To judge from the store catalogues and Kens found MIB from original owners, both flocked hair Ken and the new painted hair Ken were sold parallel during 1963, with flocked hair Ken eventually being discontinued by the end of the year. This new painted hair Ken was produced both in the US and in Japan. As well as a different head, Ken’s revamp included modifications to his hand, and a revised beach top. The US version (referred to as a ‘shorty’) was given all this from the beginning, but the Japanese Kens first used up all the old flocked hair Ken parts.
For more information and many more detailed photographs see THE VINTAGE KEN® BOOK.
THE US-MADE KENS
The US-made Kens are referred to as ‘shorties’ because most are slightly shorter than the Japan-made painted hair Kens, but there are more vital differences: they have chunkier and less elegant limbs, especially noticeable around the knees. Their heads and limbs are usually swingy and their faces are often pallid or too dark. It is possible to find nice-looking versions of this Ken, but even the best examples never quite match the standard of those made in Japan. Note that he is wearing the new stiffer (unlabelled) beach jacket.
The ‘shorty’ is not marked ‘Made in U.S.A.’, but the evidence is quite compelling: they have no Japan stamp on their feet like other 750 Kens, and their boxes (including the inserts) are made with different card, with no K stamp inside the lid (see section 1964 Ken and his buddy Allan). The box ends and wrist tags were redesigned with no mention of it being a Japanese import. In fact, occasionally Japanese Kens were sold in ‘shorty’ boxes, which Mattel clearly stamped extra with Made in Japan/Printed in U.S.A. (see also section 1964 Ken and his buddy Allan), proof that these boxes were indeed made in the US. Also, no ‘shorties’ were ever used as Dressed Dolls or are found in gift sets – all of which were produced in Japan. So, with a lack of any other identification or markings (such as Made in Hong Kong), it must be assumed that the ‘shorties’ were all produced in the US.
The box lid ends are identical to each other and marked either blonde or brunette. The ‘shorties’ have a unique copyright stamp (below right).
THE JAPAN-MADE KENS
The Japan-made painted hair Ken was also available in blonde and brunette, and went through a succession of rapid changes. Mattel originally used the unsold flocked hair Ken body parts, so the earliest painted hair Kens come with the original arms and have the typical wide stance. Initially they also came with the same beach top, plain red shorts, sandals, wire stand, booklet, and packaging as the flocked hair version.
The earliest Japan-made painted hair Kens have thicker and/or darker eyebrows, and eyes like the ‘shorties’ with no line around the iris.
KEN #750 (first version blonde and brunette)
These Kens are my favourites among the painted hair Kens, as their faces can vary so much. As with many vintage Kens, it is possible to find versions with pale and darker skin, presumably all the effects of ageing. More examples can be seen in THE VINTAGE KEN® BOOK.
Later Kens still have quite heavy brows, but now have eyes with a thin black line painted around the edge of the iris. This became standard for all vintage Japan-made Kens. They still had the original hand/arm-mold and some still had the original box inlays. Others were given the new card inserts, which hold him at the shoulders and knees. From here on, all vintage 750 Kens came with the revised (and usually labelled) beach jacket, which is stiffer with a more defined collar.
KEN #750 (second version blonde and brunette)
The brunette version of this Ken has been found with the Barbie and her Friends Ken & Midge #863 gift set (see section 1963 The Outfits).
The catalogues for 1963 mostly show the first two Japan-made versions. However, the third version Kens (below) do appear in 1963 gift sets, so were presumably also sold separately in 1963. They were certainly sold in 1964, as I’ve seen examples of both the blonde and brunette for sale MIB with the 1964 booklet.
Kens with the revised arms/hands tend to have arms closer to the body and legs closer together. Despite it giving him a less dynamic and confident stance, there is one obvious reason for this: it makes him easier to dress. All 750 Kens from here on came with the new-style card inserts.
