Arnold Greenberg

StageNotes - Make Believe

Arnold Greenberg and the story behind Cabbage Patch Kids

By Antay Bilgutay, Director of Development

Arnold GreenbergFor anyone who lived through the 1980s, Cabbage Patch Kids are quintessential pop culture artifacts. With their homely features, unique names, hairstyles, and outfits, they were the “it” toy of the decade. But did you know they had a Hartford connection?

Hartford Stage Life Trustee Arnold Greenberg was CEO of Coleco, a major toy manufacturer. In 1983, Greenberg acquired and introduced the Cabbage Patch Kids line. “We had become prominent in the electronic games field,” Greenberg said. “We offered handheld football games, ColecoVision video game consoles. We wanted to create balance in the product line by developing a more traditional toy product, and there’s nothing more traditional in the toy industry than a doll.”

Cabbage Patch Kids were not typical dolls, though. “They were not known for their physical beauty, like a Barbie,” said Greenberg. “They needed love. People responded to that. Their outstretched arms said, ‘Love me. Take me. Adopt me.’”

That was the key to the doll’s success. Consumers didn’t just buy a Cabbage Patch Kid, they adopted one. Once purchased, the consumer sent in paperwork to register their doll, and Coleco sent them back a certificate of adoption. This created an unusually strong bond between the child and their doll. “Of course, we also notified them of all the other merchandise available in the Cabbage Patch line as well,” laughed Greenberg.

Arnold GreenbergEach doll came with a distinctive dress and hairstyle, and each doll received a unique two-part name derived from the 1938 Georgia birth registry. “The legend behind them is that they were born in a cabbage field in Georgia, found under a cabbage leaf,” said Greenberg. “Of course, no one has been able to prove that.”

The dolls became an overnight sensation. “We sent the first dozen to Macy’s in New York, and they literally raced off the shelf. The fact that they were unusual is what made them appealing. We made them both male and female. We made twins. There were African American versions. They were a big hit overseas as well,” Greenberg noted.

Cabbage Patch Kids remained a top seller for several years. “I got calls from all over the world,” Greenberg recalled. “Friends, acquaintances, people I’d never met, people in high places (I won’t name names). All kinds of people who couldn’t obtain a Cabbage Patch Kid in their local stores wanted to be my friend. It was a great pleasure to be so popular for a brief moment in time.”