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Finding The Value Of Precious Metal Dollhouses

Finding The Value Of Precious Metal Dollhouses
by Joan Bramsch copyright: 1999

From the publication Antique Trader Weekly

The art of creating miniature scenes and rooms has been traced and documented to ancient Egyptian times, this is according to a member of Tiny Talk, an internet Newsgroup comprised of almost 400 miniaturists from around the world, who exchange tips, swaps and mini help with each other. Several famous personalities have enjoyed collecting dollhouses, some of them to the point of obsession. For example: in the early 18th century, Princess Augusta Dorothea von Schwarzburg-Arnstadt actually bankrupted her husband's estate and died in debt to the Catholic Church, all to make 'Mon Plaisir,' a recreation of an 18th century German Court (Classic Dolls Houses, Faith Eaton).
Furnished dollhouses were also used in long ago times by mothers to teach their daughters how to run an acceptable household. And yet, miniatures started out as a serious adult pastime and weren't included as children's toys until pieces were available commercially and so, as with all things, history repeats itself. Miniatures and dollhouses are again considered very collectible adult toys.

In Victorian times, the houses were made from wood, then cardboard houses became quite popular. Later in the 20th century, metal dollhouses came into vogue. Marx, Wolverine and Cohn were among the producers of the most popular models.

Twentieth Century Classics
Louis Marx & Co., Inc. began business after World War II, producing wind-up mechanical toys and metal trucks and cars. In 1949, the company produced its first metal dollhouse. Featured in the Sears Christmas catalog it was called the 'Disney' house, so named because the cartoon characters were festooned along the nursery walls. The 'Disney' had five rooms, garage and patio, and was fully furnished and electrified for only $4.98. Value today is $75-$100.
For over 20 years, Marx made metal dollhouses, often using the same model year after year. Painted in different colors and architectural design, the house had several interchangeable components which could be mixed and matched to create different styles or sizes. In this way, they met the requirements of varied sale prices. The L-shaped ranch house was new in 1953 and sold in the Sears Christmas catalog for $7.29 furnished. Value today is $70-$100, unfurnished; $125- $150, furnished.

Marx's most expensive house appeared in the 1962 Sears catalog. It featured dormer windows, an inside staircase, a ringing doorbell, lighting, a 'Florida' room complete with jalousie window, awnings, shutters and painted-on flower filled window boxes beneath the front windows, plus complete furnishings --all for $15.88. Boy, weren't those the days? Present value is $100 plus.

Other additional components were available, too, fabric drapes, or a swimming pool with slide, a white picket fence, yard toys. Mint in the box, the latter now sells for $100 or more.

It's easy to see how art imitated life in the above house description of that era, but it's a bit sad and shocking when one learns that the 1962 model replaced the garage with a bomb shelter, although they also added the new 'family room,' as well.

Marx continued to produce metal dollhouses, particularly spruced up Colonnade and Colonial models until the end of 1970 when the company went out of business. They'd provided sturdy, attractive houses at reasonable cost to at least two generations of American children. Today, they are readily available in the secondary market at attractive prices.

Barbara Cohen, Littleton, N.C., owns a (mint in box) T. Cohn metal dollhouse, #66, 1950 model made for Superior Toys. It sold for $3.98. 'I can't decide to sell it or to build it,' says Cohen. 'It's a real treasure.' A metal dollhouse featured in the 1948 Montgomery War Christmas catalog appears to be the first modern metal design. Manufactured by T. Cohn in Brooklyn, N.Y., the house had six rooms and sundeck with five windows and a front door that opened. Original price was $4.75. Most of the early Cohn models had hipped gable roofs and were clearly labeled with the company name--'T. Cohn Inc. Made in the U.S.A.' They produced metal dollhouses from the 1950s into the early 1960s, almost as long as Marx, though not as successfully.

The Wolverine Supply & Mfg. Co., was founded in 1903 by Benjamin Bain. The Pennsylvania plant designed tools and dies, but got into the toy business when a customer went bankrupt before he could take delivery on his sand toy manufacturing equipment.

Wolverine went from gravity-action sand toys (1913) to housekeeping toys (1920s) to Rite-Hite toy kitchens (1959) to dollhouses (1972-1990). They designed seven dollhouses, none of which was up to the standards of the very well-made houses bearing other name brands. Like those others, though, each sold complete with plastic furniture. Proud owner of the small Wolverine Ranch House is Dorothy McKinsey of Bremerton, Wash. 'I got it a couple years ago at a thrift shop for only $5.' Present value is $30 to $50, so Dorothy bought a real treasure for pennies on the dollar.

If the child in you longs for a dollhouse, it seems as if an old metal dollhouse may be the way to go. Because there were thousands produced, many are available on today's market. Besides that, all the furniture in plastic awaits your interior decorating pleasure. But that's another story!


About the Author

JOAN BRAMSCH is a family person, educator, writer and E-publisher. Her articles appear internationally in print and online. Six of her best-selling adult novels - near one million copies - have worldwide distribution. Her
Empowered Parenting Ezine serves 1000 parents around the globe.
http://www.JoanBramsch.com mailto:hijoan@joanbramsch.com

Joan Bramsch