May 10, 2010

Played with Condition

I ran across this on eBay the other day: "Vintage 1962 Barbie Dream House: Played with Condition."

Played with condition? What does that even mean, and why does it warrant mention? It's not like, in 1962, someone would have said: "Hey you know what? I bet this fold-up, carry-along dollhouse made of die-cut fiberboard will one day be worth millions. Let's put it aside, count our chickens, and plan the retirement vacations we'll be able to take on the proceeds of its sale in oh, let's say 2000. Never mind that the year 2000 seems as far away as the as-yet-unwalked-upon moon and that Barbie herself is only three years old, I just have a feeling."

No, in 1962, every Barbie Dream House would have been played with. There's no way, I promise you, that there is a single Vintage 1962 Original Barbie Dream House Model No. 816 that is not in played-with condition. Doubly unlikely, were that possible, is the existence of one that is MIB (mint in box), which would have required the foresight of Carnack the Magnificent to divine "collectors' item" in the Barbie Dream House's unassembled state. Not to mention that there was no box, just flat sheets of cardboard held together by plastic bands, cardboard from which the furniture had to be punched out, like paper dolls.

So you can see how flimsy the whole thing must have appeared to the parents charged with assembly, particularly those whose own experiences with dollhouses involved wood or metal--much stronger materials, as any little pig would tell you. Can you imagine the havoc a Big Bad Wolf could wreak on a house made of cardboard? Think trailer park in a tornado. One huff and a couple of puffs could have blown the whole thing completely away and Barbie with it, until she woke up somewhere that wasn't Kansas.

I will say this: putting a vintage 1962 Barbie Dream House on a shelf or in an airtight closet would have preserved the handle of my own 1962 Barbie Dream House, and my whole life might have turned out differently. But that's another story.

Have I mention that I bought a Barbie Dream House on eBay? Not the one referenced above. That one, it turns out, was merely part of a dream house, the back wall and a bit of one side wall. I'm not sure that can legitimately be called played-with condition. Decimated by a hurricane condition, maybe, or shouldn't-be-trying-to-sell-it-to-someone-else condition, but played with?

To be fair, the seller was very clear, in the description section, about just what was on offer: "Vanity table with mirror still attached! 'Wood' cabinet! You have the closet with the clothes hanging rod still there! Includes the back portion of the house only... #816 from Mattel! circa 1962! Fairly big & bulky item! Shipped assembled! Insurance required! 13.5" tall x 26" long and 8" wide all chipboard (hard cardboard) structure!"

Still, it took me two reads and more minutes than I care to reveal puzzling over the mathematics of the dimensions to accept that, yes, someone was trying to sell a partial Barbie Dream House. Which begs the question: Who would buy something like that?

Not me. The Barbie Dream House I bought (at the age of 40, was gently used) and I bought it neither to play with nor collect; I wanted to write about it. Except...I couldn't quite remember what it looked like. Lucky for me, pictures abound on eBay, and I found several that confirmed that the outer walls (the carrying case) were indeed a shade of blue-green, and cleared up my confusion over whether the floor was orange or yellow. (White, actually, with a yellow throw rug on the right side of the room and an orange area rug on the left.)

Know what else abounds on eBay? People who want to sell you stuff like gently-used 1962 Vintage Barbie Dream Houses with all the furniture intact except for one set of books for $7.95.

$7.95? Well, I couldn't pass that up, could I?

I could not, and entered into my first online auction. Told myself I'd go no higher than, say, $15. Because, really, what would I ever do with a Barbie Dream House?

Well...maybe I could go to $20. I mean, with S/H, it's still less than $30, right?

Okay, $40. But that's it.

I ended up paying $85 for a toy--used--that I had once spurned. At least the handle was still intact.