Bild-Lilli doll, £2400 at Bamfords.

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However, the hugely popular American doll owes a big debt to its predecessor.

Barbie would not have existed if Mattel’s co-founder had not chanced upon the earlier German doll that was based on a comic strip in the tabloid paper Bild Zeitung, starting in the publication’s debut issue in 1952.

Famously, Ruth Handler had been inspired to create a more adult doll by her daughter Barbara’s frustration at the disappointing baby dolls on the market.

They were mesmerised by a Bild- Lilli seen in a shop window during a European holiday in 1956. The newspaper had begun making them in 1955.

However, they were more of the nature of novelty toys for adults than the wholesome children’s plaything Barbie became.

The super-confident and sexy style of Bild-Lilli (Lilli of the cartoon strip was a much more adult orientated character than a doll would suggest) is clear from examples that have appeared at auction.

Blonde bombshell

These include the 11½in (29cm) jointed plastic version offered at Derby salerom Bamfords (24.75% buyer’s premium) in Derby on November 21 estimated at £300-500 but sold for £2400.

The swivel head included painted features such as brown eyebrows, black side glancing eyes and red lips. Lilli had blonde ponytail hair, black moulded and painted earrings, and wore a dress with PRYM pop stud, and moulded and painted black high heel shoes with holes to undersides.

She came together with a raised circular plastic stand applied with BILD-LILLI, BILD ZEITUNG red and white paper label (the first Barbie doll was also supported through a hole in the bottom of the feet) and a miniature faux literature newspaper.

Tall and small

Bild-Lilli was produced in two sizes. A smaller version, 7½in (19cm) tall, could even be suspended from the rear view mirror of a car on a little swing.

Barbie debuted at the New York toy fair in 1959 after Handler had taken a Bild-Lilli back to the US and persuaded her Mattel colleagues to produce a similar doll.

Mattel acquired the rights to Bild-Lilli in 1964 and production of the German doll ceased (with various lawsuits flying around at the time, though, based on copying).