Vintage Mattel toys & dolls

Mattel was founded in 1945 by Elliot and Ruth Handler. The youngest of ten children of Polish immigrants, Ruth was a secretary for Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles when she married Elliot Handler, an industrial engineer.

Handler started out designing light fixtures but soon began making furniture to sell out of his garage. The business attracted four partners and quickly rose to become a $2 million enterprise making giftware and costume jewelry. By 1945 Elliot Handler grew restless and wanted a new business approach to remain competitive in the fast-changing postwar world. Handler's plans led to a dispute with his partners and he sold his interest in the company at a loss. Meanwhile, also in 1945, Ruth hooked up with an old friend, Harold "Matt" Matson, and they started Mattel Creations, with Elliot designing products. The name Mattel was formed by combining Matson's last name with Handler's first name. Ill health soon forced Matson to sell out.

"You can tell it's Mattel, it's swell"

The Mattel company originally produced picture frames and dollhouse accessories from picture frame scraps. With the success of its dollhouse accessories, the company turned its attention to toys. In 1955, Mattel changed toy marketing forever, by acquiring the rights to produce the popular "Mickey Mouse Club" products. The cross-marketing promotion became common practise for future toy companies. In the same year Mattel released its successful patented toy cap gun called the burp gun. Mattel became publicly traded in 1960 and was the original sponsor of Matty's Funday Funnies from 1959 to 1962.

Throughout the 1960s, the company diversified its lineup by purchasing smaller toy companies that produced unrelated toy product lines. In 1966, Mattel purchased a small manufacturer of low-quality plastic lunchboxes. It began exploring ideas for using this company's processes to make new products out of formed plastic. An employee noted that Matchbox was producing a line of die-cast cars but that the cars' wheels didn't roll well. Mattel created a competing line of small toy cars using superior bearings that enabled the new cars to roll further. They paired this advantage with formed plastic technology from the acquired company that allowed Mattel to develop innovative chassis that excited their target market, boys. This resulted in the very successful Hot Wheels line.

In 1993, Mattel merged with the Fisher-Price toy company. In 1996, Mattel purchased Tyco Toys, which was the third largest toy manufacturer at the time.In 1999, the ill-advised purchase of a major software publisher, TLC, for $3.6 billion led to the ouster of CEO Jill Barad. In 2006, Mattel purchased Radica USA, an electronic toy manufacturer. Mattel serves as the parent company for American Girl (formerly Pleasant Company), Radica USA, and Fisher-Price. Currently, it is headquartered in El Segundo, California.

Timeline Mattel

More history on Mattel on Wikipedia.

Updated: 6 October 2020

Mattel value and price guide

What's your Mattel worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items.

Item Title Date Price
1 barbie ponytail doll original 1959 brunette cond 1 Barbie Ponytail Doll Original 1959 Brunette Cond 10/2021 £7430
barbie 1920 s gran via silkstone mfds madrid convention Barbie 1920 S Gran Via Silkstone Mfds Madrid Convention 10/2021 £3754
barbie 1920 s gran via silkstone mfds madrid convention Barbie 1920 S Gran Via Silkstone Mfds Madrid Convention 11/2021 £3754
motu eternia playset almost complete working condition Motu Eternia Playset Almost Complete Working Condition 09/2021 £3219
barbie mattel debutante ball ensemble francie 1958 Barbie Mattel Debutante Ball Ensemble Francie 1958 11/2021 £2628
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices12/2021£-.--

Mattel forum

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Comments (8)
Carolyn - September 25, 2021
I am looking to buy Mattel PJ Sparkles Yellow Rabbit. Do you have any suggestions how I can locate on for sale?
Difficult to find, but you could always try this page: Mattel Sparkles.
Sheila - July 8, 2020
I am in really big need of buying a Mattel 1989 PJ Sparkles Pink Bunny...It would really mean the world to a young lady.If you know of any place I can purchase one Thank You Sheila
Difficult to find... Best is to check this page now and then to see if one pop ups one day: Mattel PJ Sparkles.
Kim - April 8, 2015
iam trying tofind out about a doll I have the back of her says 1967 mattel incUS for PATS PEADS 957 if possible I wouldsend a picture
April - May 28, 2014
I have acquired a 1978 Mattel #3632. It is still in the box
Larry - February 12, 2014
I have a penny bank that is a house with a chimney and a bird on the chimney. The coin goes in the birds beak and drops down the chimney. i am told my grandmother helped assemble these in a garage in Los Angeles in 1945 and it was the first mattel product. can you provide anymore info?
Wow, your grandmother is part of Mattels history in that case! They started from a garage in southern California (El Segundo) in 1945, you can see a picture of that garage here (click on '1945') so there's a big chance she worked there. Great story! Unfortunately I can't find anything on your bank. Maybe write Mattel directly? I would love to put a picture of your bank on my page!
Kathy - August 20, 2013
Hi, Can you please tell me how much was the 1968 Dancerina doll going for when it first was introduced? Did the price go down on this item in 1969 or 1970?
Linda - March 24, 2012
could you tell me what this is, i have a toy[?] made by mattel 1964 no.4401 mattel power shop. its electric and i was surprised it was considered a toy, or is it a toy?
Yes, it's a toy. Find here more info about this toy: Mattel Power Shop or find the toy Mattel Power Shop.
Mary - November 30, 2011
I am looking to speak to someone to find out some informantion about the 1964 Baby Drowsy. Could you help me with that? Mary