Naomi commented on our last vintage fashion post that she had bought a couple of Barbie Fashion Gift Sets to start us off when we first started buying Barbies. At that time we bought a lot of our dolls from markets and second hand shops and they often came nude or in clothes we didn’t like so we needed to dress them.
I decided to do a Google search for gift sets from the 1990s and when I did the name Arco Toys came up a lot. I learned that during most of the 1990s Mattel partnered with Arco Toys to release these low cost fashion gift sets, furniture, accessories and even a few dolls.
So who are Arco Toys?
Arco is an acronym for A. Rosenberg Company, a Hong Kong based production company started around 1967. Mattel acquired them in 1986 and they became a major subsidiary brand producing various dolls and toys including Polly Pocket, Other World and budget priced Barbie and Disney lines throughout the 1990s. Some of the Barbie playsets they made were office furniture, kitchen and living room furniture, beach, camping, hobby gear and much more. Here are a few outfits from one giftset that I recognised.
Here is an example of the sort of things they made. Sometimes the boxes are marked Arco and sometimes Mattel or just Barbie.
After learning this I suspected that we probably have quite a few Arco pieces amongst our fashion doll props as well as the clothes. Naturally, as we bought many of our props from eBay most of them did not have boxes when we got them. The pieces are often unmarked so I can’t say if they are definitely Arco or generic Made in China. This office set which belongs to Naomi used to sit in her toy room and I took this photo several years ago.
I decided to have a look at some of my own accessories which are still packed in boxes awaiting a permanent home. I used to have a boxed Barbie pool set which I bought in my early collecting days. I wasn’t sure if I still had it but as it turns out I did. Here it is. It is Barbie’s Spray & Play Pool from 1991 and it was made by Arco. I think that the previous owner had added a few items to the box but it is more or less complete.
I did find a few other items marked Arco. I think have the grill tray from the BBQ somewhere.By the way our model today is Vicki who is wearing a retro swimsuit.
Some of these pieces of furniture were marked Mattel and are from 1997 or 1998 while others are unmarked. I see that even a few Fashion Fever items are listed as Arco products so they were probably still making them as late as the early 2000s.
Between us Naomi and I have a lot of doll furniture although not all of it is Arco/Mattel. We also have lots of appliances, food, dishes and assorted odds and ends and we’ll try to do a post about these another day.
Here is a link to my Pinterest Board for Arco and Budget Mattel Fashions.