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Bild Lilli Doll  History 1952-1964 German

Lilli Bild 1955-1960's

Bild Lilli doll 1955-1964 German


Marlene Dietrich 1901-1992

Marlene Dietrich, actress 

(1901 - 1992)

#1 Barbie doll 1959 Mattel

Bild Lilli Doll 11 1/2" | Lilli Doll 7 1/2"Lilli Doll Clones, Competitors 11 1/2"

Lilli was originally a cartoon character created by German cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien for a "filler" on June 24, 1952 for the newspaper Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg, Germany.  She became very popular as a curvy gal who knew what she wanted and went about her business to get it.  She was classy, sassy, fashionable (his wife Erika helped with the fashions) and desirable, much like the Ms. Dietrich of the 1930s movies (have you ever watched the movies Blue Angel or Blonde Venus?)


After a short time later Reinhard decided to produce a doll of this character and it was Max Weissbrodt from the famous Hausser/Elastolin company in Neustadt/Coburg, Germany who created and produced a doll to his satisfaction. 


On August 12, 1955 Lilli was first sold in Germany, usually found in smoke shops and a few toy stores.  Later they were exported to several countries, even the USA (these have a doll stand with only "Lilli" on them, the regular stand says "Bild Lilli".  Lilli's original stand is just like "younger-cousin" Barbie's, it's round and the dolls foot has holes that fit on to a prong of metal. She was accompanied by a miniature copy of the Hamburg newspaper Bild-Zeitung and the cartoon continued to run in the real journal every Sunday.

Lilli's miniature newspaper, Bild-ZeitungHer entire packaging was designed by Mrs. E. Martha Maar (mother-in-law to the owner of the Hausser company and owner of a doll company 3 M Dolls), it consisted of a clear oval tube with the doll on a Lilli round stand as the bottom and a lid.  The doll is unmarked.  Her stand had her name on it.


She was produced in 7 1/2 -8" and 11 1/2", her shoes and earrings are molded on, she has a painted face with side glancing eyes with white irises, high v like narrow eyebrows, red lips and fingernails.  She is all plastic with limbs attached inside by coated rubber bands.  Her hair is a cut-out scalp that is attached by a hidden metal screw that was not meant to be played with and is in split curl bangs and a ponytail (Note: this was intended for adult males as a party or gag gift) usually found in Blonde. She came as a dressed doll, with additional fashions available separately. Her fashions have push together snaps usually marked on the inside snap with "PRMY".  Lilli was also cloned and copied by other doll makers, see them on this page.


Note about those Eyes: The Shinto religion has a belief that all things possess a spirit, including dolls, so they are made with "side-glancing" eyes, so they can't look you in the eye and they have a ceremony to destroy unwanted dolls so the spirit cannot come back to do vengeance on the former doll owner.  Today they have a "Thanksgiving Ceremony" to destroy unwanted dolls at the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, Japan that takes place on the Sunday closest to October 15th and is held annually. Don't panic, historically important dolls are selected and put into a museum nearby :)


This is the doll that Ruth Handler found while shopping in Europe in 1956 and was exactly what she had been thinking of producing.  She bought three dolls;  gave one to daughter Barbie and the others to her designers at Mattel.  The rest is pretty well known history.  Barbie debuted at the New York toy fair on March 9, 1959.  Mattel acquired the rights to Lilli in 1964, thus her production ceased.


The Lilli head molds however were sold to a British Hong Kong firm named Dura-Fam Ltd. which produced the same 11 1/2" doll which is found marked "Hong Kong".  Another set of molds were leased to Chang-Pi Su Co. who reduced them to 7 1/2 - 8" and released them as "Cherie".  More blank molds went to Fab-LU (Luften, Ltd.) who sold a doll called Babs, Marx used them too and had a doll called Bonnie, a larger 15" doll called Miss Seventeen "A Beauty Queen" and a 7" doll named Miss Marlene.  Sak Industries,  Inc. used the mold and sold a doll named Babbie, and an Australian firm Haro-Mate Ltd. sold the dolls marked "Hong Kong" and carried the registration number of "British Patent #804566 and U.S. patent #2925684. Most of these dolls come from the 1960s.

Build Lilli Poster


All this of course causes confusion to the collectors of a true Lilli who can command a price just as high as Number One Barbie's if not more.


Author Note:  We do not know if Marlene Dietrich ever noticed the uncanny resemblance of Lilli, if she was truly the inspiration, or even if she collected dolls. In Billy Boy's book on Barbie he suggests that Bridget Bardot may have been the inspiration or another of the blonde bomb shells of that era, but I think they came after Bild Lilli and perhaps she was THEIR inspiration.


Shown left a Bild Lilli Film Poster

Barbie Bazaar has a great article on clone Lilli dolls in the April 2001 Barbie Doll Collector Magazine

Buy, Collect, Sell or get pricing values worth for vintage Bild Lilli dolls, use ebay sold listings

Lilli Doll 11 1/2" | Lilli Doll 7 1/2"Lilli Doll Clones, Competitors 11 1/2"


Bild Lilli Doll  History 1952-1964 German

Dolls 11 1/2" Girls Barbie | Midge | Stacey | Christie | Truly | Julia | PJ | Jamie | Steffie, Babs | Miss America | Kelley, Cara

Clone Dolls Barbie | Bild Lilli | Skipper  12" Men Ken | Allan | Brad, Curtis  11 1/4" Girls Francie | Casey, Twiggy  

9 1/4" Dolls Skipper, Ginger | Skooter, Ricky, Fluff, Tiff   6 1/4" Dolls Tutti, Todd, Chris, Buffy, Pretty Pairs, Carla

Clothing Barbie | Ken | Francie | Skipper | Tutti  Barbie Gift sets | 1966 Doll Marking | Clothing Tags | Rare | Miscellaneous

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