World Barbies Unite

Nugget Mall exhibit to display 74 dolls from exotic locales

Posted: Friday, September 23, 2005

Being a Barbie is not an American blonde's privilege.

The Dolls of the World series of dolls that will be on display at the Nugget Mall this weekend showcases 74 Barbies from places including India, Mexico, China and even Alaska.

Yes - there's a Tlingit Barbie with her soft and straight black hair in a Chilkat robe with totem patterns.

A short introduction on the box of the Tlingit Barbie says that her people live in the Northwest Coast and Panhandle area of Southeast Alaska. The description even starts with a sentence in the Tlingit language: Yake'i ixw sateeni!, translated as, "It is good to see you!"

The Barbies belong to Mary Anderson, an architect and facility specialist for the Southeast Regional Resource Center. She has collected more than 200 Barbies since 1979.

Anderson said she started collecting ethnic Barbies when her two daughters were young.

"They wanted to play with Barbies but we didn't want them to have the standard, big-haired Barbie," said Anderson, 48. "We didn't want them to identify with them."

To make playing with Barbie a more educational experience, Anderson bought her daughters an Italian Barbie, an Eskimo Barbie and an Oriental Barbie.

When her daughters grew out of Barbies, she didn't. Anderson now checks eBay, talks to fellow collectors or buys directly from the manufacturer to increase her collection.

It isn't a cheap hobby.

Most of the Dolls of the World Barbies are only available on the secondary market because they are of limited editions.

A 2005 Barbie costs between $20 and $25. But a 2000 Princess of India Barbie in traditional pink sari and a golden headpiece is worth $200.

Anderson said she played with Barbies when she was a little girl.

"I would build a fashion stage, make furniture or build houses for them," Anderson said. "They were what made me become an architect."

Kathy Buell, marketing director of Nugget Mall, said she and Anderson think it is a good idea to have a Barbie display before the mall's collectible fair Oct. 1-2.

"The Barbies are definitely collectibles," Buell said.

She said she cannot wait for the display.

"I want to find out if they have an Irish Barbie with red hair," said Buell, a redhead of Irish descent.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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