An avid doll collector, Koriander Bullard is not afraid of the dark side of the toy aisle.
The late 1960s through the mid-1970s was an interesting time in the doll aisle.
Wide-eyed shoppers in such department stores as Goldblatt's, Woolworth, Sears, Zayre, Venture, and Marshall Fields saw a bevy of alternatives to the then Mod Barbie dolls of the day.
Suddenly, fashion dolls didn't have to just be 11-1/2 inches of blonde, titian, and brunette. Now they could have varying sizes, bright colors, and even different bodies. What's more, many of these newer dolls seemed younger than Barbie, sometimes as young as Tutti or Skipper, representing who the girl playing with them is right now, rather than who she might be as an adult.
And yet, just as quickly as they debuted, they vanished from the toy aisle. But some of these groovy girls deserve a comeback.
5 Dolls From the 1960s and 1970s That Deserve a Comeback
- Flatsy/Flatsies Dolls
- Dawn Dolls
- Finger Ding Dolls
- Liddle Kiddle
1. Flatsy/Flatsies Dolls
"Flatsies Flatsies, they're flat, and that's that," sang a few commercial jingles from the Ideal Toy Company between 1969 and 1973, but there's more to these rubbery little girls than just their pancake bodies.
These tiny dolls were made of a soft vinyl with thick wires inside to allow them to slightly move their arms, legs, and necks. They came in a variety of styles, not just with brown, black, blonde, or red hair like other dolls, but with vivid and bright, nearly neon shades of green, pink, orange, lemon yellow, and blue, similar to many anime-based dolls in the decades since.
Each doll came pinned to a cardboard picture frame with flat accessories, so the playsets doubled as wall art, adding value to the toys.
Flatsies came in different sizes, including mini, medium, fashion and for a short while, there were baby "sister" Flatsies with "sister and me" and "mommy and me" type of playsets, usually matched with a regular Flatsy doll.
While the real Flatsy dolls haven't been made since 1973, bootleg dolls are still sold, albeit without the frames or accessories. A quick way to check if you have the real doll is to look for Ideal's 1969 Hong Kong copyright stamp on the back and to make sure the hair is only rooted to the top of the head and not all the way down the scalp.
2. Dawn Dolls
Initially manufactured between 1970 and 1973 by Topper, then again in 2000 by Checkerboard, and once more by Toy O Rama in 2014, Dawn dolls are still sought after by doll collectors for their novel size and trendy clothes.
Dawn dolls were 6 1/2-7 inches tall, much like the smaller 7 inch Bild Lilli dolls in Germany nearly 20 years earlier and like the small BanDai North America and Irwin Sailor Moon dolls between 1995 and 2000. The fashion dolls had holes in their feet so you could put them on special stands or on the pegs of the many Dawn doll stages and playsets—which were amazing on their own. It was possible to build an entire Dawn city with all of the accessories created.
Dawn was the owner of the Dawn Model Agency, so other dolls available were more like employees than friends, quite the change from Barbie.
Dawn had more than one boyfriend doll to choose from, rivaling Barbie's main boyfriend, Ken, and unlike other dolls, Dawn didn't focus on much of a family life, so there were no little siblings or babysitter sets. Even when there was a wedding set, it seemed Dawn and her companions were only modeling the clothes for a fashion shoot and not actually getting married.
These forward-thinking dolls were also more affordable than Barbie because they needed less plastic and fabric, so for a short while, Dawn almost overthrew Barbie as queen of the dolls. Mattel, in response, produced a mod line of Rockflowers dolls in 1971, which could use all of the same clothes and playsets as Dawn and came with a dancing set and record to play.
In years between new sets of Dawn dolls, knockoffs have taken their place. Palitoy had a line of dolls named Pippa, and in the mid-1990s, Jakks Pacific made their own Dawn clones for their multicultural Starr Model Agency doll line, and in homage to the original, they named one of Starr's fellow co-worker dolls Dawn.
3. Finger Ding Dolls
If you looked on the back of select Post Cereal boxes somewhere between 1969 and 1972, you might have stumbled upon an ad for a Finger Ding doll from Remco.
Betty Ballerina with lemon yellow hair, Millie Mod with neon pink hair, Sally Skater with electric blue hair, Adventure Boy with white hair and a spacecraft, or one of the members of The Monkees could be yours if the right ransom of boxtops, postage, and shipping was met.
Each tiny doll only came with half of a body. The other half was supplied by you when you slide your fingers into the stockings provided.
This way, the dolls could walk, run, dance, jump and kick without Remco having to build complicated joints.
4. Liddle Kiddle
Ranging in sizes from less than an inch to 4 inches tall, Liddle/Little Kiddles, Skediddle Kiddles, Kola and Kologne Kiddles, Perfume and Jewelry Kiddles, Lucky Locket Kiddles, Animiddles, Kozmic Kiddles, Storybook Sweetheart Kiddles, and Zoolery Kiddles found themselves all over playgrounds between 1969 and 1970.
Each boy and girl doll had a giant head and a tiny body and came in a huge array of hair colors and outfits. Some came inside tiny perfume bottles, wearable lockets, and watches, while some were sold in regular blister packages and in sets. Plenty of playsets followed, but within a year, Mattel discontinued the line due to rising costs in petroleum-based plastics.
Tyco released a short wave of them in 1994 and 1995, introducing the line's first African American Kiddle, then Uneeda released their own line called Liddle Toodles in 1996.
11 inches tall but with a giant head, Blythe dolls were stellar.
Each doll had a cord in the back of the head that would make the doll blink and then re-open her eyes with one of four eye colors. Because she was already 11 inches tall, the Blythe dolls could swap clothes with Barbie, making them an economical choice.
Kenner only released the dolls for one year in 1972, but they gained a cult following.
In 1997, a video producer and photographer named Gina Garan started taking pictures of her groovy doll, and in 2000 she produced a book of her best shots. She met with Junko Wong, who worked tirelessly to prove to Hasbro—the new owners of the doll's license - that Blythe still had star potential.
A year after the book This Is Blythe's huge success, Hasbro agreed to give Takara and CWC permission to make new Blythe dolls, which they have in three new sizes.
While Blythe is staying strong in Japan, America only got a tiny number of Blythe figurines with a Littlest Pet Shop reboot line of figures between 2010 and 2012 and a short line of mid-2000s re-issued Kenner dolls from Ashton-Drake Galleries. The Takara website, however, does have a spot for those in America.
© 2021 Koriander Bullard
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 17, 2021:
I just relived my childhood! I didn't have Flatsy or Blythe, but wanted both. But we had Dawn (loved that one), Finger Dings, and Liddle Kiddles and Lucky Lockets. I wish I would have kept them! I could've made some money on eBay. :) Thanks for the memories!