In November 1983, America went bonkers for Cabbage Patch Kids.
Cabbage Patch Kids were the toy industry's biggest fad of the 1980s and one of America's longest-running doll franchises.
Imagine the insanity of Black Friday combined with the frenzy of the first iPhone launch, and you have the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, or "Doll Mania." In November 1983, almost 40-years-ago, we saw riots as parents tried to get their children one of these elusive dolls.
News reports claimed that they were "the best selling, scarcest dolls of all time" causing department store pandemonium as grown adults scrambled and fought for the hand-stitched fabric sculpture dolls. At a Zayre department store in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a riot broke out, with a store manager grabbing a baseball bat to protect himself. "This is my life that's in danger," William Shigo was quoted as saying in the New York Times.
The dolls, designed by Xavier Roberts, were "born" in a cabbage patch, according to the backstory, and buyers would "adopt" them, an act certified with an official-looking document that came with the toy.
Xavier Roberts was a 21-year-old art student when his initial design of "Dexter" won first place at the Osceola Art show.
Check out creepy little Dexter - the doll that started it all!
Roberts developed the marketing concept of adoptable Little People with birth certificates and realizes after the success with "Dexter" that people would easily pay a $40.00 "adoption fee" for one of his hand signed Little People Originals.
Authentic Little People Pals from the early 80's were hand-signed by Roberts and had differently shaped facial features compared to the later, more popular Cabbage Patch Kids.
In the early 80's these dolls sold for about $40 USD. Today, collectors are asking a lot more per doll. The doll below is listed for $899.00 USD on Ebay.
After the success of the weird-looking Little People Pals, Roberts and five of his friends incorporate their business - Original Appalachian Artworks Inc and open "BabyLand General Hospital" to the public. This would be where the Cabbage Patch Kids "wait" for their forever homes.
Much like the iPhone of today, reports emerged in 1981 that many people were "re-adopting" the dolls for as much as 100 times their initial adoption fee.
You can still buy them today - if you want to spend about $100 USD on one. This blue eyed doll could be yours for $112.
By 1982, the demand for these dolls was so high, that Original Appalachian Artworks Inc signed a long term licensing agreement with Coleco to manufacture a smaller version of the doll with a vinyl head and "adoption fees" under $30 USD.
Near the end of 1983, Newsweek announces that 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids toys had been "adopted," but the people wanted more.
According to Timeline , in 1983 a Wisconsin radio announcer joked that a B-29 bomber would drop 2,000 Cabbage Patch Kids into Milwaukee County Stadium. People should bring catcher’s mitts, and whoever grabbed a doll needed to hold up their credit card to be photographed.
At least a dozen people actually showed up.
"The store manager, William Shigo, armed himself with a baseball bat. ''This is my life that's in danger,'' he said from behind a protective counter."
By the end of the decade, about 65 million Cabbage Patch Kids toys had been adopted making the brand among the top 10 best selling of the year.
Even though our parents KNEW that this was a ridiculous craze, that didn't stop them from doing everything they could to buy us one for Christmas. One father even flew to ENGLAND to buy his daughter these dolls.