KEN #750 (third version blonde and brunette)
I’ve also found the brunette version NRFB as a 1963 Dressed Doll Sailor (see further below) and in the 1964 Wedding Party Gift Set #1017. Another example of him can be seen in section 1963 The Outfits, as he also came with the 1963 Barbie & Ken Trousseau Set. A reproduction of this Ken (not pictured) wearing the original style beach jacket was issued in 2011 as part of the In the Swim gift set. The blonde has also been found with the 1963 Barbie & Ken Trousseau Set (see section 1963 The Outfits). A reproduction of him in his beach outfit (not pictured) was issued in 2014 as part of the Double Date gift set.
The second version still has the original hand. The third version has a similar face, with green eyes, but now has the new arm mold.
The box lids for 1963 are printed either BLONDE or BRUNETTE on the bottom end. The sides are identical to 1962. There do not appear to be any variations. The ‘thin-brow’ flocked hair Kens from 1963 also came in this box (see section 1962 Flocked hair Kens). This remained the standard box design for all Japan-made 750 Kens.
BOOKLETS & CATALOGUES
The earliest illustration of a painted hair Ken is from Mattel’s own dealer catalogues. He resembles both the Japan-made and the US-made Kens, and is shown wearing the earlier version beach jacket.
Mattel produced two editions of their Mattel Dolls for Fall ’62 catalogue. The second edition (an enlarged – 56-page – version of the 24-page original) has many items which otherwise don’t appear until 1963, including the new painted hair version of Ken. It was almost certainly designed to be a 1963 Preview,* as all 1962 store catalogues still only feature flocked hair Ken, both in the photos and the written descriptions.
*Midge also features in this catalogue, but according to the January 1963 issue of US trade magazine Toys & Novelties, she had just “…come off the drawing boards and into production…”.
Many store catalogues still show pictures of the thin-brow flocked hair Ken, though it is doubtful he was still sold by the autumn, unless some companies had old stock to sell off. Certainly the Spiegel Fall/Winter catalogue, as well as the John Plain and Aldens catalogues for Christmas, all describe his “molded”, “molded-in and painted” or “moulded” hair, despite showing pictures of the flocked hair version. The earliest photo of painted hair Ken to appear in the store catalogues (that I’ve found so far) is from the Montgomery Ward 1963 Fall Winter issue.
The 1964 Spiegel Spring Summer catalogue features Ken twice. On one page they show painted hair versions and on the other a flocked hair Ken.
DRESSED DOLL KENS
In 1963 Mattel began to produce deluxe edition DRESSED DOLL Kens. The boxes have a different design, and inside the box is a plastic cover which has a golden Ken® sticker with the outfit name. All three versions of the new painted hair Ken can be found, but the first two are more common. The first version Kens have the 1962 Barbie & Ken booklet, and the other two have the white booklet for 1963 (exactly like the regular Kens shown above). Ken’s small accessories were usually placed inside the bag with the booklet.
Available as Dressed Dolls in 1963:
#770 Campus Hero
#790 Time For Tennis
#796 Sailor (not mentioned in catalogues)
#798 Ski Champion (not mentioned in catalogues)
#799 Touchdown (not mentioned in catalogues)
The Sailor shown below right is the third version (the one with the new hand/arm mold).
Touchdown doesn’t appear in the Mattel catalogues until 1964, but the version below not only has a second version Ken, but the gold sticker is the early version. This combination certainly suggests that Touchdown was already available in 1963. The 1964 version can be seen in the section 1964 Ken and his buddy Allan.
The wire stand and booklet were included, but there were no card inserts. Instead, they were sewn into the box around the waist, and the thread on the box reverse was stuck down with tape. Originally sewn and taped Kens are very highly valued by MIB collectors.
The Dressed Doll boxes came in three versions, with just slight differences to the graphics and/or imprint. The box ends (which curiously are printed upside-down) usually have a sticker on one end with the name of outfit.
Sailor, Ski Champion and Touchdown are not mentioned in the catalogues, but it’s obvious they are also from 1963 because of the Kens used. Another clue is the type of sticker: the earliest Dressed Doll Kens have stickers with the outfit name but no code number (below left). Some second version Kens have the code number added (middle). In 1964 the design was changed again, with Ken® moved higher, to make place for the extra words GENUINE and DOLL (right).