Bild Lilly for Sale at Marl & B

This beautiful example of a Bild Lilly doll caught my eye today. I don't think I've seen one in such gorgeous condition. Marl is selling her for $4,200. I have no idea about the prices of these dolls but I do know that they are an important part of fashion doll history, particularly that of Barbie. 

Click on the picture to go to Marl & B Website
Excerpts from Wikipedia and miscellaneous sources about Bild Lilli and Barbie's origin follows. Clicking on any of the links will take you to Wikipedia.

The doll became so popular that she was exported to other countries, including the United States, where she was just called "Lilli". Some Lillis have been seen in original packaging dating from the 1950s for an English-speaking market labeled as "Lilli Marlene", after the famous song. Several toy companies (mainly in Hong Kong) started producing fashion dolls looking very similar to Lilli. These dolls are easy to distinguish because of their poor quality.But Lilli also inspired the production of another fashion doll of high quality who would soon outshine her: Barbie, produced by Mattel. Ruth Handler, one of the company's founders, bought some of the Lilli dolls when she was on a trip to Europe. Back home she reworked the design of the doll and re-named her Barbie, who debuted at the New York toy fair on March 9, 1959. Barbie had rooted hair and her shoes and earrings were not molded — apart from that she was a lookalike of Lilli. Barbie celebrated 50 years of continuous production in 2009.[2]Louis Marx and Company acquired the rights to the Lilli doll from O&M Hausser and released it in America as the Miss Seventeen (doll) in 1961. Marx unsuccessfully attempted to sue Mattel for patent infringement.[3]Also in Spain, Muñecas FEJ (Guillen y Vicedo) copied the moulds of Bild Lilli and made a very similar doll but with darker skin, white earrings and articulated waist. However, Spanish society was extremely conservative at that moment and were not ready for such "sexy" dolls. Mothers were not buying them for their daughters and the manufacturer had to retire them from the market.There are no books about the Lilli doll alone. 

Even though their whole Barbie success was based on this German original, Mattel's legal department made sure that using the name Bild Lilli as a book title or product name would infringe copyright laws. Mattel had discreetly bought up all and any patents and copyrights to Bild Lilli, while Marx Toys held some of them after the demise of this toy competitor. Unlike Barbie, Bild Lilli was produced for only eight years and never reached the importance of the American doll. By the time the creators and producers of the original Bild Lilli doll, O&M Hausser, realized that Mattel had duped them into selling off their intellectual property and distribution rights for ridiculously low lump sums, Barbie had already made Mattel such a successful and influential market leader that law suits were struck down in favor of the ever-growing American toy giant.

 Portraying the risqué misadventures of a tarty, sassy blonde "working girl" living life in the big city, Lilli was an oversexed fashionista who enjoyed keeping the company of rich men. While she did maintain a job as a secretary, she was definitely the type of girl who, like Holly Golightly in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's "got $50 to go to the powder room". Because of it's bawdy humor the cartoon was an immediate smash hit and became a weekly feature.

"I must insist that at least one of you stops following me!"
"Yes, I kissed him, but I didn't want him to get too serious so I stopped him after three."

To cash in on the success of the comic character, BILD released an 11 1/2" Lilli novelty doll in 1955, aimed at adult male readers and sold them in bars and smoke shops as an erotic gag gift. Since the dolls produced up until this point were babies or toddlers marketed to girls, a doll with a voluptuous figure sold to men as a sexualized plaything was quite titillating.

A smaller 7 1/2" version of Lilli was also produced and could be playfully dangled from the rear view mirror of a car, on a little included swing. Who needs a mudflap girl when you can have a three-dimensional "sex pet"?  The promotional material touted her lifestyle as "always discreet," and that her sexy wardrobe made her "the star of every bar"!

Not originally intended for children, little girls fell in love with the dolls.  A high quality wardrobe was produced featuring the fashions trends of the 50's such as tight sweaters, capri pants, pencil skirts, party outfits, cotton swing skirts, nightwear and traditional German dresses.

Although the design was tweaked, side by side Lilli and the original Barbie are nearly identical!         


  1. This doll is always interesting to me. I never had the doll, but I do have a few pieces of her clothing, that Marl had valued for me at the very first FR Convention, here in Canada, 2005.

    She asked me if I had ever been to Germany to get them. I haven't, but I did attend quite a few Church Bazaars & Rummage Sales when I was a kid, and always looking for Barbie clothing. I think that was where I may have gotten them. Nice to see Bild Lilli here, Terri!

  2. I never searched this dolls story, I always thought she was a bit... mmmm.... ugly(?) and a Barbie copy, thanks for enlighten me and show me it was actually the other way around!
    The similarities are really tremendous... Mattel was very clever.

  3. I really like the history of this doll, and I've seen a few on a collectors fair here in Holland. The price you describe is around the same as they ask for her here.

    I would never buy this doll (I don't collect the older dolls) but I like seeing her once in a while, so its great she made her appearance here on your blog :)

  4. Interesting. Perhaps Mattel's lawsuit loss to Bratz is some long awaited Karma

  5. I have always believed in the "karma" theory myself. Both the actual inventors of Bild Lili and Hot Wheels--which BUILT the fortunes of Mattel--were legally stolen from them. Big money makes for better lawyers and that's what mthe Mattel attornies were.

    Karmically, Bratz bit them in the ass, and no one is happier than Your's Truly. It's a shame Mattel is now a follower of doll trends rather than the MAKER of them.