It doesn’t get more precious than a dollhouse. There’s just something about a small yet gorgeously intricate house filled with minuscule furniture that evokes instant coziness and nostalgia. As children, we didn’t own our homes, but that now vintage dollhouse provided us with a sense of ownership over a small and satisfying place.
Our enduring love of dollhouses even has psychological backing — the joy we feel in looking at and playing with dollhouse miniatures is not unlike the feelings we have upon seeing a baby or a small animal. Dollhouses can also give us a sense of control in a chaotic, ever-changing world.
Given the onslaught of stressful news these days, it’s no surprise that dollhouses have recently experienced a resurgence in popularity. The New York Times even recently reported on the increased attendance at miniature-related shows, and noted a younger and more diverse crowd at such events. If you’ve managed to hold onto a dollhouse from your childhood for all these years, it’s worth taking another look at it — not only will it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling of escapism, it may be worth way more than you imagined.
Why are dollhouses valuable now?
Dollhouses are frequently passed down among families, and their sentimental value is high. Their value as collectibles is also on the rise, and antiques pro Lori Verderame, PhD, also known as Dr. Lori, an art historian who reviews 20,000 objects a year and has appeared on History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island and Pawn Stars Do America, Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings and Netflix’s King of Collectibles, can point to a specific reason for this that goes beyond the charm they provide.
“The 2020s is the decade for a revival of the dollhouse because modern dollhouses were introduced about 100 years ago,” says Dr. Lori. As she explains, when it comes to vintage objects, “We collect in 50-year and 100-year cycles, so when an object reaches the 100-year mark, prices soar.”
The golden age of dollhouses
Dollhouses have an incredibly long and rich history — in fact, the earliest ones date all the way back to the 17th century. Dr. Lori says that 19th-century dollhouses command the highest value, as they’re typically handcrafted in Europe or the US in a truly old-world style. Of course, as with any collectible, a big part of the value for these dollhouses comes from their age, condition and rarity.
While the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have been the golden age for dollhouse craftsmanship, there’s still considerable interest in more modern ones. “Vintage dollhouses from toy manufacturers dating from the 1960s to the present are now hot collectible items,” says Dr. Lori.
So yes, even dollhouses that were mass-produced in the 20th century can still be of interest to potential buyers. And the recent popularity of the Barbie movie has also impacted the dollhouse market. While different from traditional dollhouses, “Barbie Dreamhouses from the 1960s to the present day have increased in value and become more collectible than ever,” Dr. Lori reports.
What to look for in your vintage dollhouse
Because all of the accessories included in a dollhouse are tiny, it’s easy for them to go missing over time. While Dr. Lori says that the dollhouse itself can be valuable, “Dollhouses filled with miniature furniture, accessories, china, pots, pans, linens and other everyday functional items are very desirable for collectors.”
These adorable little items “make the house look lived in and can really increase the value of a dollhouse overall,” she says, pointing out that when it comes to auctions, dollhouses with furniture typically sell for higher prices than ones without it. Collectors also appreciate the architectural styles of dollhouses. For example, Victorian, Colonial and mid-century modern dollhouses are admired for the way they capture specific design details in a small scale.
How much a vintage dollhouse is worth
Some vintage dollhouses are worth so much, they may as well be real houses! Dr. Lori has seen fine dollhouses and their accessories sell for thousands — or even, in rare cases, tens of thousands, at auctions.
There’s even a Guinness World Record holder for “Most Expensive Dollhouse.” That’s the Astolat Dollhouse Castle, a 29-room house filled with 10,000 miniature items. This dollhouse was constructed by artist Elaine Diehl between 1974 and 1987, and is valued at $8.5 million.
The Queen Mary Dollhouse, built for King George V’s consort by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens between 1921 and 1924, is another one of the most valuable dollhouses, and is on display at Windsor Castle.
The silent film actress Colleen Moore was another famous dollhouse enthusiast. Her Fairy Castle Dollhouse has been on display at Chicago’s Museum of Science + Industry since 1949, and is said to be worth $7 million today.
While having a dollhouse as valuable as the ones mentioned above is about as likely as picking up a winning Powerball ticket, you can still get a pretty penny for your pint-sized real estate. Vintage 20th-century dollhouses and their accessories have frequently shown up on Antiques Roadshow and been appraised at $1,000 or more. On eBay, many dollhouses and their accessories have sold for hundreds (or $5,000+ in rare cases!) — tiny paintings, tiny animals and tiny tables regularly sell for $500 or more. Not bad for something you can hold in the palm of your hand!
The value of your particular vintage dollhouse and accessories will depend on the aesthetic, condition, age and craft. Regardless of how fancy your dollhouse is, there’s never been a better time to consider taking it out of storage and putting it on the market.
Wondering about the value of other beloved childhood toys? Read on:
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