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Cabbage Patch Kids is a line of dolls which became one of the most successful toy craze of the 1980’s. Originally called “Little People” and only sold at local craft show by creator Xavier Roberts an American Art Student in 1978.
The name change to Cabbage Patch Kids was instigated by Roger Schlaifer before he secured the worldwide licensing rights to “Little People”, this formed the basis of the story co-authored in 1982 by Roger and his wife, Susanne Nance Schlaifer. An abbreviated version of the story was reproduced on every Cabbage Patch Kids product from 1983 onward.
Parker Brothers published the original story retitled “Xavier’s Fantastic Discovery” in 1984 and their Parker Records produced a Gold Album using the characters. The characters appeared in many other Cabbage Patch merchandising products ranging from animated cartoons to board games.
The dolls attracted the attention of toy manufacturer Coleco, who began mass-production in 1982. The Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids had large, round vinyl heads, (originally of a different, hard plastic), and soft fabric bodies, and were produced from 1982 to 1989, many at a factory in Amsterdam, New York.
At the peak of their popularity the dolls were a must-have toy for Christmas. Parents across the United States flocked to stores to try to obtain one of the Cabbage Patch Kids for their children, with fights occasionally erupting between parents over the hard-to-find dolls. In later years, Coleco introduced variants on the original Cabbage Patch Kids.
Hasbro took over the rights to produce Cabbage Patch dolls in 1988 as Coleco went bankrupt, and continued to make the dolls with various gimmicks, including dolls that played kazoos. Some of the more popular doll lines to come out under the Cabbage Patch Kids name included the “Birthday Kids”, “Splash ‘n’ Tan Kids”, and “Pretty Crimp and Curl”.
Hasbro gradually began making the dolls for younger children, which led to smaller and smaller dolls. In 1994, Mattel purchased the rights to the dolls.
In 1995, Mattel took over the Cabbage Patch brand, including production. The Mattel Cabbage Patch dolls are not limited to cloth bodies and included dolls made from vinyl, which produced a more durable play doll. The Mattel dolls are mostly sized 14″ or smaller, and most variants were individualized with a gimmick to enhance their collectibility, e.g. some dolls played on water-toys, swam, ate food, or brushed their teeth.
Some memorable Mattel lines include the updated Kids line of basic cloth dolls that came with birth certificates, the OlympiKids that were made to coincide with the 1996 Olympics, and the Cabbage Patch Fairies. Additionally, to celebrate the dolls’ 15th anniversary, Mattel created a line of exclusively female dolls, dressed in period outfits and packaged in collectible boxes. These were the first Mattel dolls to be 16 inches tall, the same measurement of the original Cabbage Patch Kids.
In 2001, retailer Toys “R” Us took over the Cabbage Patch brand from Mattel, producing 20-inch Kids and 18-inch babies, both with cloth bodies and vinyl heads. They were packaged in cardboard cabbage leaf seats. In 2001, the 20-inch dolls debuted in the Times Square flagship store. These were created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the line, and were available both online and in stores around the US.
The Toys “R” Us line lasted until Play Along toys obtained exclusive licensing rights to produce the Cabbage Patch Kids doll line. In 2003, Play Along started a partnership with QVC to launch each new line with a special QVC limited edition keepsake edition doll, which was only available from QVC.