Cabbage Patch Kids
are a doll brand created by Debbie Morehead and Xavier Roberts
in 1978. The original dolls were all cloth and sold at local craft shows, then later at Babyland General Hospital
in Cleveland, Georgia
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 1982–1989. After Coleco went bankrupt, the Cabbage Patch Kids were later mass produced by other companies, including Hasbro
, Toys R Us
, and currently Play Along
started producing them after cancelling production of My Child
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, and derivatives of the original line of dolls continued to be marketed.
Hasbro took over the rights to produce Cabbage Patch dolls in 1989, and Hasbro continued to make dolls with gimmicks, such as dolls that played kazoos. Some of the more popular doll lines to come out under the Cabbage Patch Kids name, were the "Birthday Kids", the "Splash 'n' Tan" Kids, and the "Pretty Crimp and Curl" Dolls. Hasbro gradually began making the dolls for younger children, leading to smaller and smaller dolls. Although Cabbage Patch dolls were still one of the best selling dolls, Hasbro never really revitalized the Cabbage Patch market. In 1994, Mattel purchased the rights to the dolls.
Mattel took over Cabbage Patch dolls from '94 to about 2003. However, the dolls are not limited to cloth bodies--they can be made of all-vinyl, being a more durable play doll. The dolls are generally 14" or smaller, and most of them had a "gimmick"--they play on water-toys, swim, eat, or brush their teeth. Most of the Mattel play Cabbage Patch dolls are available at online auction sites still. Some lines that were memorable were the updated 'Kids line, of basic cloth dolls with birth certificates, the OlympiKids for the 1996 Olympics and the line of Cabbage Patch Fairies. Mattel had the license to produce the line during the 15th anniversary of the Dolls mass-market debut. To celebrate, they created a line of exclusively female dolls, in reproduction outfits and boxes, these were the first Mattel dolls to be 16 inches tall, the same measurement of the original kids.
Retailer Toys "R" Us was next in line for the dolls, making 20-inch 'Kids and 18-inch babies, both with cloth bodies and vinyl heads. They were packaged in cardboard cabbage leaf seats. In 2003, the 20-inch 'Kids debuted in the Times Square location. These were to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the line, and were available online and in stores around the US. This line lasted until Play Along toys could get the licensing. Today, Play Along, a Jakks Company, now produces the traditional 16-inch 'Kids as well as Babies and newborns. In preparation for the 25th anniversary, the company paired up with Carvel Cakes to make a 25th Anniversary baby that licks an ice cream cone, as well as gearing up for a fall release of re-production 80's style kids.
Toy Cabbage Patch Kids
The original 1982 Cabbage Patch Kids license agreement with Coleco Industries was negotiated and signed by Schlaifer Nance & Company, the exclusive worldwide licensing agency for Roberts' company. SN&C was responsible for originating the name, graphics and Legend of the Cabbage Patch Kids — all created by SN&C president Roger Schlaifer and wife/partner, Susanne Nance Schlaifer. Following their signing of Coleco, Schlaifer Nance & Company signed over one hundred and fifty licenses for products ranging from the first children's diapers and low-sugar cereal to clothing, backyard pools and thousands of other children's products — generating over $2 billion in retail sales for 1984, alone. Total sales during the Schlaifers' tenure exceeded $4.5 billion. After SN&C sold its exclusive rights back to Roberts' company, rights to the dolls were acquired by Hasbro and a succession of other toy companies. While sales of the dolls and other licensed products declined precipitously after the sale, the dolls have become, as Schlaifer predicted in 1982, a mainstay of the toy industry, and one of the few long-running doll brands.
Porcelain Cabbage Patch Kids
Currently delivered by direct mail
from the Danbury Mint
, these dolls have a rigid fabric body with porcelain
legs, arms, and head.
