September 8, 2008

Sprouting like little angels

by: CARY ASPINWALL World Scene Writer
9/7/2008 12:00 AM

Cabbage Patch Kids celebrating anniversary

It's hard to look at those chubby cheeks and yarn ringlets and think: "They're a quarter-century old."

Cabbage Patch Kids turn 25 this month, and those who remember Cabbage Patch-mania from the 1980s know just how hot a commodity these cherubic dolls once were.

While parents no longer resort to fighting in the aisles of Toys-R-Us for Cabbage Patch Kids, there have been more than 115 million "Kids" adopted since 1983. Central to the toys' mystique is that you do not buy Cabbage Patch Kids, you "adopt" them.

The brainchild of artist Xavier Roberts in the late 1970s, the original "Little People" dolls were based on American folk art and were needle-molded fabric sculptures decorated to be one of a kind. Adoption fees for the modern versions of the original-style dolls typically cost between $175 and $375 —but some vintage dolls sell for upwards of $25,000.

By 1983, "Little People" were rebranded as "Cabbage Patch Kids" and became popular enough to be mass-produced by a major toy manufacturer — with molded vinyl heads instead.

Not long after they landed on the shelves of major retailers and toy stores, the Christmas shopping season of 1983 cemented the dolls' place in pop culture when they became the "must-have" holiday toy. Fights broke out between moms and dads determined to snatch the last yarn-headed baby, store clerks were bribed, and enterprising parents bought extras to sell to other desperate parents for steep markups.

Those who remember the Cabbage Patch Scuffle of '83 fondly or have a storage box somewhere filled with Original Kids, Preemies or CornSilk Kids may be eyeing one of the 25th Anniversary limited-edition dolls (retailing for $40 on the company's Web site).

Some fans may be thinking about joining the party Tuesday in New York City's Times Square, which officially starts the dolls' 25th birthday celebration.

But die-hard collectors and aficionados know there's one can't-miss event: Sept. 20 at Babyland General Hospital (yeah, it's a real place), in Cleveland, Ga.

Babyland General (the "hospital" where Cabbage Patch Kids live until they are "adopted") will fete the dolls with a free party featuring rides, games, face painting, music, a treasure hunt, cupcakes, punch and prize drawings. Collectors take note: the grand prize will be a hand-stitched, soft sculpture baby, signed by creator Xavier Roberts (you may need to dust off your boxing gloves).

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