Antique Doll Houses
HOST: Inside the walls of the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, you'll find a virtual village of dollhouses, all shapes and sizes, some several centuries old. ROADSHOW met up with appraiser Marshall Martin to discuss these antique examples of life in miniature. HOST: Dolls have been around for centuries in many cultures, but what about dollhouses?
Well, dollhouses or doll's houses, as many refer to them, were first started in the 16th, 17th centuries. And they originally were cabinets, not houses, and the cabinets would open and they were filled with miniatures and things that wealthy women would collect from all over the world. Into the 18th century, cabinets, or dollhouses, were made for children, and they were made by cabinetmakers or manor house employees, and often they were made in the shape of the manor house. Then into the 19th century, we begin to have commercially made dollhouses. HOST: I see, well, we have two examples to look at here and let's talk about these.
The first one we have here is a Bliss dollhouse made in America. And Bliss often marked their items with a little label on the front. These houses are made in the 1890s and probably done in piecework. There would be a group of people laminating paper onto wood. There would be people making just chimneys, and then they would be assembled. HOST: I see, it takes a village to make a dollhouse.
Exactly. When we open this house, you'll see all the original papers on the floor and on the walls, and the lace curtains which probably aren't original to the house. The German example made by Gottschalk, it's not as fancy. It doesn't have all the little spindles and doors and everything, but it's still a desirable house. This one is actually electrified, which was very common at the end of the 19th century. They even made chandeliers to go in the houses. Again, in the 1890s. It's hard to pinpoint because they made this same dollhouse for several years. HOST: So, Marshall, let's talk about value if we can. And we'll start with the German house. What would you say the value of a similar house to this would be?
To find that on the retail market today, you'd probably have to pay between $2,000 and $2,500. The Bliss house demands a little more money because of all of the fragile papers on it and because it's just a bit more ornate. You'd probably have to pay between $5,000 and $6,000 for that on the retail market. HOST: I see, and when we talk about these values in dollhouses, we're talking about the houses alone and not the furnishings?
Not the furnishings. Furnishings were almost always sold separately, and when you find a house like this with furniture, it's usually a mixture of different companies. After all, they were just toys and they were played with. It's not unusual for someone to pay up to $1,000 for one piece of doll furniture. HOST: I see. That's an expensive hobby.
It is, it is. HOST: And really wonderful to learn about these dollhouses and a little bit of the history. Thank you so much.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
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