Talking Cabbage Patch Kids
A notable extension to the line was the "Talking Cabbage Patch Kid", equipped with a voice chip, touch sensors, and an infrared device for communicating with other such dolls. The touch sensors enabled the toy to detect when and how the toy was being played with in response to its vocalizations, e.g. the doll might say "hold my hand" and give an appropriate speech response when the touch sensor in the hand detected pressure. A more remarkable effect occurred when one doll detected the presence of another through its IR transmitter/receiver. The dolls were programmed to signal their "awareness" of each other with a short phrase, e.g. "I think there's someone else to play with here!", and then to initiate simple conversations between the dolls themeselves
with enough randomness to sound somewhat natural.
The product success was limited; some reasons offered at the time were the high price of the item ($100 or more); the need to have multiple dolls to take advantage of the full conversational effect; for some people the spookiness of having dolls converse with each other without human intervention; and the limited play value of a talking doll over its silent counterpart.
Babyland General Hospital
Babyland General Hospital
is the soi-disant
birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids located in Cleveland, Georgia
. Roberts converted an old clinic into a facility from which to sell his dolls, originally called "Little People." The facility is presented as a birthing, nursery, and adoption center for premium Cabbage Patch Kids, in going with the theme, the people who work there dress and act as doctors and nurses caring for the dolls as if they are real children. Although the initial fad surrounding the dolls has largely died down, Babyland General is still heavily trafficked by diehard fans, tourists, and curiosity seekers.
Controversies and hoaxes
One line of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the Cabbage Patch Kids Snacktime Kids, was designed to "eat" plastic snacks. The mechanism enabling this was a pair of one-way metal rollers behind a plastic slot and rubber lips, and the plastic snacks would exit the doll's back into a backpack. The dolls didn't have an on-off switch and the mechanism was activated by putting the plastic snacks, or potentially other objects, between the lips and into the slot. The dolls were popular in Christmas 1996 and voluntarily withdrawn from the market by agreement between Mattel and the Consumer Product Safety Commission in January 1997 after several incidents where children got their fingers or hair stuck in the doll's mouth and safety warnings from Connecticut's consumer protection commissioner, Mark Shiffrin. This set of circumstances created a brief meme that was exploited for its comedy value by, among other things, standup comics and the cartoon Pinky and the Brain
Cabbage Patch Kids were later parodied with the typically grotesque Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. The parody led Xavier Roberts to sue Topps, the maker of Garbage Pail Kids, for trademark infringement. The parties eventually settled out of court, with Topps agreeing to redesign the cards so that the artwork would not resemble Cabbage Patch Kids so closely.
Among Cabbage Patch Kids urban legends are that owners sending dolls to the manufacturer for repairs are issued death certificates, and that the dolls were designed to desensitize the public to the appearance of mutated children born in the aftermath of a nuclear war.
- 1978 - First "Little People Originals" are delivered by Xavier Roberts, who incorporates Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc.
- 1981 - Coverage of the dolls' popularity in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and Atlanta Weekly.
- 1982 - Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. signed a long term licensing agreement with the licensing and creative development company, Schlaifer Nance & Company to create a new brand for their Little People, soft sculpture property. Schlaifer signed Coleco Industries to produce the dolls in August 1982.
- 1983 - Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced with great fanfare at the International Toy Fair in NYC. By October riots were occurring in stores around the country. The dolls made the cover of Newsweek before Christmas and stories of their success were heralded around the world.
- 1984 - Sales for Cabbage Patch Kidsbranded products--from toys to children's apparel, came close to the record setting $2,000,000 d mark. The CPK record produced by the Chapin Brothers for Parker Brothers' music, went Gold and Platinum.
- 1985 - Cabbage Patch Kids low-sugar cereal and real children's diapers were introduced. The Cabbage Patch Kids Christmas Special was number one in its time slot on ABC.
- 1986 - The first talking Cabbage Patch Kids
- 1988: OAA buys the licensing rights for Cabbage Patch Kids from Schlaifer Anance. Cabbage Patch doll licensee, Coleco Industries files for bankruptcy but dolls continue to be made, the contract going to Hasbro Industries and later to Mattel.
- 1992 - Cabbage Patch Kids are named the official mascot of the 1992 US Olympic team and each member of team is given their own doll to take to the games.
- 1999 - Popular vote selects the dolls as one of the 15 commemorative US postal stamps representing the 1980s.