As a child who preferred playing outside with sticks and leaves, only a handful of dolls ever really captured my attention. In fact, I only recall true fondness for four dolls: Baby Tenderlove, Raggedy Ann, Darci cover girl, and my Cabbage Patch Kid—Kendall Walter Winner.
In 1983, at the age of 13, I wasn’t interested in Kendall as “just a doll,” I was more fascinated by the fact that he was “one-of-a-kind.” At the time I didn’t understand the mathematical algorithms and computational complexities Coleco Industries, Inc. used to generate these playthings, but I did recognize that they were in extremely high demand and relatively low supply. By the Christmas 1983 shopping season, Cabbage Patch Kids were the “must have” toy of the year, and shoppers would line up for hours just to purchase one. Mobs and brawls were reported throughout the United States as the dolls’ scarcity magnified. Ultimately, this commercial phenomenon resulted from the amalgamation of three major factors: a brand new toy concept, a manufacturer’s (Coleco Industries Inc.) underestimation of raw materials needed, and a saturated marketing campaign.
Although Coleco officially debuted Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983, the dolls actually originated in 1976 in Cleveland, Georgia, from the work of 21-year-old folk artist, Xavier Roberts. Originally designed as handmade soft sculpture dolls with carefully painted eyes and hand-stitched mouths, these creations contained no plastic parts. Once Roberts recognized the marketing potential of his individual creations, he named them “The Little People” (not to be confused with the Fisher-Price figures). Roberts let interested buyers know that these dolls were not for “sale” but instead were up for “adoption,” providing birth certificates and adoption papers for the new adoptive “parent” to sign. During production, each doll received a unique name, taken from the 1938 Georgia birth records, so that no two dolls had the same name or look.