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Antique Collectible

Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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1923 Schoenhut "Daggle" dollhouse. 27 5/8 inches high, $2,415. Photo courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers
It’s every little girl’s fantasy. A house small enough to control everything and everybody in it. A miniature version of life where the disappointments of the day get worked out.

A dollhouse.

I grew up in the age of plastics and it wasn’t until later in life that I saw what I thought was my first “real” dollhouse. It was a Queen Ann style house with a fancy gingerbread trim, turned posts, gables, balconies, turrets, and a wrap-around porch.

No shortcuts. The windows even had real panes. Yes. I had seen life-size houses in my neighborhood just like this one. The wood construction made it user friendly and lifelike, all the stuff that tugs at the heartstrings of grown-up little girls. A moment of pure bliss.

If you flipped through a 1932 Sears mail order catalog, you could buy 1-inch to 1-foot scale furniture made by the Schoenhut Co., in Philadelphia for your own dollhouse. This could include a sofa, chair and ottoman with three-layers of real cushions, a wooden dresser with drawers that actually opened, a kitchen sink with a metal faucet, even a stall shower.

The Schoenhut Company began producing fiberboard and wood dollhouses in 1917. They added their furniture line in 1928. They’re best known for their 1½-story bungalows, whose brick exteriors, tile roofs, stone foundations and doorways are lithographed on wood or fiberwood. A metal, plastic or paper label can usually be found on the bottom.

Some other well-known makers in the early-20th century were R. Bliss Manufacturing Co., Tynietoy, Tootsietoy, N.D. Cass Co., and Morton E. Converse & Son.

The oldest American company and probably the most important to collectors is Bliss, founded in Pawtucket, R.I., in 1832. Easy to spot, the company’s name appears over the front door. Bliss dollhouses display a beauty and attention to detail that’s beyond description. Draped windows, fancy wallpaper, framed pictures, roaring fire. Makes you want to climb in, curl up, and take a long nap.

On Jan. 9, 1999, Skinner’s in Bolton, Mass., offered two dollhouses in their toys and doll auction. A 1923 Schoenhut, 27-5/8 inch high, “Daggle” two story, eight room, plus attic house, with embossed faux-gray stone siding, faux-green tile roof, wooden front steps and chimney, sold for $2,415. Tootsietoy furniture sets filled the dwelling, and there was some damage to both the house and furniture.

A 60-inch high yellow with white trim dollhouse, circa 1900, with two rooms on the first, second and third floors, glass windows, paneled interior doors, side porch and chimney realized $1,610. There was paint wear, slight shingle damage and glass missing.

To some collectors the one-of-a-kind dollhouses made by a doting uncle are the most cherished. Usually they’re unmarked, but can be valuable depending on the quality of workmanship, and condition.

For more information on dollhouses consult “Antique & Collectible Dollhouses and Their Furnishings” by Dian Zillner & Patty Cooper, published by Schiffer Books.

Q. Enclosed is a photo of a machinist’s level I consider to be 90 to 100 years old. On one side is printed Davis Pat. Any information you could provide would be helpful. Thomas Crocco, Pittsburgh.

A. Identifying and dating old tools can be difficult. Until around the middle of the 19th century nails were expensive and wooden parts of a building were held together with fastening joints. When cheap nails became available, tools like skew and gooseneck chisels used in the joinery of wooden parts became obsolete. People lost track of the tools and their purpose.

Old handmade tools are the most desirable in terms of collecting. Yet there are a number of factory produced tools that collectors seek. Saws from the early-1900s made by Henry Disston’s Keystone Saw, Tool Steel and File Works of Philadelphia are one example. Levels like yours made from 1867-to-1900 by the Davis Level and Tool Company of Springfield, Mass., are another choice example.

Many factory-produced tools can be identified and dated through books and old catalogues. A good place to start is through the Collectors of Rare & Familiar Tools Society, 38 Colony Court, New Providence, N.J. 07974-2332.

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