Nearly 50 Years Old, Barbie Bounces Back

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As dolls go, Barbie has had her ups and downs. She's achieved iconic status, amid multiple alterations to her figure, face and wardrobe. She's survived a very public breakup with Ken and withstood fierce competition from other dolls who've snagged some of her market share. Sales also have slumped in recent years, as they did at the beginning of the women's movement in early 1970s _ when"girls weren't supposed to just go to the prom and marry Ken," says Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant.

Yet somehow, as she always does, Barbie has managed to bounce back _ and not just because she's made of rubbery plastic.

Mattel Inc., which makes Barbie, says sales so far this year have been up for the first time in several years. And one survey of parents done by the National Retail Federation found that Barbie is the top toy for girls this holiday season (TMX Elmo was first for boys).

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