Amazing Cabbage Kids story


Remember the Cabbage Patch Kids? I’m sure anyone over the age of 45 does, for sure.

For you youngsters out there, the Cabbage Patch kids were these weird looking dolls that people were rioting to get back in the ’80s. Seriously. Rioting. How did that happen you ask? Well, I’m here for ya…

Back in 1983, two million of these dimple faced, freaky little monsters were manufactured. For reasons known only to insane mothers, the dolls quickly sold out. This, of course, led to a demand for more. Parents, of course, desperate to make a happy Christmas for little Kristin and Courtney, attacked stores with the vengeance of a 1,000 berserkers. There were stories told of women ripping the dolls from another’s hands and getting in fistfights because, after all, little Piper next door has one so our kid has to have one too, damn it!

Seriously man, the Cabbage Patch Riots of 1983 have been spoken about in hushed tones for decades. T’was a frightening time indeed. Kids, these wars made Black Friday look like a Wednesday night church service.

But let us harken back to the beginning. According to my crack staff here at Shoe: Untied, the doll itself had dubious origins. Cabbage Patch Kid thief creator Xavier Roberts was a 21-year-old student studying fabric arts when he came across a woman named Martha Nelson Thomas and her fat little fabric dolls at a flea market in the late 1970s. Thomas’ dolls were called “Doll Babies” and were sort of popular in their own right. Anywho, Roberts slightly modified the design, renamed them Little People, and gave them a back story. Next, he started “adopting” them out at his store in Cleveland, Georgia, which he called the Babyland General Hospital. Weird I know. And get this — the dolls were displayed in incubators, and the sales clerks dressed like neonatal nurses. Each doll came with a birth certificate and a name (Wendella, Ferica, Otis Lee, blah-blah-blah).

Fun Fact: Thomas would later sue Roberts for stealing not only her design but the adoption concept, too; they would eventually reach an undisclosed settlement.)

So, in 1982, Roberts licensed the doll to Coleco and some marketing genius changed the name to Cabbage Patch Kids. Oh, and here’s what was printed on every box: “Xavier Roberts was a 10-year-old boy who discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids by following a BunnyBee behind a waterfall into a magical Cabbage Patch, where he found the Cabbage Patch babies being born. To help them find good homes, he built BabyLand General in Cleveland, Georgia where the Cabbage Patch Kids could live and play until they were adopted.”

Good God Almighty that’s insane as hell.

Coleco then kicked off a massive marketing effort in June of 1983 at the Boston Children’s Museum, where it held a mass Cabbage Patch Kid adoption event. The media loved it, and Cabbage Patch Kids were quickly seen all across this vast, strange, naive and gullible land called the United States of America.

Other than their freaky looks, there was another idea that Coleco came up with to make the dolls a collector’s item — no two dolls were alike. Computerized machines were able to create infinite randomizations by varying several aspects of the doll including hair, dimple locations, skin tone and piercing, lifeless eyes. Their names were all unique, too, which explains dolls such as Callow Wheezer and Gonnelle Jeweller. To make things even more bizarre, Roberts’ name was printed on each doll’s back side. Yes kids, each Cabbage Patch Doll had a tramp stamp.

Lord have mercy.

I’m not kidding when I tell you frenzied moms and dads were driving out of state looking for a Cabbage Patch Doll in an attempt to not be the parent of a kid who was left out. It was insane.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Running up to that Christmas in ’83 there was news of shoppers run amok at malls. At a Zayre store in Pennsylvania a shop owner had to brandish a baseball bat to defend himself against an angry horde. People were trampled, beaten and some were scarred for life.

You realize I’m not making this up, right?

Seriously, there were often 500 or more people lined up in the early morning hours with less than 100 dolls available. They were kept in a cage with a lock and there was a limit of two per customer, which did not go over well. Also, there were reports that the guys driving the trucks would take bribes to put some aside. Customers would give them $65 so they made a $20 profit on each.


But here’s something even sadder – for every kid lucky enough to get a Cabbage Patch Kid that Christmas, even more were left devastated when Santa didn’t come through. It got so upsetting for some kids that teachers banned bringing in Cabbage Patch Kids for Show and Tell. It was just too traumatic for a kid without one of the dolls to see someone who had one. However, there was something worse than not having a Cabbage Patch Kid – having this God-awful knock-off.

The horror!

So yeah, Cabbage Patch Kids were huge back in their heyday. So huge they made grown-butt adults look like fools.

PS: Still have a Cabbage Patch Doll? You may be able to cash them in for a nice haul. Dolls that were made prior to the Coleco handover are worth the most. Little Tilly Kay, a 1979 pre-Cabbage Patch Little People Original Doll, sold for $550 in March. Flower Kids? They go for around $25. Sigh.

Dave Shoemaker is a retired teacher, athletic director and basketball coach with most of his professional years spent at Paint Valley. He also served as the national basketball coach for the island country of Montserrat in the British West Indies. He lives in southern Ohio with his best friends and companions, his dogs Sweet Lilly and Hank. He can be reached at

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