Chatty Cathy was produced from 1960 to 1964. Mattel also re-issued Chatty Cathy dolls twice, in 1969 (with the voice of Maureen McCormick from the Brady Bunch) and again in 1998 and 1999 for collectors. Mattel was well-known for their talking toys and doll in the 1960s, and Chatty Cathy was the doll that started it all for them. Although there had been attempts at 'talking' dolls for 60 years (since the time of Jumeau's Bebe Phongraphe) Chatty Cathy was the first sure-fired talking doll hit. With her pull string talking mechanism and phrases such as 'Please brush my hair,' she captured the hearts of an entire generation of little girls.
After hitting a home-run with Chatty Cathy, Singin' Chatty, Charmin' Chatty, Tiny Chatty Baby, and Tiny Chatty Brother were also produced. None were as popular with children in the 1960s or with collectors today as the original Chatty Cathy. Marks on Chatty Dolls: All Chatty Cathy dolls are marked on their backs. Marks include the copyright date and generally the doll's name (Chatty Cathy, Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, etc.) Only the #1 Chatty Cathy has no mark.
Revolutionary for its time, Chatty Cathy spoke one of eleven phrases at random when the 'chatty ring' protruding from its upper back was pulled. The ring was attached to a string connected to a simple low-fidelity phonograph record in the doll's abdomen. The record was driven by a metal coil wound by pulling the toy's string. The doll said 11 phrases when she came on the market in 1960 such as 'I love you' or 'Please take me with you'. Seven more phrases such as, 'Let's play School' or 'May I have a cookie' were added to the doll's repertoire in 1963 for a total of 18 phrases. Chatty Cathy's voice unit was designed by Jack Ryan, Mattel's head of Research and Development; Ryan had also been responsible for designing the Barbie doll after a German doll called Bild Lili in 1959.
Originally, Chatty Cathy had blonde hair and blue eyes. Brunette and auburn-haired versions of the doll were introduced in 1962 and 1963 respectively; an African American version of the doll with brown skin tones was produced those same years. In 1960, two outfits were available for the doll: one included a blue dress with a white eyelet overblouse, panties, crinoline, blue shoes and white socks, and the other included a red velvet headband, red sunsuit with a red pinafore with an overskirt of white voile, red shoes and white socks. Other accessories accompanying the doll were a story/comic book, shoehorn, and paper wrist tag that was also a numbered warranty card. The doll and its accompanying accessories were advertised at less than $20.
Chatty Cathy was on the market for six years and was the second most popular doll of the 1960s after Barbie (also made by Mattel). After the success of Chatty Cathy, Mattel introduced Chatty Baby in 1962 and Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother and Charmin' Chatty in 1963. The last doll to have the word chatty in its name in the '60s was Singin' Chatty in 1965.
In 1962, Mattel purchased the Dee & Cee Toy Company of Canada, which produced a Canadian version of the Chatty dolls. (By 1964 the company was known as Mattel Canada.) The dolls were made from the original American molds, but there was a notable difference in the materials: the vinyl used on the Canadian doll had a glossier look, its eyebrows were higher on its forehead, and a different type of eye was used in the doll. These differences account for the higher prices of some Canadian Chattys among collectors. Some of the doll's phrases were different, reflecting cultural differences between Canada and the United States. These differences also made the doll suitable for export to other English-speaking countries. Mattel also bought the Rosebud doll company in England in 1966 and made a British Chatty Cathy that was on the market into the 1970s. These dolls were made from completely different molds and do not resemble any of the dolls made by Mattel in North America.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Chatty Cathy price guide: sold listings for a value indication.