Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ken, Celebrating 50 and 30 Years!

Flocked hair Ken 1961

In 1962 (market-entry date) my mother added blonde, flocked hair Ken to my non-Black Barbie and friends doll collection. This was Mattel's first Ken, copyright/box date 1961,which is the reason 50th anniversary/birthday celebrations are being held by collectors and Mattel for Ken.

My #1 Ken arrived wearing red swim trunks.  I still have those trunks.  I do not recall if I received the outfit Ken wears now at the same time I received the doll.  Knowing my mother, she purchased at least one Fashion Pak at the time the doll was purchased.  I can visualize myself tossing Ken's red trunks aside and storing them in my light blue double Barbie trunk in exchange for the fashion he wears now or one of his others.  I vaguely remember a tennis outfit.  As a child, Ken offered me little interest except for the periodic physical examinations I conducted on his non-working parts.  I was curious. 

After reading Jorge Ramiro's blog about Ken's 50th birthday, I wondered when the first Black Ken was introduced into the Barbie and friends family.  Christie's boyfriend, Brad was introduced in 1969; Cara's boyfriend Curtis, was introduced in 1974, and there have been other dark-skinned male friends in the Barbie line since then.  Steven (the name given Christie's boyfriend in the 1980s) and Jamal (originally Shani's boyfriend) are two of the others.  But I wanted to know when-the-first-Black-doll-was-given-the name, Ken.

I found my answer in The Ultimate Barbie Doll Book by Marcie Melillo, (Krause Publications, November 1996).  In my opinion, this is the most comprehensive reference for Barbie dolls made from 1959 through 1995.  I would love for the author to write a followup. 

Sunsational Malibu Ken, also known as "Afro" Ken because of his curly Afro

According to the section in Melillo's book devoted to "Ken Dolls and Other Like-Sized Friends Regular Issue 1961-1995," the first African American (AA) Ken was introduced in 1981 (box date) with a market date of 1982. 

While the original 1961 Ken, like the one from my childhood, celebrates his 50th birthday, Sunsational Malibu Ken, a.k.a. "Afro Ken" celebrates his
30th.  Will there be a reproduction "Afro" Ken to commemorate three decades of Black Ken?  Oh but wait... there has already been a 40th Anniversary AA Ken.  So I suppose there will not be any fanfare for the first Black Ken's true anniversary.  Oh well...
Happy birthday anyway, Ken and Ken.  


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