From wall to wall, she’s all dolled up

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Tucumcari’s Jean McCluer said it started innocently enough – the first Barbie doll that entered her house was a toy for her 7-year-old daughter. It was the original Barbie back in 1959, complete with blond ponytail, striped one-piece swimsuit and legs that didn’t bend.

McCluer still has that original Barbie doll – along with more than 1,000 other Barbies in her South Second Street home.
The collection is so big, in fact, it merits its very own built-in shelves and stands, handmade by her husband, in its very own room.

“Well, my great-grandson uses the room when he comes to visit,” McCluer said, adding all other times the room belongs to Barbie. And Ken. And Skipper and Midge and Alan. Or her collection of Barbie heads, one of which that talks. And one cannot forget the black Barbies, the Malibu Barbies, the Star Trek, life-size or punked-out Barbies. She even has a pregnant Barbie with a removable “bump” out of which kids can extract a tiny baby Barbie.

”I thought it was pretty neat,” McCluer said of the expectant mommy Barbie. But then again, McCluer said she thinks all the dolls, which she began collecting about 10 years ago at the suggestion of one of her sisters, are pretty neat.

“My favorites are probably the older ones,” McCluer said, “the vintage ones that are hard to find. And I am really proud of the black ones. And I really like the brunettes.”

In addition to the Barbie that her daughter first adored and those received as gifts, McCluer said she finds most of the dolls at garage sales. When they come damaged or missing parts,
McCluer said she and her husband have a whole box of spare arms, legs and heads so they can fix them up. Although Mattel said the original Barbie has sold from up to $10,000, McCluer said she’s paid as little as a dime.

“The little girl was asking 10 cents,” McCluer said of one of the dolls decked in a dark frock. “But of course I gave her more.”

When asked if she herself shared the joy of playing with dolls as a child, McCluer was quick to respond.

“I’m 75 years old,” she said. “I don’t really remember playing with anything as a kid.”

McCluer said she hails from a whole family of collectors. Her husband of 57 years avidly gathered stamps while her two sisters, her brother and her niece shared her penchant for dolls. Some of the Barbies in McCluer’s collection were inherited from her brother when he passed away.

In addition to the row upon literal row of Barbie dolls, McCluer said she enjoys collecting arrowheads and rocks outdoors with her family.

When asked what makes collecting so intriguing, McCluer said, “I don’t know. It’s good therapy; it’s fun.”

Although she holds her vast collection of Barbies dear to her heart, when McCluer heard how much people are willing to pay for some of the dolls, she excitedly inquired, “Which one?! I’d sell them all in a second and start all over again.”

Fast Barbie facts

The Barbie doll was invented in 1959 by Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel), whose own daughter was called Barbara.

The original doll sold for $3 in 1959.

An original 1959 Barbie doll in mint condition has sold for up to $10,000.

Barbie has had more than 80 careers — everything from a rock star to a paleontologist to a presidential candidate.

The military series of Barbie dolls, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps went through approvals by the Pentagon to ensure the most realistic costumes.

Barbie has represented 45 different nationalities.

The first black and Hispanic Barbie dolls were introduced in 1980.

In 1997, Share a Smile Becky was the first Mattel, Inc., fashion doll introduced with a wheelchair.

Barbie has had over 43 pets including 21 dogs, 12 horses, 3 ponies, 6 cats, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a panda, a lion cub, a giraffe and a zebra.

Barbie has had more than a billion pair of shoes and over one hundred new additions to her wardrobe annually.

The first celebrity to join the Barbie doll family was fashion model Twiggy in 1967 and the M. C. Hammer doll, complete with a cassette of his songs, was added in 1991.

Barbie doll’s boyfriend, Ken, made his debut in 1961. He is named after Handler’s son.

Barbie and Ken broke up in early 2004.

Placed head to toe, Barbie dolls and family members sold since 1959 would circle the earth more than seven times.

Every second, three Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world.

Source: Mattel, Inc.,
More fun Barbie facts listed on by doll collector Denise Van Patten

Collect call:

Anyone who knows of an intriguing Quay County collector or collection can contact QCS Managing Editor Ryn Gargulinski at 461-1952 or