Barbie in Midnight Red, dating from 1965, sold for a world record 9,000 pounds ($17,000) on Tuesday as collectors from around the world gathered to bid for a piece of a unique private collection of 4,000 Barbie family dolls.

The doll, which had been priced at up to 600 pounds, became the most expensive Barbie ever to be sold at auction, according to Christie's who ran the sale. The previous auction record was 2,800 pounds also set at Christie's in 1999.

It was very competitive, said a Christie's spokeswoman. People were taking this very seriously. We had interest from all four corners of the world.

The doll was bought by a woman in the sale room on behalf of an anonymous collector.

The same woman also paid 7,200 pounds for Gala Abend Barbie - a high color doll produced for the Japanese market - and 5,040 pounds for Barbie in Midnight Pink, both dating from 1965.

The tone was set from the start by 1959 brunette Barbie No. 1 - clad in a zebra-stripe swimsuit with sunglasses and hooped earrings - which itself broke the record when it sold for 2,880 pounds against expectations of up to 1,200 pounds.

By the time the hammer came down for the final time the sale total was 111,288 pounds.

The collection spanned the entire history of Barbie and her friends, family and fashions.


Adding rarity value was the fact that most of them had never been taken out of their boxes.

The collection was started in the early 1960s by Utrecht housewife Ietje Raebel, who bought her first Barbie for daughter Marina.

Marina spurned the doll which remained untouched in its box but amateur clothes designer Ietje Raebel got the collecting bug, inspired by Barbie's ever-changing wardrobe.

She stopped collecting in 2002 when she developed severe Alzheimer's disease.

Over the years, designers from Calvin Klein to Christian Dior have styled outfits for Barbie in her varied professional guises including model, astronaut, doctor, firefighter and politician.

The co-founder of U.S. toy giant Mattel, Ruth Handler, invented Barbie in 1959 and named her after her daughter Barbara. She has since become the top-selling doll in the world, with annual sales of some $3 billion.

Boyfriend Ken, who came along later, was also named after one of Handler's children.

Named Barbie Millicent Roberts and with 95 different careers and 45 nationalities under the belt around her wasp waist, Barbie has a mind-boggling array of accessories, including 43 pets ranging from a poodle to a zebra.