The so-called ‘shorty’ Ken is not marked Japan on the feet like other 750 Kens, and their boxes are made with different card, with no K stamp inside the lid. 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 example further below), 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.
Logically it would make sense that the ‘shorty’ was the first painted hair Ken, designed and developed in the US during 1962 for a 1963 release. The Japan-made painted hair Kens would have been released simultaneously, initially using old flocked hair Ken parts, including the beach top and box card inserts. Being US-made the ‘shorty’ would have appeared with all the new features from the beginning. Yet the evidence is inconclusive: apart from the prototypes, no Kens resembling ‘shorties’ appear in catalogues from 1963 – all major department stores feature Japan-made painted hair Kens – this is apparent not just from the faces, but by their old-style hands. Occasionally ‘shorty’ Kens are sold online ‘MIB’ with the light blue booklet, which could theoretically date them to 1963, but the booklets could easily have been added later, so are not in themselves proof (Most are sold with the white booklet for 1963, like the Japan-made Kens from 1963-64).
The evidence certainly suggests that the ‘shorty’ is a later, poorer, copy of the original Japan-made painted hair Ken (hence the similar style face-paint), as it is not until 1964 that the ‘shorty’ Kens clearly appear in print. Images of them abound: The 1964 Barbie Magazine Annual, the Mattel Barbie for Fall ’64 catalogue, and most 1964 store catalogues. If they really had been released prior, or parallel, to the Japan-made painted hair Kens, they would presumably have already appeared in some, if not most, catalogues for 1963. That they were available in 1964 is beyond doubt, as ‘shorty’ Kens have been found with the later markings on the rear, meaning they were still being sold after the introduction of Allan in the autumn.
KEN #0750 (blonde)
They are referred to as ‘shorties’ because most are slightly shorter than the Japan-made painted hair Kens, but there are more vital differences: he has chunkier and less elegant limbs, especially noticeable around the knees. His head and limbs are usually swingy and either pallid or too dark. His head-shape often appears Bart-Simpsonishly square, which, all combined with his (usually) less finely painted features, makes him a bit spooky-looking. It is possible to find nice-looking versions of this Ken, but it’s not easy, and they almost all have wobbly legs.
KEN #0750 (brunette)
The ‘shorty’ came with a unique blue wrist tag. Country of manufacture is not mentioned.
Some ‘shorty’ Kens came with a slight variation fabric beach jacket, which has no label.
The box lid front has the additional slogan “You can tell it’s Mattel …it’s swell!” at bottom. The sides are the same as 1962-63, just printed with more contrast. The ends are identical to each other and marked either blonde or brunette. The box base is natural card ie. not white like the Japan-made box.
The ‘shorty’ Ken was originally given his own unique patent stamp (below left), but after the introduction of Allan in the autumn of 1964 all male dolls, including the ‘shorties’, were given the same basic stamp (below right).
Not all ‘shorties’ are short. Most are, but my MIB Ken (at top of page and below middle) is exactly the same size as any regular painted hair Ken. Compare him in the photo to the 1963 Japan-made Ken (left) and a typical ‘shorty’ Ken (right).
The Japan-made Kens came with green eyes (see section 1963 Painted hair Kens) or blue eyes. Mostly those with blue eyes were used for the 1964 Dressed Dolls (see further below) and the three Mattel gift sets this year (see also section 1964 The Outfits), though the 1964 Wedding Party Gift Set #1017 can be found with a green eyed brunette. The earlier versions have the same patent stamp on the rear as the Kens from 1963. Kens produced after the introduction of Allan were given the new markings shown above and further below. Earlier versions came with the 1963 white booklet, later versions with the Exclusive Fashions Book 1 for 1964.
KEN #750 (blonde and brunette)
JAPAN-MADE KEN IN US-MADE ‘SHORTY’ BOX
Below is a rare example of a ‘shorty’ Ken box which contained a bright blue-eyed Japan-made Ken. The extra stamp on the box end confirms that the ‘shorty’ boxes were printed in the US. They were obviously sold like this for several years, as I’ve found examples up to and including the Ken sold with the Braniff Pilot Uniform by Montgomery Ward in 1967 (see section 1967 The Braniff International Pilot Uniform).
