Pictured above is a group that proved to be the top-selling lot when Newcastle saleroom Anderson & Garland (22% buyer’s premium) offered a private single-owner collection of dolls’ houses.
From Newcastle herself, Catherine ‘Kit’ Hewitt was a keen collector who, along with her husband, had a long-standing interest in antiques. Her interest in dolls was piqued in 1974 when her daughter Sue bought her two as a gift.
Her collection offered on December 8 included 25 houses, all fully furnished by Hewitt. John Anderson, A&G auctioneer and valuer, said: “I first met Kit over 40 years ago when she was already amassing a large and important dolls collection. In my early days here, she would come in and help catalogue sales and was instrumental in developing my area of expertise.”
That top lot comprised a large late 19th or early 20th century collection of dolls’ house dolls, furniture and other items, which sold for £2200 against an estimate of £500-900. They had been acquired by Hewitt to furnish a five-room Christian Hacker townhouse offered as the previous lot (which made a within-estimate £520). Hacker’s factory operated in Nuremberg from 1835-1927.
The second-highest price came also for furniture and similar items: £1400 (estimate £800-1200). They were amassed for a two-storey, double-fronted townhouse attributed to Hacker which was unsold.
Both those furniture lots were bought by a UK private client via the phone.
Anderson said Hewitt furnished her dolls’ houses with a “creative eccentricity”. One such item he mentioned was a miniature atlas of the British Empire by Edward Stanford, which measured just 42 x 32mm, containing 12 colour double-page maps, published in 1925. It sold online to the UK trade for a mid-estimate £140.
The atlas was reproduced from the original made for Her Majesty Queen Mary’s dolls’ house. As reported as Pick of the Week, ATG No 2475, a copy of the Royal Doulton dinner service commissioned in 1922 for Queen Mary’s doll’s house sold for a top-estimate £30,000 as part of the Thomas Goode auction at Sotheby’s which ended on January 8.
Some of the collectable furniture went to a major British collector who lives in France.
Anderson said the dolls’ house furniture section of this market “is the most dynamic” while demand for “traditional vintage and antique dolls has dwindled”.
He added: “The prices we achieved for German bisque-head dolls were probably slightly higher than average – overall it was a well-supported auction – but still dismal compared to what we were getting 25-30 years ago. Younger buyers just don’t relate unless you offer them Barbie, Cabbage Patch, Action Man, Star Wars figurines etc. But dolls’ houses and furniture have held up.”
Anderson said: “I think dolls’ houses have become a sub-set of the very active hobby building modern dolls’ houses and furnishing them like some aspirational ‘crib’.”
Indeed, the top price for a dolls’ house in this Hewitt collection came for a modern example at £1300, sold to support a charity.