Christmas 1983...American consumer culture is yet again whipped into a frenzy...the nightly news shows disturbing footage of women whacking each other with purses...$30 dolls are being sold for $500 on the black market...children, in tears, refuse to have a merry Christmas unless Santa brings them their very own "Clifton Montgomery" or "Jocelyn Rana".
If, like me, you were a little girl in the early 80s, you probably had (or wanted) a Cabbage Patch Kid. These were ugly/cute dolls, about the size of a small baby, with fabric bodies and plastic chubby-cheeked faces. They had yarn hair, in various natural or unnatural colors, and various eye and skin tones. The really cool thing was that they each came with a unique name. At the height of their popularity, you couldn't even find them in stores--I remember the first one I got had to be back-ordered for several months.
My brother even had one, named, I believe, Hugo. By the time I outgrew them, I had four. Their names were:
Shannon Jeanne (brown hair, brown eyes)
Jeannette Lynn (red hair, blue eyes)
Esmeralda Audrey ("World Traveler" from Scotland)
Esmerelda Comfort ("Cornsilk Kid")
The first two came with different names, and I renamed them, but the two Esmer(a)eldas both came named that. Bizarre coincidence? Or divine intervention??
Either way, they all live in the attic now.
1976--Xavier Roberts, a 21-year-old art student, revives a 150-year-old German fabric sculpture process called needle molding.
1977--Roberts begins making needle-molded dolls with "adoption certificates". He calls them "Little People".
1978--A "Little Person" named Dexter wins the first place ribbon for sculpture at the Osceola Art Show in Kissimmee, Florida. Flushed with success, Xavier and friends renovate an old clinic in Cleveland, Georgia and open Babyland General Hospital.
1982--Roberts's company signs a licensing deal with Coleco and mass production begins on a line of "Little People" with vinyl heads instead of the original cloth. The name is changed to "Cabbage Patch Kids". In interviews, Roberts has said that he chose the name because his parents told him that he came from a cabbage patch. "Adoption fees" are about $30-$40.
1983--Full-blown Cabbage Patch mania hits. Over 3 million dolls are sold, excuse me, adopted, but demand still exceeds supply.
1987--The mania has started to die down, but in the preceding 4 years Coleco has sold 2.2 billion dollars worth of Cabbage Patch merchandise.
1992--Cabbage Patch Kids are chosen as an official mascot of the U.S. Olympic Team in Barcelona. Shockingly, this happens again in 1996.
2000--The United States Postal Service issues a commemorative stamp picturing a redheaded Cabbage Patch Kid.
2001--Toys "R" Us begins manufacturing a sort of revival Cabbabge Patch Kid, which is larger than the 1983 toys (similar to the size of the original Little People), and has more elaborate clothing, but still has the vinyl head. Toys 'R' Us also establishes satellite Babyland Hospitals in its stores. At the same time, the Cabbage Patch website begins selling handmade original-style dolls with fabric faces that sell for over $200 each.
2003--The Toys 'R' Us versions are selling well but have not as yet sparked another craze. Original handmade dolls from pre-1983 may sell for as much as $20,000.
Cabbage Patch Varietals
The Twins--The same as normal, but two! In one box! And they looked just alike! Obviously if you had the twins, your parents really truly loved you. (I didn't.)
The Preemie--Just like the regular ones, but smaller and with no hair. Supposedly they were born when an unexpected frost hit the Cabbage Patch.
The Cornsilk Kid
--These had brushable Barbie
-type plastic hair instead of the original yarn hair.
The World Traveler--Each one was dressed in the costume of a different country. One Christmas, all the kids in our family got one of them. Yes, we ruled.
The Cabbage Patch Legend
- Xavier Roberts discovered the special Cabbage Patch hidden behind a waterfall.
- There are things called bunnybees that sprinkle magic crystals on the cabbages--blue for boys, pink for girls.
- A stork named Colonel Casey takes care of the new babies.
- The evil Lavendar McDade and her henchman Cabbage Jack often try to kidnap the Cabbage Patch Kids, but the kids always band together to save the day.
- Every Kid has a unique name (which is why you often get ones with names like Uma Faleela or Quotidian Milsap). However you are welcome to change it to Amber Tiffany or whatever and they will send you a new adoption certificate with the new name on it, suitable for framing.
- Each Kid is also signed by Xavier Roberts on one butt cheek. You'll have to ask him why he chose that particular location.
Transcript of interview with Xavier Roberts on CNN Saturday Morning News, July 27, 2002.
Transcript of interview with 4Kids Entertainment Chairman & CEO Alfred Kahn on CNBC/Dow Jones Business Video, December 12, 2001.