What A Doll!" Exclaimed the December 1983 edition of Newsweek
Magazine on the cover. "The Greatest Doll Fad Ever To Sweep The
Country" was the headline of the Washington Post. Most all of us
remember the parents fighting in the stores the Christmas they were
first mass-produced to get one of these special dolls for their
In 1978, a young artist in Cleveland, Georgia began the origins of
this unique doll.
Xavier Roberts began experimenting with soft sculpture, an old German
sewing technique. To create the soft sculpture he used stretchable
fabric softly stuffed. He took a needle and sculpted the faces and
bodies. He then painted the eyes. The heads were either bald or
covered with yarn hair. To make money off his creations of which no
two were exactly alike, Roberts went to many craft fairs and offered
them for adoption for the fee of $30 – 40 dollars. He was so
overwhelmed by the demand for the unique dolls that he bought an
empty medical clinic in downtown Cleveland and opened BabyLand
General Hospital. He staffed this hospital for the adoption of the
dolls with "Doctors and
Nurses". His grand opening was in July of that year. At the
the opening, the dolls were adopted by adults as collectable art, but
they were soon very popular with children also.
By 1982 Roberts could not keep up with the demand for the babies.
The Chicago Tribune called it," the polyester baby boom". At
time the fees ranged from $125.00 to 300.00.
Roberts needed help to produce the dolls and in August of that year,
Original Appalachian Artworks gave a license to Coleco Industries of
West Hartford, Connecticut to produce a doll affordable for the
masses. The name "Little People" was changed to "Cabbage Patch
Toy designer Judith Albert who had previously designed Betsy Wetsy,
Tiny Tears and Chrissie to make the dolls with a variety of facial
features, eye and hair color, hairstyles, and clothing to make each
doll unique devised a way.
Included with each doll was a birth certificate and adoption papers.
In July 1983 a sixteen-inch soft-bodied vinyl headed doll was
introduced. A press conference was called at the Manhattan Laboratory
Museum to make the introduction. Playthings Magazine said, "A
manufacturer has mass marketed a one –of-a-kind doll at a
The original Little People were never boxed, but now each mass-
produced Cabbage Patch Kid came sitting in a cellophane-windowed
green and yellow box with drawings of the kids sitting or standing on
cabbages. On the back of the box is a drawing of a young Xavier
Roberts finding the cabbage patch with the words, "The Legend Of
Cabbage Patch Kids".
"Many years ago a young boy named Xavier happened upon an
Cabbage Patch, where he found very special Little People who called
themselves Cabbage Patch Kids." To help fulfill the Cabbage
Kids dream of having families to share their love, Xavier set about
building a special place known as BabyLand General where kids
remained until each was chosen for adoption. "Won't you
Cabbage Patch Kid and fill a little heart with love."
A message from the Cabbage Patch Kid to the adoptive parent was on
the side of the box. It read: "Thank you for adopting me! If
take care of me, I'll always love you. I am one of a kind, there
no one else like me."
Inside the box glued to the liner was a pink and blue envelope.
Inside was a birth certificate and adoption papers. Each doll had an
individual name and birth date. An envelope was enclosed that could
be used to register the dolls adoption and in a short time the new
mama would receive an adoption certificate ready to be framed. Each
new mama was encouraged to take an oath of adoption promising to love
and care for their "child". Coleco would send a birthday
the new adopted child a year later.
