History of Blythe


In 1972, Allison Katzman of Marvin Glass and Associates designed the fashion doll, Blythe. The original doll stood approximately 28 cm or 11 inches tall.  The key features of Blythe were the oversized head and large eyes that changed color by pulling a string. While the large eyes and changing of eye color are key traits for Blythe, the influence can be seen in the Betty Boop character. Blythe was manufactured and sold by the famous Kenner company (later purchased by Hasbro) that also made the original Star Wars toys. 

The original Blythe (also known as Kenner Blythe) was sold in 1972-1973 after one year, the line was discontinued. However, photographer Gina Garan found inspiration in Blythe. After Garan received a Kenner Blythe doll as a gift, she used it to refine her photography skills. Garan’s photography of her Blythe doll was released in 2000 as This is Blythe.

Around the same time, Garan was introduced to artist and illustrator Junko Wong. Wong brought Blythe to the attention of the Parco and Takara toy executives. Hasbro, who took over Kenner, licensed Takara, a Japanese firm, to produce a new edition of the Blythe doll which is called Neo Blythe. Garan’s book and the launch of Neo Blythe was a large success in Japan.

Today, Takara Blythe dolls are made in three sizes. Neo Blythe is approximately 28cm tall, Middie Blythe is about 20 cm, and Petit Blythe of about 11.2 cm tall. Blythe dolls are mainly sold to adults and collectors. Depending on the size and limited edition release, price range for Takara Blythe is between $60-$400. Kenner Blythe dolls are often sought by collectors, and price can reach up to thousands of dollars.

The aftermarket for original Blythe dolls grew tremendously and a new large market for Blythe clothing, accessories and customizing began growing.  There is a network of enthusiasts and hobbyists who design different apparels, accessories and furnitures to sell online. There are also a large number of skilled hobbyists who customize and recreate Blythe dolls to resale. Hobbyists often photograph their works to share on the internet.