KEN’S BUDDY ALLAN
Autumn 1964 saw the introduction of Allan, who came with his own unique beach outfit with blue sandals, black wire stand and booklet. He was marketed as Ken’s Buddy and (to a lesser extent) the boyfriend of Midge. His body is identical to Ken’s, so they could share clothes. No other clothing was designed specifically for him, but the 1966 outfit Best Man #1425 is traditionally his by association, despite the fact that he was discontinued in the USA during 1966. All Allans were made in Japan.
Some Allans come with lighter lips (or just have darker ‘tanned’ faces, making the lips look lighter), and some have thicker ‘eyelashes’, but otherwise there don’t seem to be any major variations of this doll.
Both versions of Allan’s jacket appear in the catalogues, but the vertical stripe version is rarer.
A reproduction of Allan, wearing the 1964 version of Campus Hero, was issued in 2008 as part of the (Midge 45th Anniversary) Campus Sweet Shop gift set. A second reproduction of Allan, wearing his original beach outfit, was issued in 2014 as part of the (Allan 50th Anniversary) Double Date gift set.
With the introduction of Allan, all boy dolls (ie. Allan and all newly-produced Kens) were marked on the rear with the same patent stamp, as shown below. This remained standard up to 1967. Note that this stamp refers only to the original patent (not production location), registered by Mattel in the US in 1960.
BOOKLETS & CATALOGUES
The Kens shown in the John Plain Book and Singer catalogue below (which incidentally use the exact same layout) look remarkably like ‘shorties’, but these are presumably just US stock photos to show what the sets consisted of – I’m yet to find a ‘shorty’ Ken included in any of the Japan-made gift sets.
Once again, pictures of flocked hair Ken are used, but the text in both catalogues makes it clear that Ken comes with “molded crew-cut” hair.
The two Eaton’s catalogues below look identical at first glance, but look at the prices: the Ken/Allan set costs $9.52 in the first catalogue and $9.63 in the second. This is presumably because the catalogues are from different regions of Canada.
Some 1965-66 references (like the two directly below) show the regular Allan wearing the red jacket from the bendable leg version. I’ve yet to find any more definite proof however that versions of him really were sold like this.
DRESSED DOLL KENS
Available as Dressed Dolls in 1964:
#0772 The Prince
#0773 King Arthur
#0774 Arabian Nights
#0776 Ken In Switzerland
#0777 Ken In Holland
#0778 Ken In Mexico
#793 Dr. Ken
#1408 Fraternity Meeting
Blue-eyed Japan-made Kens were used, but as they were produced exclusively in Japan, no ‘shorty’ Kens are found dressed. The Travel and Costume Series Dressed Dolls definitely came with wrist tags. The other three probably did too. I’ve certainly seen wrist-tagged versions of Dr. Ken (below left) and Fraternity Meeting. The Fraternity Meeting Ensemble Pak came without shoes and socks, so the Dressed Doll version is exceptional, as it comes with accessories not otherwise found with this outfit. I only have the photo below, so if anyone has this Dressed Doll Ken and can tell me exactly which shoes and socks it originally came with, I would be very grateful: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although not clear from the photo, the King Arthur doll came complete: the shield was curved and laid in the back of box, picture-side down.
The stickers from 1964 were changed slightly, with code number, and Ken® moved higher, to make place for the extra words GENUINE and DOLL.
DRESSED DOLL KENS SOLD IN JAPAN
Ken first appears in advertising in Japan in April 1964. The Kens illustrated in the Japanese Barbie booklets were available as Dressed Dolls. Flocked hair or painted hair Kens were used (see more information about that further below) and came in regular or Dressed Doll boxes, which were practically identical to the ones sold in the rest of the world except that these had a Japanese stamp inside the box base, and an extra stamp with outfit number on the box lid. The earlier boxes were stamped (for example) thus: No. 770. Later ones were stamped with the initial of each doll + outfit number (for example) No. K770. The KB logo just coincidentally references Ken + Barbie: it actually stands for Kokusai Boeki, the company who produced for Mattel in Japan.
