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Antique Collectible

Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Three-story; Gottschalk; two lithographed paper rooms inside; 25 by 18 inches; $1,035. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia.
As a child in the gloomy days of World War II London, well-known dollmaker and collector, Faith Eaton, played with a 1940s dollhouse complete with air raid shelter, brown sticky paper crosses on its windows, and blackout curtains.

The dollhouse was a small reminder of a big dilemma facing not only London but the whole world.

Eaton’s doll world was small enough to control all the people and situations in it. Nothing changed unless she changed it. It was a child’s safety net for understanding what could not be understood.

Small as they are, dollhouses are an interactive art form filled with items left behind that often never last in a full-size world.

In that sense, antique dollhouses are historical records of life the way it was. Time capsules.

“There is a great beauty in smallness,” A.C. Benson, co-editor of "The Book of the Queen’s Dolls House," said.

“One gets all the charm of design and color and effect, because you can see so much more in combination and juxtaposition.”

So, in addition to being time capsules, by their diminutive size, a visual seduction awaits.

When the small doors open, a masterpiece world is revealed. A captain’s coastal Victorian home, a French parlor, a general store, a 1920s tin bathroom; log cabins, such is the world of the dollhouse.

Miniature houses date back to the 17th century. But, dolls came to live in these houses and children took over these houses in the mid-19th century. Mass production made it possible for children to possess as well as break them.

The word miniature house, as well as dollhouse is used. The distinction being, miniatures were made for adults. Dollhouses were made for children.

For two centuries, it was the German and British manufacturers, later joined by the American firms like Bliss (c1890 to c1914) who produced most of the dollhouses, furniture and accessories prized today. German names like Moritz Gottschalk (1865-1939) and Christian Hacker (1870-1914) are big in the field.

In terms of collecting, dollhouses made from the mid-19th century to about 1920 are the ones collectors often want. Once a collector buys and fills one, another often mysteriously appears.

Age, size and type of manufacture are important. The earliest examples are the most valuable. But, condition and completeness is one of the first things a collector notices.

The quality of craftsmanship is also critical. Was the dollhouse made by a factory or by a carpenter?

There’s a big difference in price between buying an empty dollhouse and a fully furnished one.

On Nov. 22-23, 2002, James D. Julia, Fairfield, Maine, featured a selection of vintage dollhouses in its Advertising, Toy and Doll auction. Here are some current values.


Two-story; Bliss; lithographed on three sides and roof; faux bricks, affixed front porch; some fading, otherwise good; 13 inches by 9 1/2 inches; $546.25.

Two-story; lithographed paper brick with ornamental wood windows and filigree adorning roof line and cornices; probably homemade; good condition; 23 inches by 19 inches; $575.

Two-story; Bliss; paper lithographed simulating stone, brick, and clapboard, nice original condition; 13 inches high; $600.

Folk art house or building; clapboard with shingled roof with front porch and second story porch; probably homemade; good condition; 25 inches by 24 inches; $632.50.

Three-story; Gottschalk; two lithographed paper rooms inside; angled dormers; two chimneys; and original staircase; fair to good condition; 25 inches by 18 inches; $1,035.

Two-story, Gottschalk; with third story twin dormers; lithographed house with porch and balcony; four rooms within and staircase leading to second floor; fair condition; 29 inches by 22 inches; $1,560.

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