Friday, January 18, 2013


Since MGA Entertainment introduced the Bratz dolls in 2001, the "girls with a passion for fashion" have given Barbie a stiff run for the money.  Mattel and MGA spent over 5 years in court each arguing that the other had copied its designs.  In the 1970s, however, Barbie faced an even more popular rival -- she stood only 6.5" tall and her name was Dawn. 

Original Dawn dress

Topper, a brand of the Deluxe Reading company, produced Dawn dolls in mass quantities from 1970-1973.  Reading's strategy had been to place dolls and other toys for sale in grocery chains and variety stores rather than in department stores.  The space on the top most shelf of the supermarket aisle was a dead zone where shoppers were not likely to look for grocery items.  Yet a child seated in a shopping cart could easily see Reading's brightly packaged toys there and the inexpensive prices made parents more willing to humor their children's whims. 

Dawn's diminutive size also enabled smaller retailers such as drugstores and five and dime stores to carry and display the full line where they couldn't dedicate enough shelf space to fit the full line of Barbie dolls and accessories.

2003 repro Dale

Further, a girl could fit a dozen Dawn dolls and a large selection of the original 44 outfits in a compact case where a colony of Barbies and their paraphernalia would threaten to overrun the house.

Mattel fought back with the Rock Flowers dolls.

Topper, however, also used television advertising effectively and gained a strong foothold in the market. 

I don't remember seeing Dawn commercials or Dawn displays in the stores when I was growing up but I did have a lot of fun with a set of Dawn paper dolls.  It may be that Dawn was disappearing from the shelves by the time I became aware of her for unfortunately, her small size made it difficult for Topper to come up with enough new fashion ideas to keep girls interested.

2003 repro Dale

Having started with a Model Agency, then released dolls with "Dancing," "Flower Fantasy," and "Majorette" themes, as the company lurched towards bankruptcy in 1973 its designers were unable to invent fresh scenarios for the characters.

Starr Doll by JPI attempted to recapture this niche between 1994 and 1998 with a line of 7 dolls who were models for the Starr Model agency.

I bought Toya, the African American one at a Toys R Us in Miami in 1994.  Later in the 90s I found her a husband and daughter at KB Toys in New Orleans.

I don't remember who made them or what they were called.  There was a corresponding adult female doll as well but I didn't purchase her because I already had Toya and she was not interested in sharing the man.

Still I gave two of these families to the daughters of a friend.  The girls' parents approved of the fact that the baby was packaged with the father instead of with a single mother.  They took the opportunity to impress upon their daughters that they should get a husband first before they have a baby.  :-)

My original Dale and Dawn dolls became body donors for Little Kiddles who were members of my Barbie families but in 2006 I purchased this Toy-O-Rama reproduction Dale doll and several outfits at K-B Toys in Savannah, GA.  

Toya rolled her eyes, sucked her teeth, and grumbled about "that man-stealing heifer" until I explained that she was homeboy's sister.  Then she was very happy to borrow Dale's clothes.  

The repro versions of Dawn did not last long in the market but you can find them and many of the original dolls and fashions in good condition on eBay.

Sources accessed 1/17/2013

"Dawn Doll Archive"

"Dawn Dolls:  Tiny Doll Stars of the 1970s"

"Dawn Doll by Topper:  eBay Guides"

"Starr Doll by JPI Archive"

À Bientôt


  1. These dolls are lovely. I will be checking out ebay. They are a little tall for 1:12, but in the real world there are tall women too. I enjoyed the history you gave also. Very interesting. :-)

    1. Hi Grandmommy,

      The Starr dolls have a little more mobility than the Dawn dolls but I'm sure either one will feel at home in your 1:12 scale dioramas.

  2. Your posts are always interesting and informative! I didn't konw Dawn. The Starr Doll looks like our 90's Tanya Doll, you saw her current version in "Catfights", was the lady with the pink gown

    1. Hi Sergio,

      I think that Dawn dolls were sold in England but I don't know whether they reached the rest of Europe. I would not want to tangle with your Tanya. She seems a very determined lady :-)

  3. Nice post Paulette. I enjoyed learning Topper's marketing stragedy.

    I believe the Dawn doll line still has a huge collector fan base.

    I was introduced to Dawn during the late 1990s when I purchashed two Dales (the AA doll) and her boyfriend, Van, on the secondary market. I also have a couple of the repro dolls and fashions.

    I will try to do a post about them soon which will include my Rosemary Rockflower and my Family Corners dolls. Your Toya's husband is the Family Corners husband. I think his first wife's name is Nichelle.


    1. Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for identifying the Family Corners dolls. Looking forward to your post on Rosemary Rockflower!

  4. Thanks for this post. I was not familiar with this line of dolls. I am going to check them out.

    1. Hi Vanessa,

      Dawn dolls might fit into the 1:12 doll house you have.

  5. I do believe I had a Dawn doll at one time. She was a birthday gift and used to sit on by my jewelry box when I was younger. I'm sorry to say I don't know what happen to her.

  6. I remember the Dawn dolls! Thanks for this post about them.

    I remember Dale as having a short "afro;" interesting that the updated Dale has straight hair.

    The Rockflowers I remember as well - they had ugly faces, lol. Mattel didn't rank up to Topper there, lol. They also had those bendy, Gumby bodies, too. Dawn had click bend knees which I thought were nicer, then.

  7. Hello from Spain: I do not remember Dawn dolls. I think in my country these dolls never came up for sale. Thanks for reporting. Keep in touch