Market Find: MaBa Barbie

Naomi and I had not visited the Penguin Market for a while so as we had some fine weather last weekend we decided to go. Naturally I looked for dolls even though the place is bursting at the seams with them. We did see quite a few that prior to “The 180” I would have bought to fix up. I did buy one tall Fashionista but I’ll talk about her another day.

At one stall I noticed a different doll amongst the Barbie’s. I thought she might be Takara Jenny or a Jenny friend. When I looked at her doll mark it said “Mattel Inc 1986” above her waist and “Japan” on her lower back. I knew that Takara had made Barbie dolls for the Japanese market for a while so I thought that this doll might be one of those. She was only $5 so I bought her even though I could see she’d had a serious haircut. The stall holder tried to tell me that she was meant to be like that but you only had to look at the way her plugs had been cut to see that wasn’t true. Perhaps she thought I was going to say she wasn’t worth five dollars. She was actually the most interesting doll there.

Anyway, when I got her home, I gave her a light clean and redressed her. I didn’t take any before pictures, sorry, but I didn’t really have to do much. She was just a bit grubby and I didn’t like the dress she was wearing.

Here she is.

The outfit I chose came from the box of clothes and accessories. I think that it might be Fashion Fever but haven’t had a chance to check yet. Her shoes were a little bit more of a problem because her feet are different from Barbie. I didn’t take a picture but you can see in one of the links at the end of this post. These older style boots fit her quite well although I don’t think her toes are actually all the way into the boot. I thought the style of this outfit went well with the youthful look of the doll.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the history of Barbie in Japan. I’m certainly not an expert on the subject but for anyone who’s never seen one of these dolls before I’ll give a quick rundown.

Japan was where Mattel first set up production of Barbie dolls, back in the late fifties and early sixties Japan was like China is now, a place where goods could be produced more cheaply. As well as producing dolls for the US and international market Mattel did produce a few special dolls for Japan with different facial screenings and fashions. These dolls are very sought after by collectors today. However, Barbie was not really popular in Japan. Many parents felt that she was too sophisticated and sexy for their children to play with, much the same way that British parents felt at that time. That is why Pedigree chose to base Sindy on Ideal’s girl next door look as portrayed by Tammy rather than going with Mattel. The Japanese fashion doll Licca by Takara was far more popular than Barbie in Japan.

In 1982 Mattel partnered with Takara to produce a doll that was more in tune with Japanese tastes. She was still Barbie but she was smaller and more childlike in appearance and had the large anime style eyes.

I thought that my doll might be one of these, but wait, she was marked 1986.

It was around that time that Takara and Mattel parted company. Takara had recently entered into an arrangement with Hasbro to market some other types of toys and Mattel supposedly thought that Takara might be leaking secrets to them.

Takara rebranded Barbie as Jenny and Ken as Jeff and continued to produce the dolls. Mattel began a partnership with another Japanese toymaker Bandai and made their own doll which it has to be said looked an awful lot like Jenny. This partnership lasted from 1986-1989.

After a lot of reading and looking at photos I think that this doll is one of the Mattel Bandai collaborations. They are known as Ma Ba Barbie’s. It is always hard to ID a doll properly when you don’t have the original outfit or packaging, especially when the hair has been cut like this one. However, the eyes seem to match the photos of MaBa Barbie I’ve seen. They did change them slightly after the first issue to make them a bit easier to distinguish from Jenny.

As always, I’d be delighted if anyone can provide a few more details or a better ID. As I said I’m no expert. Anyway I think she is rather cute in her new outfit and a good buy for $5.

Further Reading:



  1. These Japanese dolls have appealing, innocent looking faces. The outfit you chose for your new doll is perfect. I know very little about these dolls so thank you for all the links.

    Liked by 1 person

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