JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Toni LoPresti was 4 years old, a new doll hit the New York Toy Fair. Her name was Barbie, and she was a 12-inch-tall teenage fashion model wearing a black and white bathing suit, open-toed shoes, gold hoop earrings and shades.
"She was the doll to have when I was growing up," said LoPresti, an employee of Joplin Schools. "I love Barbie dolls. I've loved them from the time I was a little girl. As I got older, I continued to love Barbie. I didn't play with her, but I loved seeing her and seeing how much she changed."
LoPresti has now been collecting in the Mattel-manufactured Barbie world for about 35 years, and she estimates she has close to 800 dolls, most of which are still in the original packaging. These include individual dolls; dolls that are part of a series, such as Beach Sensation Barbie or Hollywood Hair Barbie; reproduction dolls, which are identical to the brand's original dolls; special edition dolls, such as those made of porcelain; and specialty dolls, such as "Star Trek" Barbie and Harley Davidson Barbie.
"And that's just counting Barbie," she said, adding that she also collects non-Mattel Barbie dolls, such as those put out by companies like Avon and Hallmark, and other Mattel dolls, such as the full line of "I Love Lucy" dolls.
She also collects Barbie gear, accessories and merchandise, including dishes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cologne, coloring books and clothes.
On the hunt
LoPresti said she's always on the lookout for a Barbie to add to her collection. Just recently, she went out with a CD on her holiday shopping list and instead headed straight for the store's Barbie aisle.
"Anytime I go to a store, I always look at Barbie dolls. I always look to see what's on the shelves," she said. "I hunt for them. And I am aggressive, depending on what I'm looking for."
Despite her large collection, LoPresti has her favorites. She particularly likes her "Gone With the Wind" series of dolls, which features Barbie in several outfits as Scarlett O'Hara and Ken as Rhett Butler. Also among her favorites is Masquerade Ball Barbie, which wears a black gown designed by Bob Mackie, a black feathered hat and a black mask.
LoPresti said Barbie is sold in the handful of foreign countries she has visited, and a doll that she bought in France is the international contribution to her collection. The doll's name is still Barbie, although the rest of the packaging is in French, she said.
LoPresti also still has her original Barbie dolls, the ones she and her sister used to play with when they were younger. She said the dolls would travel with them when they visited out-of-town family. And in the days before Barbie had her own official house, vehicle and other property, LoPresti and her sister would get creative -- building a swimming pool for their dolls using their mother's bowls filled with water, for example.