Cabbage Patch Kids are a brand of doll created by Debbie Morehead and Xavier Roberts. First introduced as "Little People", the original dolls were all cloth and were available at local craft shows, and later at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia.
The dolls attracted the attention of toy manufacturer Coleco, who began mass producing them for the public in 1983. The Coleco Cabbage Patch Kids had large, round vinyl heads and soft fabric bodies, and were produced from 1983-1989. After Coleco went bankrupt, the Cabbage Patch Kids were later mass produced by other companies, including Hasbro, Mattel, Toys R Us, and currently Play Along.
The gimmicks of the dolls are their uniqueness and the fact that they were adoptable. No two were exactly alike; each doll had a different eye color, facial features, hair, and/or outfit. In the mass-produced dolls, subtle differences were introduced with a computer for each run. Each comes with a unique birth certificate signed by their creator, Xavier Roberts.
At the peak of their popularity, the dolls were a must-have toy for Christmas. Parents across the United States flocked to stores to try to obtain one of the Cabbage Patch Kids for their children, with fights occasionally erupting between parents over the hard-to-find dolls. In later years, Coleco introduced variants on the original Cabbage Patch Kids, and derivatives of the original line of dolls continued to be marketed.
Although the Cabbage Patch Kids fad has largely passed, there remain a significant number of die-hard collectors.
Babyland General Hospital is the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids located in Cleveland, GA. Roberts converted an old clinic into a facility from which to sell his dolls, originally called "Little People." The facility is presented as a birthing, nursery, and adoption center for premium Cabbage Patch Kids. Although the initial fad surrounding the dolls has largely died down, Babyland General is still heavily trafficked by diehard fans, tourists, and curiosity seekers.
Original Cabbage Patch Kids
In 1976, artist Xavier Roberts created needle-molded fabric sculptures called Little People. Changing the name to Cabbage Patch Kids in 1982, the Originals are still hand-stitched to birth and are available exclusively from Babyland and its website. Adoption Agents administer a special Oath of Adoption ceremony for adoptive parents. Adoption fees for Originals range from $170 to $375 plus tax.
Also birthed at the Times Square Toys "R" Us in New York City.
Toy Cabbage Patch Kids
Roberts' company signed its first licensing arrangement in 1982 granting Coleco the right to produce toy replicas of the Original Cabbage Patch Kids. The 16" vinyl-faced dolls have been produced by several different companies over the years both in North America and internationally. Most adoption fees range from $4.99 to $80. The toy version of the doll experienced the most popularity and is recognized as the height of the Cabbage Patch fad.
Porcelain Cabbage Patch Kids
Currently delivered by direct mail from the Danbury Mint, these dolls have a rigid fabric body with porcelain legs, arms, and head. Most Porcelains are offered from $54 to $125.
Talking Cabbage Patch Kids
A notable extension to the line was the "Talking Cabbage Patch Kid", equipped with a voice chip, touch sensors, and an infrared device for communicating with other such dolls. The touch sensors enabled the toy to detect when and how the toy was being played with in response to its vocalizations, e.g. the doll might say "hold my hand" and give an appropriate speech response when the touch sensor in the hand detected pressure. A more remarkable effect occurred when one doll detected the presence of another through its IR transmitter/receiver. The dolls were programmed to signal their "awareness" of each other with a short phrase, e.g. "I think there's someone else to play with here!", and then to initiate simple conversations between the dolls themselves with enough randomness to sound somewhat natural.
The product success was limited; some reasons offered at the time were the high price of the item ($100 or more); the need to have multiple dolls to take advantage of the full conversational effect; for some people the spookiness of having dolls converse with each other without human intervention; and the limited play value of a talking doll over its silent counterpart.
Controversies & Hoaxes
Another line of Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, the "Cabbage Patch Kids Snacktime Kids", was an incarnation designed to "eat" plastic snacks. The mechanism was a pair of one-way metal rollers behind a plastic slot and rubber lips. The dolls were withdrawn from the market after several incidents where children accidentally got their fingers or hair stuck in the doll's mouth. This set of circumstances created a brief meme that was exploited for its comedy value by, among other things, standup comics and the cartoon Pinky and the Brain.
Cabbage Patch Kids were later parodied with the typically grotesque Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. The parody led Xavier Roberts to sue Topps, the maker of Garbage Pail Kids, for trademark infringement. The parties eventually settled out of court, with Topps agreeing to redesign the cards so that the artwork would not resemble Cabbage Patch Kids so closely.
Cabbage Patch Kids urban legends include that owners sending back dolls to the manufacturer for repairs were issued with a death certificate, and that the dolls were designed to make the public used to the appearance of mutated children that may be born in the aftermath of a nuclear war.
1983 - Cabbage Patch Kids are introduced and quickly become the must-have toy and parents stand in lines for hours that holiday season.
1985 - Cabbage Patch Kids travel into space aboard a NASA Space Shuttle.
1992 - Cabbage Patch Kids are named the official mascot of the 1992 US Olympic team.
1999 - Popular vote selects the dolls as one of the 15 commemorative US postal stamps representing the 1980s.