the back of the legs, and of course the elastic is shot. I can easily repair the popped stitching, but the elastic is harder to repair. However, if it's under a bodysuit or a skirt, it will be covered. Wish I had the body suit though. I'd rather have that than the tights. Oh well, you get what you get.
Moving on from there, we have the skating outfit. This consists of a jumper, a hat, and skates. I
After that we have the Scuba set. This consists of the swimsuit, flippers, mask, and snorkel. Mine's missing
And finally (in terms of clothes) we have the Ballerina set. This one was just a tutu and ballet
And finally (In terms of everything) we have the doll herself. Much like the clothes, she is in played with condition. As you already know she was missing her head, this is a far too common problem with Living and Live Action Barbie dolls. The problem with the Living and Live Action dolls is that the bottoms of their neck knobs were too small for the neck hole openings so lots of times it will just slip out of the neck and fall into the head. Out of the three I own,
Sadly the head and neck were not the only problem with the doll. The seller had mentioned that the doll's left arm didn't pose, this was because it had broken off. It had happened when the doll was originally played with because there was a plastic coated wire jammed through the arm, put through the arm hole, then twisted inside the doll's body. I was not pleased about this not being disclosed so I contacted the seller about getting a partial refund. I wanted to keep the doll, but I was not happy having to buy a whole new doll to replace that arm. They offered me 10 dollars off, which I gladly took. A new arm was one of the parts I asked about when I asked that person about Tammy body. I did get a new one and replaced it. The new one is actually a bit bigger than the other one, but at least it moves. And if I find a better matching one, I can replace it again. I now know how to replace Living Barbie arms. It was a real nightmare getting that wire out though, I really thought I was going to break her to get it done. I don't know how they did it, but the wire was wrapped around a part on the inside of the doll's torso!
With those two things repaired, Living Barbie was back in one piece. (Although I did have to glue a crack that had developed in the side of her torso). She's in fair condition. Her hair is nice and uncut, but her eyelashes are a bit of a mess. Her makeup is good except for one lip rub, and her head only has a slight hint of yellowing. (Lots of the Japanese Living Barbie dolls have faces that go yellow.... or greenish). It's funny, they should be a better quality than the Taiwan dolls, but those dolls skin tones have held up really nicely compared to the Japanese dolls. Her body is in good shape, her arms bend and hold their positions at the elbows nicely. In fact the broken arm's elbow was in good shape too, just the upper part was broken. The original arm does have some minor "pin pricks" (cat bites), but nothing too extreme. Her torso is a little loose, but nothing too different from the majority of these played with dolls. Her legs have a little bit of wear too them, but again, nothing too bad. Overall she is a decent condition example of this doll. I didn't pay an outrageous sum for her, so I can live with all her issues. In time if I feel like I want a nicer condition one I could break down and pay more for less played with one. But that won't be for a long time, having this one will satisfy my need for wanting a second one for a long time..... hopefully.