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Consumer Reports


Cabbage Patch dolls snuggle their way back into the hearts, wallets of ‘parents’

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) Twenty years ago, Pam Farkas began adopting kids. To date, she is the proud mom of 300.

By almost anyone's standards, hundreds of tykes would be more than enough, and should be good for a congressional medal. But Farkas is not just any adoptive parent.

When she learned recently that Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Ga., had youngsters in need of good homes, Farkas rushed to the nearest department store to offer her home ... to a new batch of Cabbage Patch Kids.

That's right, they're baaaaack!

These were arguably the first gotta-have-it dolls. The dolls that were adopted, never purchased. The dolls that drove some prospective "parents" to act like kidnappers, scuffling and shoving in hopes of snagging a Kid.

Worldwide sales of more than 20 million CPKs since 1983 are proof of that, according to 4 Kids Entertainment, the company tabbed by Cabbage Patch creator Xavier Roberts to help license and manage the dolls' production. That figure includes several hard-shell and special edition versions of Kids over the years, but none as popular as the soft-shelled, poofy, baby-powder-smelling originals.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a special edition Cabbage Patch modeled after comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres sold on eBay for $7,600. And earlier this week, bids of more than $500 and $600 had been placed, respectively, for George W. Bush and John Kerry CPKs.


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But like most collectors of fine things, many adoptive parents of the Kids will tell you there is no doll like an original.

"I think that, well, the clothes and hairstyles and everything would be more reflective of this time frame, certainly that's the biggest change," said Al Kahn, chief executive officer of 4 Kids, the company that first helped Roberts make the originals and bring them back recently with manufacturer Play Along toys. "Otherwise, the same soft design as the originals, we're using again."

The new "old" Kids are selling at their 1983 price of $29.99. They are also back in their trademark plain yellow boxes. They are the same as always - nothing fancy, no batteries, no computer chips, no ability to eat or cry, just the adoption papers that identify the "newborns."

If there is anything modern about them at all, it is people can now use the Internet to download adoption papers, change a Kid's name and basically customize it for gifting purposes.

"In order to maintain that tradition of no two Kids being the same, we have to continually create new head molds for different shapes, for example," Kahn said. "They literally are all unique, whether it is the addition or removal of a dimple, or a few teeth, or a hair color. There are multiple combinations we use."

There is more ethnic diversity among the Kids today, too, Kahn said, "to better reflect the world around us."

And who is lining up to adopt the new dolls? The same people who bought other 1980s toy hits back in the day, like Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.

"When we did this 20 years ago, there was a different generation obviously of nurturing people who bought into the theme," Kahn said. "The secret to bringing them back was having something those same people still love and a brand new market, in many cases their own children now, in this new generation."

___

Farkas, who recently adopted seven of the newly rereleased original-style CPKs, insists the start of her collection was all about comfort.

"I got one for my daughter when she was 13 - she is 33 now - but she gave it back," Farkas said, laughing.

Among her new collection are Josie Norah, a platinum blond Kid wearing a pink and blue one-piece romper and big pink shoes; Isaac Sergios, a brown-haired, brown-eyed Latino, wearing a blue-and-red vest; and Brooke Rebeccah, another blond, dressed in a denim jumper.

Josie, Isaac and Brooke are hardly exclusive, though. They are joined by their several hundred siblings on spotless white floor-to-ceiling shelves that cover all four walls of their own room and even extend into the closet.

"I've been collecting them since 1984. I remember getting my very first one," Farkas said. "My sister and I were at Toys "R" Us in Northridge Mall at 10:30 or 11 at night. All I could think was, they are so cute! They're my babies. They even have their own room in my house. So when I heard about the originals being made again, I definitely had to get one."

Did we mention Farkas' Kid army is so deep she and her husband sleep in a smaller bedroom, so the troops can have the master suite? More space, for the mostly 16-inch-high little ones, she admitted with a chuckle.

Farkas, a 49-year-old homemaker in Fond du Lac, Wis., insists the appeal of the original dolls was they were "so child-like, almost lifelike."

"I know it seems different, but we really are one big happy family," she continued. "And for me the attachment, the emotional attachment, was that they really looked like they needed care."

Farkas said she went through a bad divorce in 1987 and turned to her CPKs for comfort.

"I was a little overwhelmed," she said. "I had all of these Kids and didn't know what to do with them. It was a real restructuring time for me in my life. And I might have gotten rid of them, just because everything was turned upside down.

"But something told me not to. I'd look at them, and I could honestly say as down as I was, `He was with me the whole time. She was there, too.' I'm so glad I kept them, because just the presence of something that represents a sweet child was comforting for me."

Jay Foreman has heard a lot of stories about the emotional impact CPKs have on their owners. Foreman, president of Play Along toys said people often say they feel an obligation to treat the Kids like children.

"Take adoption for example. Twenty years ago, adoption was certainly not nearly as open as it is today," Foreman explained. "Today, adoption is celebrated as a good thing. And I think the stigma is off. It's something that's always been reflected in the play pattern of Cabbage Patch dolls - for the recipient of the adoption certificate to basically pledge responsibility to take care of their Kid. It really does give young children a little extra sense of responsibility."

Indeed, Amy Randle, a 29-year-old mother of three and home day care operator in Neenah, Wis., has seen her household's CPK investment "team" grow to include her 4 ½-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. Their latest adoption is a new original Kid who has long brown hair parted in three pony tails, green eyes and wears a blue dress.

Randle, whose collection tops 400, has visited Babyland at least twice, once during a planned vacation to the big Cabbage Patch in Georgia.

Her reason for adopting so many Kids? "It's hard to stop, because they seem so real. It's like you're rescuing a real child. So you want more."

She remembers her first Kid the most because it was "a preemie, and special because even as a little girl it was a real baby to me, the real thing. And I swear I thought right then that I wanted to be married and have kids too. I thought, that's what I want to do for a living, be a mom and take care of kids."

Randle said her daughter has followed in her footsteps and treats her own CPKs like her children.

"I really do believe that my attitude toward them is helping my own children develop a good habit of caring and concern for babies," she said. "Even Jacob ... grew up with them. He walks around with one under his arm, and really looks after it, like it's a younger brother or sister. Now that the new ones, the originals are back, we've been trying to find him another boy ... because every kid wants a toy or doll that looks like them."

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