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Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori: Vintage dollhouses are trending


Did you have a dollhouse as a child? Do your children or grandchildren have one? Mine was nothing to write home about but it was special to me. It was homemade and I enjoyed playing with it. My dad made it out of scrap wood from his garage workshop.

It was painted white. Our actual house was gray.

It was a two-level colonial-style dollhouse. Our actual house was a ranch.

It had six rooms — three up and three down and a staircase. Our house was smaller and had no staircase.

It had no bathroom, so the dolls had to fend for themselves. Even though my dollhouse was something to aspire to, our house had a bathroom, thankfully.

In fact, the absence of a bathroom in my dollhouse was not a problem for me when at play, because I was more interested in my dollhouse furnishings and accessories than I was in playing with dolls in imaginary roles of daily life.

I liked the furniture and the tiny accessories. I liked to move around the china cabinet, place the rocking chair in a bedroom or in the living room, rearrange the kitchen chairs, and so on. In fact, if I had kept that dollhouse furniture and resold it today, I would stand to make a very good ROI.

While vintage dollhouse furniture and décor items —everything from miniature four-poster beds to tiny ceramic serving platters — are desirable, I would have been sitting pretty if I had kept all those tiny objects that made my dollhouse a home.

These items, if they are contemporary to a dollhouse, can impact its value significantly when it comes to the market. If you research auction sales for dollhouses only compared with auction sales of furnished dollhouses, the values are vastly different. Furnished dollhouses bring more cash.

Today, dollhouses of all types — most of which were much more stylish than my dollhouse — are highly collectible. Acquiring some of the most coveted ones will cost you a pretty penny. In the antiques and vintage dollhouse market today, handmade dollhouses dating back to the 19th century command the highest prices at auction and online. This golden age of dollhouses, circa late 1800s to the early 1900s, prompted many collectors to seek out architectural marvels in miniature for their collections. Examples from the Victorian period until the World War II era stir collectors’ interest in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

More recently manufactured dollhouses, like vintage examples from the 1950s and 1960s to the present day, were made by toy manufacturers and remain hot collectibles. These lithographed tin dollhouses were made by companies like Ohio Art, Marx, Wolverine. Most were designed like the suburban houses of the era.

Why are we seeing a revival of the collectible dollhouse? One reason is the 100-year collecting revival of dollhouses. When something hits the age of 100, particularly in the collectibles realm, interest piques and market prices rise. The decade of the 2020s marks the era of British Queen Mary, consort to King George V and the late HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother. She was a great dollhouse enthusiast. She had an impressive dollhouse made by the famous British architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, from 1921 to 1924. Today, Queen Mary’s dollhouse is in the Royal Collection Trust of Great Britain and is filled with furnishings, lighting, books, tea sets, bedroom sets, etc. Of all the royal collections or art and decorative objects, Queen Mary’s dollhouse is a marvel, and it is one of the objects that attracts the attention of tourists from around the globe regularly.

What dollhouses are bringing the most money today from collectors? You guessed it…Barbie Dreamhouse Playsets.

Mattel Inc.’s cardboard and plastic dollhouses made for Barbie and her friends remain some of the most sought-after dollhouses on the collectibles market today.

Levittown style, mid-century modern dollhouses made in the name of Barbie from the 1960s, A-frame doll houses from the 1970s with Barbie’s convertible parked out front, and circa 1980s and 1990s Barbie McMansions with elevators have seen an increase in value this year after the popularity and marketing frenzy surrounding the Barbie movie which debuted in July 2023.

Dr. Lori Verderame is an award-winning media personality with a Ph.D. in art and antiques history. A former museum director and university professor, Dr. Lori appears on Netflix’s King of Collectibles, History channel’s Pawn Stars do America and “The Curse of Oak Island.” Her live stage show, Dr. Lori’s Antiques Appraisal Comedy Tour, is presented nationwide. Visit or call 888-431-1010.

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