Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori

Barbie and 50 Years of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

By Lori Verderame
Posted April 2014

The coming together of the Barbie doll with Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue unites two iconic American brands. Barbie’s appearance in Sports Illustrated celebrates the 50th anniversary edition of the famous and popular swimsuit issue. And, her appearance doesn’t hurt the toy marketplace either.

In the milestone issue, Barbie is shown wearing her iconic black/white swimsuit from circa 1959-60. The highly recognizable and stylish swimsuit carries a well-established secondary collectibles market value of $15 when purchased without the famous mid-century modern doll. Yes, people do collect vintage Barbie clothes, shoes, accessories (the portable storage closet, car, dream house, airplane, etc.).

Barbie is a legendary toy featured in the current ad campaign for SI called “The Doll that Started it All.” The ads in the popular sports magazine will take place in conjunction with sales of a limited edition Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Barbie doll that is only available online at

The meeting of these two American brands has caused quite a stir among those who say that Barbie and the SI Swimsuit Issue portray an unrealistic female body image to young girls. On the other hand, Barbie has been seen as a model promoting important women’s issues as she demonstrates the many career choices that today’s women have in contemporary society.

No matter which side of the debate you are on, this collaboration between Barbie and Sports Illustrated is attractive to many groups of active collectors. The SI Barbie set connects with collectors who are interested in collecting categories such as toys, advertising, famous companies, sports memorabilia, etc. Whenever two American brands unite like these have, the value of the related collectibles increase on the market. Why? If you can attract interest from many diverse collectors to your object, then there is greater return.

The SI limited edition Barbie.

So, if you are considering buying the 50th anniversary Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and keeping the magazine for posterity’s sake, go for it. What’s more, if you buy the special 50th anniversary issue on newsstands now, then you may want to splurge on the $19.99 limited edition Barbie doll selling at, too. Both items will be worth more as a group. Sports memorabilia is one of the most popular areas of the vintage and antiques market. Toys are another big collecting area so when the two came together with a milestone 50th anniversary, the collectors see opportunity.

Mattel has been extending the Barbie brand in many new ways lately in an effort to keep the doll current with a generation of tech-savvy American girls. Alas, the main reason for the advertising expenditure on Mattel’s part is simple. Barbie dolls did not sell as well during the holiday season of 2013 (down 13%). Media insiders say that the recent advertising positioning of Barbie coming together with Sports Illustrated highlights the many women who have started their careers as models and have made an impact as businesswomen, TV show hosts, and entrepreneurs as they matured. This current, smart advertising campaign created a new relationship between two companies that is not only causing a stir with sports enthusiasts, feminists, and media moguls, but with toy and sports collectors, too. 

Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery channel’s hit TV show, Auction Kings. Dr. Lori hosts antiques appraisal events worldwide. You can bring an antique for a FREE appraisal by Dr. Lori at her events. Visit,, Lori Verderame on Google+ or call (888) 431-1010. 



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