Mattel was well-known for their talking toys and dolls in the 1960s, and Chatty Cathy was the doll that started it all for them. There had been attempts at "talking" dolls for the last 100 years since the time of Jumeau's Bebe Phongraphe and The Edison Talking Doll featured in 1890's Scientific American. It is also noteworthy to consider that "talking" statues date back to Ancient Egypt, where an elaborate bellows mechanism made them sound as if they were speaking.
Chatty Cathy was the first surefire 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. There are even used versions to be found that still talk.
Years of Production
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, best known for the Barbie doll, produced Chatty Cathy Dolls.
Material and Size
All Chatty Cathy dolls are made of vinyl. The dolls have a soft vinyl face, except for the later dolls made in 1964 which have a hard plastic face. Collectors generally prefer the soft vinyl face. Chatty Cathy dolls are 20 inches tall.
Prices and Secondary Market
As of 2016, you can find lovely Chatty Cathy dolls in excellent condition (but generally mute) for $300 to $400. Dolls with flaws sell for much less. Rarer Chatty Cathys, including truly mint dolls, black dolls, Canadian dolls, and #1 Chattys (which have no marks) can sell for considerably more, with mint Black Chatty Cathys often selling for over $1,000 and mint in box Chatty Cathys often selling between $600 and $900. Pigtail hairstyles are also desirable.
Why are so many Chatty Cathy dolls mute today?
Mattel based all of their talking dolls in the 1960s on a pull-string mechanism. Chatty Cathy's mechanism was truly innovative; it allowed the doll to say a phrase completely at random when the string was pulled. The internal system consisted of a needle, small turntable, and record. Over time, the governor belt (a glorified rubber band) in most of these dolls has snapped, rendering the phonograph system inoperable and the doll mute.
Other Members of the Chatty Cathy Doll Family
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 Cathy 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.