By the numbers

Reunited and it feels so good

Barbie_classic_1 I am so happy for them! Those two kids belong together and I'm glad they finally realized it.

Lance and Sheryl are calling off their split? Nick and Jessica, perhaps?

No. Ken and Barbie are reunited! Just in time for Valentine's Day.

The New York Times reports that the leggy blonde has dumped interloper Blaine, the Aussie surfer, and is back in Ken's arms. Or at least standing next to Ken, since neither his nor Barbie's nonmalleable plastic arms allow for actual embraces.

Cynics may question whether it's true love. After all, it was Barbie who left Ken almost exactly two years ago. Is this reconciliation simply a ploy by Mattel to boost her popularity, which has been taking a hit from younger, upstart dolls?

I like to think it's the real thing. I have fond memories of my own Barbie and Ken dolls. I also owned Barbie's red-haired friend Midge, along with a Barbie house (she had many properties), a roadster (multiple autos, too) and heaven knows how many shoeboxes of clothing.

Truth be told, though, the most fun I had with Barbie and Ken was when my neighbor down the block, Debbie, and I pretended that Barbie was Jane and Ken her Tarzan. Her miniature Bob Mackie gowns didn't matter so much when you had plant leaves from which to fashion jungle wear.

Admittedly, the exotic scenario never lasted very long. The short attention spans of 8-year-olds, coupled with Debbie's mom's complaints -- "Girls! Quit tearing up my rose bushes!" -- and the fact that leaf-based blouses aren't too durable, meant a return to Barbie's prêt a porter togs.

Plus, then we then got to use B's little plastic matching shoes. I loved the way they snapped perfectly onto her perpetually-pointed feet, designed to always accommodate high heels.

Barbie's taken a lot of hits over the years, in large part because of those shoes, and not just from competitors. Feminists, sociologists and psychologists (pop and otherwise) have debated ad nauseum her significance or damage to the lives of girls.

Is she an evil plastic manifestation of an unattainable male ideal of the female form? Does her endless wardrobe seduce youngsters into a cycle of destructive consumerism? Or have Barbie's various incarnations, from doctor to lawyer to astronaut, been a positive representation of choices for young women?

Who knows? Sometimes a doll is just a doll. At least she is a survivor, something all of us nearing middle age along with her can appreciate.

Speaking of appreciation: I'm going to have to find out from my mother what happened to my Barbie and all her paraphernalia. I fear all that stuff is long gone, which is definitely too bad, judging from what some vintage Barbies are worth. You can check out some classic Barbie looks and prices here.

Of course, if you're willing to part with your childhood Barbie or other collectible, via eBay or other auction site, you could run into some tax trouble if you're not careful. The IRS considers itself welcome to most of our moneymaking enterprises. Publication 17 discusses "other income," specifically:

Sale of personal items. If you sold an item you owned for personal use, such as a car, refrigerator, furniture, stereo, jewelry, or silverware, your gain is taxable as a capital gain. Report it on Schedule D (Form 1040). You cannot deduct a loss.

I just heard the collective gasp of garage sale mavens nationwide. "Whoa! I have to report the $327.84 I made when I got rid of the kids' crap?" No. In these cases, you're generally not making a profit on that ratty bean bag chair or like-new exercise bike.

But when you sell something for a profit, be it a 1961 Ponytail Barbie or your great-aunt's gemstone earrings, the IRS wants to know how much you made. And if you hold a garage sale -- or eBay auction -- every month to make a little extra spending money, the tax collector could argue that you're in fact operating a business, not simply cleaning out your closets.

IRS interest in online auction income is not new. This TaxProf entry from last March cites an AP report (reproduced in this Wired News article) of an eBay seller's quest for clarification in this area. A similar opinion on the taxability of such sales is espoused at this online tax site.

And IRS efforts to collect on these sales could increase as the agency looks to bridge the tax gap, the money it suspects it is owed but is never reported. TaxProf reports here on one suggested way to more closely monitor online auction income.

TODAY’S TAX TIP:  For some folks, selling items on eBay is a hobby. But if you find you're making money regularly that way and it looks like the IRS might come calling, admit it's a business and then take advantage of some business-related tax breaks. Find details on how this can benefit your tax bill here.

Barbie abounds! Here are some final, unrelated Barbie thoughts.

I'm still reminiscing about Barbie's penchant for stiletto heels. I never actually saw an Astronaut Barbie, but I'd love to see how Mattel finessed the elevation issue on her moon boots.

My husband reminded me that Marcy D'Arcy, neighbor of Al and Peggy Bundy in "Married With Children," was a Barbie collector. The dolls played major plot roles in two of the sitcom's episodes, "Guys and Dolls" and "Sleepless in Chicago." Details on these and the rest of the Bunderful adventures can be found here.

Finally, when I told the hubby that I was blogging Barbie and asked him to guess how I was going to tie her to taxes, his response: silicone implants. I guess that tells me where he falls on scale measuring the sociological significance of Barbie.

And while I have to give him credit for creative tax thinking, the cost of a purely cosmetic procedure to achieve a Barbie-like physique is not a tax deductible medical expense.


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