OTTAWA - RuthAnne Corley has been adding Barbie ornaments to her Christmas tree ever since 1993, when Barbie Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments were first produced as collector items.
"Barbie really wasn't a toy I played with as a child. But about 20 years ago, my mother started buying these Hallmark ornaments for my sister and I as gifts," Corley said.
"Then the tradition was born."
It started as a kitschy Christmas ritual, then took on a deeper meaning after the death of her mother.
Now her Barbie ornament collection has grown to more than 62 dolls adorning what is known among Corley's friends as the "Barbie Tree."
But her favourite Christmas decoration will no longer be available after Hallmark ended its 20-year relationship with Mattel, the owner of Barbie, over licensing disagreements.
In a release, Hallmark described Mattel's recently changed approach as not aligning with their licensing requirements.
As a result, 2012 is the last year Hallmark will be licensed for any Mattel properties. In the most recent Hallmark catalogue of seasonal ornament offerings, Barbie ornaments are labelled as "final in series."
"This year, there has been about 10 Barbies that have been released," Corley said.
"This Christmas Barbie, what they call the 'Celebration Barbie,' will be the last one of the series and may become quite the collector's item some day."
Everything from Barbie shoe closets, blonde Ken in disco era attire, to Harley-Davidson Barbie, has been replicated in ornament form by Hallmark. Many of the original 1960s Barbie dolls have also been recreated.
The loss has left Barbie ornament collectors, a small but avid group that congregates on blogs such as Pinterest, wondering if new Barbie ornaments will ever return.
"Now with this issue of not having anymore ornaments beyond 2012, I've been filling in ones that I didn't have that were only available in the States, or released to Hallmark's Ornament club," Corley said.
Like many collectors, Corley says she searches for rare Barbie ornaments on websites like eBay and kijiji, or in flea markets.
She's hopeful of a new agreement between Hallmark and Mattel, and happy her family can keep the tradition alive one more year.
"My dad has continued the tradition my mother started and he's assured me that I've got the Barbie for 2012," she says.
"After that hopefully (Hallmark and Mattel) will come to an agreement or somehow Mattel will produce them themselves."