Instead of being sewn onto the box base as above, they came with card inserts like the regular Kens. To judge by the Japanese booklets, several outfits came with slight modifications, and some omitted certain accessories. Army & Air Force appears to have come as just the Army outfit. Japanese market Dressed Doll Kens have also been found in 1965 outfits not featured in the 1965 Japanese catalogue, and in outfits from 1966: I’ve seen them dressed in College Student, Summer Job and Best Man.
Allan seems to have been released at the beginning of 1966 in Japan (according to the Japanese Toy industry magazines). He is always photographed wearing a version of Special Date, but so far I’ve only found him for sale in Japanese auctions dressed in Rovin’ Reporter, but, unlike in the US, he came in a regular Allan box (below).
Some Kens came with a regular black wire, but others came with an exclusive pedestal with Ken® BY MATTEL embossed in gold.
Despite the Campus Hero Ken below being in a box marked blonde I’m quite sure it is original, as many Japanese market brunette Kens have been found in blonde boxes. Presumably in the mid 1960s so few Japanese children understood English, that it didn’t matter. According to both Japanese booklets, he did not come with the U or M letter.
The trousers are interesting as they have the 1961 design, but the later version label inside. The 1965 Japanese Barbie booklet shows Ken wearing exactly these slacks, and the 1965 date would also fit to the Ken itself, which has the later markings on his bottom. Obviously mine shown below have yellowed (or ‘nicotined’) with age, but you can see that they are made of quite a different fabric to the regular ones from 1961.
JAPANESE EXCLUSIVE ROYAL WEDDING KEN
There was at least one exclusive made for the Japanese market. It came as part of a Royal Wedding Dressed Doll ‘set’ (there is a companion Barbie), and even the Ken is interesting as, despite being a painted hair Ken, he was given a kind of flocking. I’ve seen four of these Kens, all identical with this odd fuzzy brunette hair wearing a brocade tuxedo, with shiny dress shirt and yellow bow tie. The tux jacket is labelled. I’ve seen two versions pictured with a samurai sword, but, without any contemporary printed reference, can only presume that it was originally part of the outfit. To judge by the ‘blushing’ Kens used, it should date from 1966, but I’ve read that he was produced, in an extremely limited edition, to commemorate the wedding of Prince Masahito Hitachi to Hanako Tsugaru in 1964. In 2016 two sold at auction in Japan for well over six thousand dollars each, making him the most expensive Ken ever.
The beautiful bright-eyed ‘blushing’ Kens below were found in a Japanese auction, but without boxes or clothing, so there was no way of knowing any more about them, and why they have JAPAN stickers on their chins. Many thanks to Yuko K. for sending these photos. If anyone can provide more information please write to: email@example.com.
Note how the Tuxedo in this earlier booklet is shown with the corsage worn as a boutonniere.
The advertisement from the April 1964 issue of Japanese Toy magazine below left introduces Ken and Midge as Barbie’s new friends, suggesting that Ken had not been available to buy in Japan before this: “Barbie’s new friends…… International fashion model Barbie has wonderful new friends Ken and Midge. Fine tailoring, wide range of changeable outfits, as seen on TV.”
Flocked haired Ken was not just used as a model – he turns up nowadays quite often in Japanese auctions as a Dressed Doll, so must have been sold in 1964 – possibly just to use up old stock. He certainly doesn’t appear in the Barbie, Ken & Skipper booklet for 1965. Note that all advertisements show the version with thin eyebrows.
The advertisements below from the January 1966 issue of Japanese TOY magazine are the first to feature Allan in Japan. An article in the February issue describes Allan as Ken’s “childhood friend”.
Most Kens up to 1964 have Japan stamped lengthways across the right foot. The only exceptions I’ve found so far are some Kens from 1961, who have differently-shaped feet with larger toes and Japan stamped very small across the width of the foot. As mentioned above, the ‘shorty’ Kens from 1964 are not stamped on the feet, and were presumably produced domestically. All regular Allans (1964-1966) and regular Kens from late 1964-1967 were stamped Japan across the width of the foot.
The bendable leg Kens and Allans are marked either U.S.A. or Japan lengthways across the soles of both feet, or are unmarked (see section 1965 Bendable leg Ken & Allan for more info).