Study Buddy (Explorer): Is your Barbie worth money? One Australian resident found Barbie clothes worth US$400 – YP

[1] It is a story that we have seen a thousand times on antique appraisal television programmes. Some forgotten object has been sitting in the house for years – but it ends up being extremely valuable.

[2] That is what happened to Lena Lai, who found a shopping bag while cleaning her garage. Inside the bag were mint-condition Barbie clothes from a limited-release collection that ran from 1995 to 2003.

[3] “I’ve always liked to play with dress-up dolls,” said Lai, who lives in Sydney, Australia. “When I was a girl in Hong Kong, I had many sets of paper dolls with colourful dresses. I also had a subscription to the comic Miss 13 Dots.”

[4] Lai’s love for Barbie began when she started buying the dolls for her sister in the 1980s. “Even when my sister grew out of her Barbie phase, I just kept buying them. The dolls and clothes were so pretty,” Lai recalled.

[5] She kept her collection of Barbie dolls and accessories until 1998, when she moved to a smaller flat. “When we moved, I had to throw a lot of my Barbie stuff away. It broke my heart when I had to do it. I stopped shopping for Barbie stuff after that,” Lai said.

[6] She discovered that her eight-box collection of Barbie clothes was worth about A$600 (HK$2,500). In the world of Barbie collectibles, Lai’s find is not the biggest – a 2022 Cosmopolitan article on the most expensive Barbie dolls revealed that a first-edition, mint-condition 1959 doll sold for US$27,450 (HK$215,187) in 2006.

[7] Age is a key element in how people decide the price of vintage toys. The older models of games and toys are often made with materials or parts that are no longer made. For the original 1959 Barbie line, they have holes on the bottoms of their feet.

[8] Another factor is whether they are still in the box they were sold in – boxed, mint-condition toys are typically worth much more than those that have been opened or show wear and tear. A toy’s value can also go up if it was part of a limited run. In 2010, a limited-edition Barbie was sold by auction house Christie’s in New York for US$302,500.

[9] In Lai’s collection of Barbie clothes, one set seems to get others’ attention – it has a light blue jumper and cropped trousers, a leopard print vest, hat, bag and a pair of black high heels.

[10] The set was designed by Claire Dickson-Smith, the head designer of the Australian label Third Millennium Clothing. In 2013, this label went into administration – a process to help companies when they cannot pay their debts. This makes Lai’s box set extra rare. “I really loved my Barbie collection, and these last boxes remind me of the time when I enjoyed shopping for them,” she said.
Source: South China Morning Post, July 28


1. Paragraph 1 describes …

A. a film programme.

B. a valuable object.

C. an old house.

D. a discarded item.

2. According to paragraph 2, the Barbie clothes that Lai found …

A. were in fair condition.

B. had some flaws.

C. were brand new.

D. were badly damaged.

3. Decide whether the following statements are True, False or the information is Not Given in paragraphs 2 to 5. Fill in ONE circle only for each statement. (4 marks)
(i) Lai only started collecting dolls in Australia.
(ii) The Lai sisters enjoyed collecting rare dolls.
(iii) Lai collected more than 100 Barbie dolls between the 1980s and 1998.
(iv) Lai stopped buying Barbie dolls and accessories after she moved to a smaller flat.

4. Find a phrase in paragraph 4 that means “stopped having an interest in something as one became older”.

5. What does “do it” in paragraph 5 refer to?

6. When was the Barbie doll mentioned in paragraph 6 produced?

A. 1959

B. 2006

C. 2022

D. information not given

7. Why are older toys more expensive, according to paragraph 7?

8. Based on paragraph 8, which of the following toys is likely to be worth the most money?

A. one that has been opened but is still in mint condition

B. one that is in good condition but is not in the box it was sold in

C. one that is slightly damaged and comes in its original packaging

D. one that is in mint condition and has not been removed from the box it was sold in

9. What is special about the set of Barbie clothes mentioned in paragraphs 9 and 10?

The price of vintage toys often goes up if they are still in the box they were sold in. Photo: Justin Wu


1. B
2. C
3. (i) F; (ii) NG; (iii) NG; (iv) T
4. grew out of
5. It refers to how Lai had to throw away her collection of Barbie dolls and accessories.
6. A
7. They are often made with materials or parts that are no longer made.
8. D
9. It was designed by Claire Dickson-Smith, the head designer of the Australian label Third Millennium Clothing, which went into administration in 2013.