Beyond the Valley of the Barbie Dolls

Barbie doll Photography & Collecting by David Mansour

"Follow your dreams -- you won't regret it!"

~ David Mansour ​​

The pivotal moment of toy collecting occurred on my birthday in September of 1987.  I was a young hairdresser, first year in a salon, and on that day a friend gifted me with the entire Barbie & the Rockers set, a rad music band consisting of six dolls.  This gift reignited a deep love for Barbie that I haven’t felt since childhood (boys do play with dolls) and immediately I hit the toy stores and toy aisles of local department stores buying up more Barbie dolls.  My girl friends and salon clients presented me with their childhood dolls to add to the collection (onetime I arrived for a dental appointment and my wonderful dentist gave me her old Barbie dolls, plus the Barbie Friendship plane from the early-70s).  Before I knew it these six Barbie dolls grew into a collection of thousands!  


"I wanted From ABBA To Zoom to cover not only the obvious pop culture icons, but tackle the obscure and seemingly forgotten ones as well.  In my broad research, I left no stone unturned!" 

~ David Mansour

My book From ABBA To Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century, published in 2005, is now out-of-print but you can find it to buy by clicking...



Probably to no one's surprise there's quite a few entries of Barbie in here!  


Above left: Shipping toys for From ABBA To Zoom: Vintage Toys.  Above center: In the photo studio with  my Corgi boy, Bode J. Bode. Above right: Takin' it easy on Torrey Pines Beach.


In September 2012 I moved to the city of my dreams, beautiful San Diego.  In preparation for the move I downsized my belongings and sold off quite a few toys.  Still thousands of beloved dolls and toys remained; these were boxed-up and journeyed west to Southern California with me.  In May 2014, I retired from hairdressing after 28 years and opened an on-line vintage toy store, From ABBA To Zoom (www.shop.fromabbatozoom.com), name after my book.  The store's inventory is comprised of the toys, dolls and other pop culture items that I had collected from the past thirty years (yes, I'm selling off the collection now).  As far as the Barbies are concern, they were at the center of my heart through all the years of toy collecting and the thousands of toys collected -- I'm keeping them and I'm regularly buying new dolls too!  


“It’s a question of what a person really is.  Yes, Kansas City writer David Mansour is a published author.  Yes, he makes his living as a hair stylist.  He enjoys both occupations.  But at a deep, subconscious level, down to his bones, David Mansour is an archivist.”
~ Verge Magazine, 2005

"Toys" by David Mansour, age 6.  

Following my mom's death in 2013 I found this drawing I did as a young boy tucked away in a box of her keepsakes (above right).  I was always the little artist (that's me happily coloring in our home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and I'd truly say this collection of toys and dolls, definitely foreshadowed my adult toy collecting!   

It didn’t take me long to start adding other toys and dolls to the Barbie collection.  By the mid-1990s I had accumulated an extensive collection of dolls, action figures, lunch boxes, board games, die-cast vehicles, Pez, bobbleheads, puzzles, books, records, TV and movie toy tie-ins, and other pop culture treasures from a mid-century childhood.  I had my collector’s eye on the vintage toys from the 1960s and 1970s.  I was on a mission to find the long-lost toys that my kid sister and I played with as children.  For the next decade, toy collecting was the BIGGEST obsession in my world.  Period.  I spent virtually every weekend scouring antique malls and flea markets looking for desired toys.  Toy stores, such as Toys ‘R Us and Children's Palace, along with the toy departments of Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart were my regular “go to” places. Throughout the 2000s, I received bundles of delivered packages at my doorstep that were my coveted eBay wins.   In the four Kansas City, Missouri homes I lived in since 1988, I dedicated a spare bedroom as the “Toy Room."   I filled the “Toy Room” with floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shelving units, which overflowed with dolls and toys displayed in mini-collections.  Friends loved to visit this room and referred to it as a “toy museum!"

