Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Spectra Craze

Halloween doll meet by alington
Halloween doll meet, a photo by alington on Flickr.
One of our fellow doll collectors came across this Mattel doll, AstraGold, at a thrift store for $1 and shared her bargain find at our last meet. As a child of the 1980s, I recognized this doll immediately, and it caused me to delve into research about my long-lost love of these dolls from Mattel's Spectra collection.

The original line was released in 1987, and was designed to compete with Jem (by Hasbro). Unfortunately, this line didn't sell as well as expected, and was discontinued less than a year after production.

It's theme: Lacy... Spacy... Out of this world!

The dolls have cleverly jointed bodies, if a little extreme, in addition to colorful (yellow, pink, green, purple and blue) hair and colorful facial screening. Their bodies are metallic hard plastic with soft vinyl heads.

Separate fashions were also available, along with several other accessories, including a body buffing station.

Because of the limited production numbers, the dolls are surprising difficult to find (especially in mint or NRFB condition). They can range from $40-55 for the more common dolls, and upwards of $315 for sets including the dog, Spark.

Finally, searching for Spectra dolls online has become more difficult in recent months, because of the addition of Spectra Vondergeist to Monster High's collection, also by Mattel.


  1. I have a newspaper article from 1987 when the Spectra dolls were originally released. If you are interested, I could scan the article and email it to you. My email is on my blogspot profile page.

  2. The doll you have pictured is AstraGold. There were five dolls in the series: Spectra, AstraGold, UltraViolet, StylaBlue and Tom Comet.
    I added a jpg. of the actual 1987 article on my blog at
    I never did learn who won the contest.
    This is the text of the article:

    Cincinnati Enquirer June 1, 1987

    New teen-age dolls are out of this world
    Harvard scientist is one of three judges in toy company’s national contest

    by Dana Kennedy
    The Associated Press

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Normally, Robert P. Kirshner spends his days at Harvard’s Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics pondering the structure of the universe or the role of radiation in type 2 supernovas.
    This week, he’s been pondering what a teen-age girl from outer space would look like.
    He had consented to be a judge in a contest by a toy company that is about to market an intergalactic doll.
    “In a moment of weakness, I agreed to do this," said Kirshner, 37, as he surveyed the 130 submissions spread out on the desk in his cluttered office. “Now I guess I’ll have to go ahead with it.”
    But when he began to study the colorful drawings, the professor grew almost as enthusiastic as he does when chatting with colleagues about whether the universe is infinite or merely finite without boundaries.
    “Now this one is very good!” he said, holding up an elaborate drawing of a space giri with what the artist described as antenna earrings, seven purple tentacles, an eye crown and a head ring.
    “A head ring to fight evil on the planet Earth,” Kirshner exclaimed. “Of course, what else is a head ring for?”
    Kirshner's unlikely involvement in the Mattel Inc.-sponsored contest to stir interest in its new Spectra doll stemmed from recent publicity over his research into supernovas. Mattel’s public relations company called him and he agreed to take on the job.
    The contest was timed to coincide with the introduction of the Spectra doll to stores this month. The doll is 11.5 inches tall, the same height as Barbie, with a pink chrome body, flowing pink sequined hair and blue eyes. She comes wearing a sparkling crinoline skirt and leggings.
    Kirshner will judge the entries, chosen from an original batch of 9,000, along with pop artist Keith Haring, 28, and Broadway actress Andrea McArdle, 22. The grand prize is a $10,000 scholarship plus a $500 “out-of-this-world” wardrobe.
    Each of the three judges, viewing the entries separately, assigns a numerical value to his or her favorites: an independent accounting firm then totals the points to determine the winner, whose name will be announced this week.
    The creators of the entries screened by Kirshner were mostly girls ages 6 to 12. Their drawings ranged from what Kirshner called “typical Wonder Woman stuff” to his favorites, “the ones that look the least human.”
    Among his favorite entries was one submitted by 10-year-old Johanna Baumgartner of Fountain Valley, Calif., who was very specific about Spectra’s features.
    “Her foot has a special chemical that termites like so that is why her foot is swollen and has a chunk missing,” Johanna wrote.
    “What’s really great is seeing the range of imagination. The spelling’s lousy but the imagination’s great," he said.
    Kirshner, who teaches as well as conducts his research at Harvard, has been at the forefront of research on supernovas, the rarest and most powerful form of exploding stars. Some scientists believe supernovas could hold keys to the origins of the universe.


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