I have nerver had the pleasure and honor of meeting Michael Osborne, but I have for some time now admired and even drooled over his prototype Barbie collection. It is simply breathtaking because we get to see a glimpse into Barbie’s backstage world and all the ideas that Barbie designers had, but never were put into production for different reasons.
Because I am so in love with his collection I have kindly asked him to answer a few questions for me. He was also so kind and offered images of dolls he has never posted on his Instagram account before.
1. Hi, Michael! So happy that you have agreed to do this interview with me.
Well I am so happy that you asked me!
2. Please tell us how you came to collect prototypes?
I had gotten a Sample doll in the mid 80’s as a Christmas gift from my Father,but had to sell it to make money to go to my Senior Prom. I regretted selling it,BUT wanted to go to The Prom! A few years later I had a friend at the time that worked at Mattel and I got a Sample Ken from her and I bought 2 Prototype heads from another collector. I did end up replacing that Sample doll from my Dad almost 15 years later with a different Sample of the same doll!
3. What attracted you to this niche in the Barbie world?
I had been a collector for a long time and had hit the goals I had wanted and was looking for something new!I had 500 dolls by the time I was 16.My Dad was VERY supportive of my collection and as an 8th grade Graduation gift I got a #1 Barbie! This did not set well with some of the other Barbie Collectors in my Barbie Club I was in at the time.This is when the rumor started swirlling that my parents were buying all of my dolls,this was not true at all.My Dad would lend me money to buy things , but then I would not get my weekly allowence for weeks sometime! I was selling to other collectors and I even sold hard-boiled eggs at school for Barbie money! LOL!!!
4. Share with us a secret if you will: how do you track them down?
Sure! Being in the Barbie community for 38 years now, alot of people know I collect Prototypes and Samples and they seek me out. I also buy things from Former Mattel Employees,E-Bay,and going to the Barbie Convention as often as I can!I also am VERY CAREFUL what I show. I had heard a story years ago that once you left Mattel,you WERE NOT able to talk about or discuss anything you worked on until 7 years had past. I practice an 8 year rule! I will not show anything that was done in the last 8 years UNLESS I KNOW FOR A FACT it will not effect anyone at Mattel.
5. Are prototypes the only kind of Barbie dolls in your collection or do you collect others?
YES! Prototoypes and Samples is all I collect now. I had sold most of my Collection off when I started collecting Prototoypes and Samples Exclusively in 1994. I do get tempted on occasion to buy NON Prototype and Sample things! It is hard sometimes!
6. I am not going to ask how many you have, but I would love to know how you display them.
I don’t mind answering any questions you have at all! 🙂 Well I started off with 3 then went to 300,and now I have 3000 Prototypes and Samples in my Collection. They are displayed in My Barbie Room! They are divided into catagories and themes displayed on shelves.
7. Your faves are… I know you must have a few that stand out so please let us know which ones are the closest to your heart.
Wait! Thats like asking me who my Favorite child is LOL!!! Since I have no childen this is easy to answer! My Platinum Color Magic, A STUNNING Whitney with Pink Hair with Irridesent strands in it,and My Barbie and Ken Styling Head from 1979 are just a few of my favorites!
8. Do you regret that some of them were never produced? Or do you think the original/prototype versions on some of them were way better than what came out on the market? If so, which ones?
Oh Gosh YES I do regret some of the things that never made it, Cindy Crawford from 1992,Janet Jackson that was a OOAK for a Chairity Auction,Growing Up Francie from like 1967,Bubble-cut Francie, and Barbie’s Parents! As for her parents they were thought of back in the 60’s a few times.I have seen the head of what was going to be her Father years ago along with 2 heads that were going to be her Mother! The Mother ones were cool as they were the TnT face mold,one had a Salt and pepper colored Bubble and the other one had a Carol Brady Shag! VERY COOL! As for a doll that was not what we were shown,Evening Extravaganza comes to mind,the hair was AMAZING in the pictures in Big Fabulos curls,and we got a BIG FRIZZY MESS!
9. Do you have any older prototypes? Like MOD or even vintage ones?
Oh Yes! I am an Equal Opportunity Collector! LOL!!! I have Prototypes,Samples, and Mattel OOAK’S from 1961-2016.
10. Which prototypes are now on your wish list?
There is only 3 things I really want now,the rest is all gravy! The 3 things are a Prototype or Sample #1, A Clear 1968 Talking Barbie and A Clear Dance Action Barbie for the 1987 Barbie and The Rockers line. I don’t want much do I? LOL!!!
11. Are all your dolls from the US market or do you have some from foreign markets?
No I have Foreign Prototypes and Samples too!I am an Equal Opportunity Collector!I have stuff from Europe,Asia,and South America.
12. I know you post a lot on Facebook and Insta, but have you ever thought about doing a book on prototypes? Maybe with my help? 😀
Yes, I have thought about doing a book more and more. I started posting on Facebook and Instagram to see what kind of reactions I would get,and so far it has been REALLY Positive!I will need ALOT of help for a book!
13. Do you just collect doll prototypes or do you have other Barbie merch prototypes that you collect or wish to do so?
I collect primarily dolls,but I do have a few Prototype and Sample Case’s,Play Sets,Styling Heads,and Licensed products.
14. I can’t help, but wonder what do you think about the Barbie dolls of now vs the ones form the past.
I Think Mattel is dropping the ball on quality and it makes me VERY SAD. Barbie used to mean QUALITY,and now she is becoming a poor impersonation of herself. I hope SOMEONE grabs the wheel before the ship SINKS!
15. Next year will be Barbie’s 60th anniversary. A lot of people are hoping for a series of repro sets, but I wish for a set of unproduced dolls that can finally be made available, even as LE, to the public. If you were to choose 3 dolls for a set like this which ones would you choose?
I would want Barbie’s Parents using the old molds I talked about earlier, A Bubble Cut Francie,Growing Up Francie,and the Little Theatre Outfits that were never done.Once again I don’t want much! LOL!!!
16. Choose one fave Barbie designer based on what prototypes they made and not what was mass produced.
I like all the Designers mostly,and they all have done AMAZING OOAKS for Chairity. I can’t choose one only!
17. As a conclusion please let me know how dolls have changed your life. We have all been touched by their magic and I love to hear everyones stories about this subject.
Barbie came into my life at a very difficult time and was a GREAT DISTRACTION from home life. I started collecting at 11 and will be 49 in December this year,she been with me for 38 years! Thats longer the ALOT of Marriages!I always said IF I ever got out of Barbie, I would save one as a symbol of what she saved me from. I also have met SO MANY AMAZING people from all over the world!I have learned more about Cultures, Geography and How to work hard for what you want then ANY BOOK could have EVER taught me
Do NOT forget to follow him on Instagram to see more amazing Barbie and even Disney doll prototypes. thank you so much for this interview, Michael, and let’s talk about that book.