Above left: #1 on Amazon.com!  Above right: Book signings scheduled throughout the country. 

But there’s so much to my journey of pop culture and toy collecting.  I’ve always been a collector at heart – looking back to earliest childhood memories I was collecting something—toys, dolls, comics, books, records, trading cards, photos, movie memorabilia—you name it, I was probably collecting it! 

Above: At a book signing event in Overland Park, Kansas surrendered by a few of my favorite toys.  Below: Showing news anchor Dan Weinbaum how to work a pair of Clackers while promoting From ABBA To Zoom on KMBC-TV in Kansas City in June 2005.

Above left: The original Barbie & the Rockers birthday gift that launched a toy obsession in 1987!  Above right: My growing Barbie collection, circa 1996.  Below: Me in the "Toy Room" in 2000 - Liddle Kiddles, lunch boxes, board games quickly joined Barbie as other favorite toys for me to collect! . 

"The Man of POP!"

"Toys and Christmas morning just go together."  A collection of my toys beautifully photographed by David Pulliam for a December 25, 2005 story in The Kansas City Star newspaper titled "Timeless Toys.


Above left: From ABBA To Zoom for sale in the gift shop of the Smithsonian Institute.  Above center:Star Trek actor George Takei with his copy of From ABBA To Zoom.  Above right: Pop star Rick Springfield signed his own entry in my author's copy ("David - Thanks Dude! Regards, Rick Springfield")


The toy collection served as a foundation for me to write a best-selling pop culture book, From ABBA To Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Coinciding with the book’s publishing in 2005, the toys and I received a lot of media attention.  We were featured on many TV shows, from local morning news spots to national coverage, including CNBC's Squawk Talk and Discovery Channel's Pop Nation. We appeared in in countless American magazines and newspapers, including USA Today and The Kansas City Star. To promote the book I did hundreds of radio interviews across the USA and Canada, discussing pop culture and toys of yesteryear.  When I traveled for book signings I brought an array of toys to display, such as a Mrs. Beasley doll from TV's Family Affair, a talking Lost in Space Robot, a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lunchbox, and of course, Barbie and Ken dolls.  Hailed as an "Aficionado of American Pop Culture" by Andrews McMeel Publishing and a "Pop Culture Expert" by the Discovery Channel, I became the person whom the media called when they had questions about pop culture and toys.  Throughout this time I maintained a career as a top hairdresser and colorist in Kansas City with the most loyal clients.  This was truly an exciting time in my life.  

“David Mansour has a flair for the dramatic.  When we visited, he insisted we push the toy room door open ourselves, and when we did, we could practically hear the music from ‘The Wizard of Oz’—you know, that moment when Dorothy opens her door to a Technicolor wonderland.  (Mansour’s toy room is painted in ‘kid colors’ of the ‘70s – lime green, aqua blue, ‘orange blast,’ and ‘pretty as a princess pink.’).
Which leads us to his list of three things people say when they enter the room:
1.    ‘Omigod!’
2.    ‘Look, there’s a (fill in the blank) – I had one when I was a kid.’
3.     (Nothing – just big-eyed silence).
"
The Kansas City Star, May 31, 2005

“At the end of a hallway lined with 60s-era paintings of large-eyed children by schlock-artist Margaret Keane, Mansour has devoted an entire room to his toy collection.  It’s breathtaking, if you’re into toys; an obsessively-organized room stacked floor-to-ceiling with shelves of Barbies, Kens, vehicles, Bratz snotty-girl dolls, lunch boxes, robots, bobbleheads – a collection arrayed and displayed as groups of mini-collections.  Whatever recessive genetic trait causes collecting behavior, Mr. David Mansour has it real bad.”
~ Verge Magazine, December 2005

Above: Records, Wacky Packs, Mad Magazines, and Farrah Fawcett - a few of the many things I collected in younger years!

 ​At its peak in 2012 , my toy collection inventoried at 10,000+ items!