June 24, 2011— -- You've heard of Skipper (Barbie's younger sister), Christie (an African-American friend) and Kira (a Pacific Islander). But the one buddy you may not have seen on the shelves is Midge, Barbie's pregnant best friend.
The original Midge, waistline skinny as can be, was first introduced in the early 1960s. In 2002 she was pregnant, the subject of controversy, and was pulled from store shelves after parents complained the doll, packaged alone without family members, sent the wrong message.
Doll collectors say Midge is somewhat valuable, but the money isn't what's important: It's about owning a piece of history.
"When I first started collecting, I would buy a doll before I would pay my mortgage," said Sidney Jeffrey, 51, who lives in Lancaster, Pa., and has been buying Barbies since 1984.
The Midge doll, marketed as one of Barbie's friends, has a magnetic, detachable stomach that holds a small baby inside, making it easy to transform Midge's body into a slim silhouette post-"pregnancy."
The doll was part of the "Happy Family" series featuring husband Alan (sold separately), first child Ryan and the new baby, a girl. Midge wears a floral dress, pink mules and a wedding ring, and comes with several baby accessories including a cradle, teddy bear, rattle and two diapers.
"At the time it came out, there was a lot of press and it was real controversial, which means everyone went out and bought it," said Suzanne Prochask, a Barbie doll collector who runs the website fashion-doll-guide.com, a virtual encyclopedia of information about Barbies produced between 1959 and 1972.
The 67-year-old Illinois man, whose name has not been released, told police he's been looking for his Midge doll for the past month and isn't sure when it was taken. He also reported a couple of other things missing from his garage in the village of Gurnee, Ill.
"I had personally never heard of a pregnant Barbie doll before," Gurnee police commander Jay Patrick told ABCNews.com.
Right now, police said, they have no suspects.
The man also has made police reports over the past year and a half about credit card fraud, disorderly conduct and theft.
He reportedly told police the doll was worth $400. However, the pregnant Midge can be purchased on Amazon for less than $100. A quick search on eBay of boxed Midge dolls sold in the last 30 days showed one sold for $150 and some listed for $129 or less that have not sold. Several sold in the $50 to $80 range.
Dolls, in general, don't fetch as high a price as they used to.
"Ten years ago, the hobby was a lot different than it is now. It was just that there was a huge demand for Barbie dolls and the secondary market was just insane," said Prochask. "People always think it's worth a lot more than it is. Most of the people who are not into the Barbie collecting scene are disappointed."
Jeffrey, the creator of mydollydearest.com, sells vintage Barbies in his Adamstown, Pa., shop, and said profits have plummeted over the past five years.
At the height of the "doll-collecting era, he said, he had about $250,000 in sales each year. Now, he added, "Sales are probably $4,000 a month."
"I noticed a big difference the very first year the economy started to tank," he said.
Interest is waning at doll conventions too.
"At the last show I did, they opened the doors and 10 people walked in," he said, recalling the days when 500 people would attend.
It was Barbie's clothing that spurred Jeffrey to begin collecting the dolls in 1984. He now owns every Barbie doll made up until 1967.
He had never thought about collecting dolls, he said, until he saw one in the window of a discount store.
"I thought 'I've just got to have that one,'" he recalled. Then, he said, it quickly became "an obsession."
"The clothing was from my era -- they were so well-made, they were made just like a human's clothing -- with the snaps and zippers and ornaments," he said. "It reminded me of some of the clothes my mother wore."
Prochask, who has collected Barbies for 14 years and plans to use her family's spare room to display her current collection of more than 100 dolls, also says she's driven by Barbie couture.
"It's just such quality in the make and design and fabrics. When we were growing up, at that time it was all about the clothes," she said. "It's a wonderful time capsule of the history of women's fashion."
Jeffrey buys newer Barbie dolls in addition to the vintage ones, but he said they are harder to sell.
The pregnant Midge doll, he said, can go up to $400 in value if in mint condition.
"Condition means everything when you're collecting dolls," he added. "Preferably, they want it in the box and the box has to be perfect -- right out of the factory."
Although dolls are worth less than they used to be, Prochask said collectors are still passionate about their hobby.
"I grew up with Barbie and it was a huge deal," said Prochask, who was born in 1959, the same year Mattel introduced Barbie to the market. "Collectors never forget that feeling they have when they pull out that doll that was part of their childhood."