Big Market for Tiny Furniture

Dollhouse and dollhouse collections are big draws for regional auction houses.

Dollhouse_hand-built

According to a report in the New York Times, major collections of dollhouses and dollhouse furniture are being put up for sale and snapped up quickly, a sign of this rapidly evolving market.

On July 23 Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago sold a collection of miniatures that included rare items, such as an enameled Passover Seder plate and goblet ($150) and a chastity belt about two inches wide with a minuscule key ($813). Brown wood armchairs and side tables sold for hundreds of dollars each.

According to the piece, the best-known collection being dispersed currently belonged to Flora Gill Jacobs, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 87. Jacobs ran a dollhouse museum in Chevy Chase, Md., and her family has been selling work through the Noel Barrett auction house in Carversville, Pennsylvania.

Prices at a sale in April ranged from a few hundred dollars each for zoo pavilions to $21,000 for a three-story English Regency townhouse with a tin dumbwaiter. “A lot of early English material went to Japan, which really shocked me,” Jack Borelli, the Barrett auction manager said.

Meanwhile, a rediscovered supplier’s workshop has inspired a show: “Bucket Town: Four Centuries of Toymaking and Coopering in Hingham,” that runs through January. 18 at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. The workshop, which was discovered in a  locked building at a Hingham, Massachusetts farm, belongs to descendants of the Hersey clan of makers of miniature furniture. They discovered the workshop inside the shed in 2007. It had deteriorated badly and was covered with vines, according to the report.

“It was about to be a pile of boards on the ground,” Derin T. Bray, a curator of the show told the paper.

Mr. Bray wrote an accompanying book, “Bucket Town: Woodenware and Wooden Toys of Hingham, Massachusetts, 1635–1945” (Hingham Historical Commission).  He said the Hersey trove amounts to “the only extant preindustrial toy maker’s shop in America.”


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