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The crazy Cabbage Patch doll craze of 1983

In 1983, a popular doll was flying off shelves in Canada, as parents competed to snap them up for Christmas gifts.

Parents scrambled, sometimes literally, for the popular doll that holiday season

Holiday frenzy reaches a fevered pitch when a new doll hits the toy market. Produced by CBC affiliate, CFPL-TV, London, Ont. 3:38

Weeks before Christmas in 1983, adults gather in a long line outside a department store in southwestern Ontario, waiting for the doors to open.

Inside the store, a pristine display of dolls will soon be ransacked, because the Cabbage Patch craze is in full swing.

Cabbage Patch dolls flew off the shelves during the holiday season of 1983. The dolls shown here were snapped up quickly by parents who lined up outside a department store in London, Ont. (CBC Digital Archives)

A CBC camera catches the commotion as parents flood into the store and begin scrambling for the dolls. (See the footage at the top of this page, or use this link to watch.)

A miffed-looking woman hauls away multiple Cabbage Patch dolls, but reveals her frustration to the camera.

"It's not worth that!" she says, making her way from the crowd of people grabbing for the remaining toys.

Scenes like this were not uncommon as shoppers sought the in-demand dolls. Some stores held draws to keep things orderly, while others left things to be a free-for-all.

Shopper Bonnie Jeffries described the scene when she tried to buy a Cabbage Patch doll at a Simpsons department store in November 1983. (CBC Digital Archives)

A shopper named Bonnie Jeffries described the chaos she witnessed, when she went looking for a Cabbage Patch doll at a Simpsons department store that same month.

"I just, I couldn't believe it — people yelling, screaming, knocking over merchandise, boxes flying, people crying because: 'I didn't get one,'" Jeffries said. "Like, someone grabbing two and three [dolls] and then someone complaining to the manager because 'they got two and three and we didn't get any' and all this. I couldn't believe it."

Cabbage Patch Kids are the in-demand toy of the 1983 Christmas season. 2:11

Another report — shown above, or viewed through this link — that aired on CBC-TV described the demand at a Toronto toy store where 40 dolls flew off the shelves in just 10 minutes.

"We've tried Chicago, Florida ... everywhere," a woman told the CBC's Alison Smith, describing her efforts to get her hands on a doll.

"And you haven't been able to find one?" Smith asks.

The dolls were hard to come by as the days got closer to Christmas in 1983. (CBC Digital Archives)

"No."

In total, more than two dozen reports mentioning the Cabbage Patch craze would air across CBC's radio and television networks in the lead-up to Christmas.

A year later, a new line of toys called Transformers was a big business story at Christmas, with one manufacturer claiming they were set to "make coleslaw out of the Cabbage Patch."

A look at the most popular Christmas toys of 1984, including Transformers, Cabbage Patch Kids, Rainbow Brite and G.I. Joe. 7:53

Follow this link to see more stories about classic toys and games in the CBC Digital Archives.