Cabbage Patch Kids
Synopsis of Toy
When your kids sit down to prepare their birthday or Christmas wish lists, please...give them some elbowroom and be patient. List making was a tricky business for us too, remember—for some of us, a painstaking art. Rule number one was to aim ridiculously high, because then, the real must-haves appeared reasonable. Rule two: pad the list with a few old standbys that would never disappoint (crayons, stickers, Hot Wheels). Also, throw in some easy ones for the grandparents, who might not have been quite the savvy shoppers they once were.
But sometimes we threw the rules right out the window. Sometimes, there was only one must-have item, and woe to the parents or grandparents or jolly bearded man from the North Pole who didn’t come through. For most little girls in the 1980’s, the absolute must-have was a Cabbage Patch Kid, and if Santa didn’t bring that girl her Cabbage Patch Kid, he might as well bring her a pair of some hardworking elf’s old tube socks. It was all or nothing, baby.
Cleveland, Georgia native Xavier Roberts was a twenty-one-year-old art school student just trying to pay his tuition fees when he first designed his “Little People” dolls in 1976. He brought traditional quilting skills and a German method of fabric sculpture together in his cloth creations, which he sold in arts-and-crafts shows. As they became more and more popular, Roberts opened his own doll company, which was housed in an old medical clinic re-christened “Babyland General.” And then, kicked off by an appearance on television show Real People in 1980, the handmade doll’s sales began to skyrocket.
Kids’ appetites were insatiable, stores couldn’t keep the things on their shelves, and to this day, many remember that fateful Christmas of 1983 as the Christmas of the Elusive Cabbage Patch Kid. Parents camped outside of malls and toy stores, and once inside, often worked themselves into consumer pandemonium. The fervor, by the way, helped inspire the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Jingle All the Way. By New Years 1984, over three million had been sold.
Toy company Coleco had partnered with Roberts and his Babyland General staff in 1982, and the company continued to mass produce Roberts’ dolls until 1989. The Coleco kids had facial features similar to Roberts’ original dolls, but their heads were vinyl, not cloth. Each Cabbage Patch Kid came with its own unique name and birthday, adoption papers, a birth certificate, and a Xavier Roberts signature on the doll’s bum (a different color each year—the signature, that is, not the doll’s bum). Each Kid, it was promised, was one of a kind, except when twins were born at Babyland General. In a condensed (though very elaborate) version of a real adoption proceeding, the new “parent” would fill out the appropriate papers and send in a reply card so that on the doll’s first birthday, a cheery card for the Cabbage Patch Kid would arrive in the mail. There was an instruction pamphlet included, which advised owners on how to wash the new baby’s clothes, and to hug their new doll at least once a day.
So it’s been a veritable love-fest in the cabbage patch, except for the inadvertently dangerous Snacktime Kid, who hit the shelves in 1995 and featured a moving mouth that simulated chewing. Unfortunatley, the Snacktimers weren’t very discriminating about what they chewed, and were known sometimes to chomp into their owners’ long hair. Ouch.
Non-chewing Cabbage Patch Kids are still popular today, and thankfully, all those toy store riots have proven to be 80’s specific. Of course, for all you list makers in-training out there, that just means that excuses for not procuring the dolls—excuses like trampling hordes of consumers and mall melees—should not be accepted.
Release History of Toy1976 - Little People
1983 - The Cabbage Patch Kid by Coleco