In November the Los Angeles Times, reported that the Cabbage Patch
Kids, "have created stampedes among shoppers in the east and the
south, with hundreds waiting in line at the stores." The Wall
Journal summarized the events, "Cabbage Patch Fever: Buyers lose
heads over homely dolls…Coleco's product is a sellout;
in fights, sales clerks offered bribes." All over the country
newspapers were full of similar stories. People who normally were
sane camped overnight in the cold to obtain the prize of a Cabbage
Patch Kid. The people were paying two to five times the regular
price of 20 to 25 dollars. The December 12th issue of Newsweek had
six pages devoted to "The Cabbage Craze". The New York Times
them, "dolls that have seized the heart of a Nation". No
in history had been given such media attention or created such
The first dolls made by Coleco used four face molds. The number one
face is small, has no dimples and has a sad wistful look. The number
two mold had a mischievous smile and a long nose and dimples. Number
three has a button nose, sweet smile and one dimple in the left
cheek. The number four mold has an open mouth with a pacifier and a
dimple in each cheek. These four original issue molds most closely
resemble the faces of the soft sculpture originals hand sculpted by
Roberts have remained the most popular with collectors. Coleco used
these molds for six to eight years. These dolls called "regular
kids" were sixteen inches with Xavier Roberts signature stamped
the left buttocks. Clothing consisted of a disposable diaper, white
socks and vinyl shoes that were either t-strap or lace ups, a dress
with matching panties, a jogging suit, football sweat suit, bib
overalls, a romper, a snow suit, windbreaker and jeans,
The Cabbage Patch Kid craze continued throughout 1984, even thought
the price had doubled. 3.2 million dolls were sold in 1983 and
nearly 20 million in 1984. The demand was so great the Coleco could
not produce enough dolls to meet the demand.
Four other companies were licensed to meet the foreign market
demand. They were: Jesmar of Spain, Lili Ledy of Mexico, Tri-Ang
Pedigree of South Africa and Tsukuda of Japan. These companies used
the same four face molds and signature on the buttocks, but used yarn
colors and hair and eye combinations, costumes not used by Coleco to
make them collectable on their own. They were packaged in bilingual
New dolls were introduced in 1984 wearing new outfits. Thirteen-inch
preemies with baldheads or tufts of yarn hair, wearing long gowns or
romper sets. Koosas, fourteen-inch pets made their appearance in the
Cabbage patch. Also introduced this year was the five-inch dolls.
called Playmates. The wore clothing like the sixteen inch Kids.
In 1985 and 86 Coleco brought to the market specialty dolls with
special boxes. They were: 1986 – Baseball All Stars, Circus
Show ponies with dolls in Western outfits, Twins, World Travelers,
Astronauts, and babies smaller than the preemies with bean bag
bodies and the corn silk kids with hair that could be washed and
styled made of nylon.
The Cabbage Patch Kid craze began to slow by 1986. In 1987 Coleco
tried to revive the popularity by producing dolls that talked,
burped, hair that grew and all vinyl dolls. In July 1989 the largest
toy maker in the United States bought the financially troubled Coleco
Industries for eighty five million dollars. The transfer of the
license for the dolls was approved by Original Appalachian Artworks
to the Pawtucket, Rhode Island Company. Xavier Roberts announced
that Hasbro was going back to the basics, the love. A seven million
dollar advertising re-introduced to original marketing concept of
love, adoption, and warm feelings. The individuality of each doll
and new varities of hair, skin and eye combination were offered.
Also offered were dolls with gimmicks. Dolls that could blow kisses,
blow horns, posable dolls and kissing kids that puckered their
lips. The sixteen inch doll was removed from the market and was used
again only for Zora Mae The 10th Anniversary Kid in 1993.Hasbro began
to market the the very small child by issuing smaller one piece dolls
that were all vinyl and could be machine washed.
Cabbage Patch Kids ranked still as the number one selling name brand
doll and one of the four best selling dolls of all time, collectors
were very unhappy with the smaller dolls and the gimmicks. The news
of the purchase of the right to produce the dolls had been obtained
by Mattel Toys of El Segundo, California to begun producing the dolls
in 1995 was welcomed by collectors. Mattel by this time had become
the world's largest toy manufacturer. Mattel has been very
innovative in designing battery- operated dolls and in September 1998
created The Cabbage Patch Kid Website. Original Appalachian Artworks
Still retains ownership and creative control to the Cabbage Patch
Kids property. The Hand Sculpted original dolls are still offered
for adoption for fees ranging from$185.00 to 395.00.