Were you a part of the Cabbage Patch Craze of 1983?

How far would you have gone for the season's It Toy?

AP Photo

Unless you were shopping for children in the winter of 1983 — or were a child hellbent on getting a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas — the fact that actual fights over the plush dolls erupted across the country might seem a little wacky to you. Happen, they did, though. And these events are making headlines once again since HBO just announced a new limited series, The Dolls, chronicling the madness, starring and produced by Big Little Lie’s Laura Dern and Insecure’s Issa Rae. The Hollywood Reporter reported that the HBO series will focus on the aftermath of Cabbage Patch Riots in two small Arkansas towns, exploring “class, race, privilege and what it takes to be a ‘good mother.’”

Very much like the Black Friday doorbuster havoc of Best Buys and Wal-Marts across the country in the early aughts — before we just decided another TV isn’t worth losing our teeth for — the Cabbage Patch Riots were exactly what the name suggests. Though the doll had been around since the late ‘70s, Coleco bought and began mass production in the early ‘80s. And hoo boy, was Coleco unprepared.

AP PhotoA happy customer displays his newly purchased Cabbage Patch Kid doll on Sunday, Nov. 27, 1983 as he leaves a south Bellingham, Mass. storefront crowded with people hoping to make similar, purchases. The moon faced cloth dolls, made by Coleco, have created quite a stir among shoppers nation wide, with some people waiting in 5-hour lines to buy them.

Maybe it was brilliant marketing, or the gimmick that no two dolls were alike, but once the Cabbage Patch Kids took off, they really took off. In the fall and winter of 1983, the dolls were the It Toy of the season, and they were flying off the shelves faster than Coleco could produce them. According to Timeline, Coleco had originally produced two million dolls for the holidays, but they were sold by early October. Hundreds of people would wait in line outside of stores for hours, waiting for the store’s next stock of 40 or 50 dolls.

According to a 1983 article in the Victoria Advocate from Concord, New Hampshire, it wasn’t uncommon for shoppers to travel across state lines and wait in line at multiple stores for the coveted toy. Stores were gouging the prices from $17.99 to $23.99 (which would be $60 today with inflation.) Most of the time, more parents went home empty-handed than with a new member of the family, which led to some scuffles and arguments. However, there were a number of violent incidents reported. This was the first instance of holiday hysteria that's become a part of America's routine.

In that same newspaper article, a 75-year-old man and a pregnant woman were both trampled, one woman suffered a broken leg and another was almost knocked out with someone’s elbow. People who were lucky enough to snatch up a Cabbage Patch Kid ran through the parking lot to avoid someone grabbing it out of their arms. A Zayre store employee had to grab a baseball bat to fight off a crowd of 1000 storming the store. Other stores handed out tickets for each doll in stock or only allowed a certain number of people in the store at the time in an effort to avoid chaos. 

Does this story of doll craze sound familiar? Well, that could be because the origin of the Good Guy dolls from 1988’s Child’s Play was based on the mania over Cabbage Patch Kids. While there were surely some back-alley doll dealings, as far as we know, there haven’t been any killer Cabbage Patch Kids. 

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RobChapman 46 months ago
It was indeed crazy. My mom went to Lionel Playworld to get a few for my younger sisters, and she said it was just a crazy mob. People shoving, pushing, even fighting. She said she'd never seen anything like it before. Today, that's just a typical Black Friday at Walmart, but back in 83, that was unheard of.
TVFF 46 months ago
I never came in direct contact with the Cabbage Patch Kid craze, but I remember hearing a lot about it.
Lucyneenah19701 65 months ago
I had a Cabbage Patch doll named Sally. Our neighbor made the doll for me.
daDoctah 66 months ago
My niece was of the target age for Cabbage Patch Kids when the craze was in full swing, so her mother asked her if she wanted one. Amanda's response was "No! They're UGLY!"
SheriHeffner 66 months ago
I remember these incidents well, but Thank God, I never had to fight over a doll. I did buy my niece Danielle one for Christmas when she was three years old in 1987, Her name was Peggy Ruby and she had a pacifier in her mouth that could not be removed. She had brown curly hair and a yellow dress and her eyes were blue.
Barry22 66 months ago
I do remember those incidents, but thankfully never had to deal with them.
Pacificsun 66 months ago
No, but TLC once had this series called "My Strange Addiction" and they focused on a couple obsessed with CPDs. The had a special air conditioned separate housing, read them bedtime stories, had a play yard set up for them, and exchanged play dates with other collectors. They had a very rare male CPD, which was the only one allowed inside their own house. The collection must've been worth a hundred thousand dollars, no two were alike. And they had at least a 100 of the dolls.
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