Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Collecting Dolls Houses and Miniatures on a Budget: Part 1         by Wendy Stephen

All Collectors are on a budget of some sorts, be it "low", "medium" or "can buy anything they want"! As much as we would all like to have the latter budget, many of us are on the low / medium budget range.


This reproduction Biedermeier cabinet (above) and lamp (below) were made by one of our very clever DHPP members. I bought the cabinet for £20 and the homemade lamp for £2. 



 We all see things on ebay / at fairs / private sales that we yearn to have, it is a physical feeling in the pit of our stomachs, a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Then the thought of "how can I afford it", we all make impatient purchases which we realise afterwards when we later on see our items at a much cheaper price!


I won this old German Marklin metal bed with another old antique bed on ebay. I paid £10+p&p for the two. 

The internet auction sites have opened up the ability for many Collectors to have the chance to buy items that they would not have ever seen. Many Collectors do not have the ability to attend the Antique / Vintage fairs due to distance and other issues.


Online auction bargain a Schneegas wardrobe paid £10 


There are some excellent "Buy It Now" items for those that do not have the patience for the auction style items, some very rare pieces which most of us would never have had the chance to buy pre- internet auction sites.

I bought this 1930's Fairylite wooden cot from ebay as a buy it now for around £5 + p&p.      I added some wire, lace, ribbon, bedding and an old doll. 


There are many antique / vintage items listed in the expected category sections but there are also many in obscure categories, it does take time to search through the sections but there are still many bargains to be had. For collectors in the UK, it's a good idea to also check out the German  and American ebay websites, but be careful as some German sellers do not accept paypal, and bank transfers can be costly. Also items bought on ebay USA can incur customs charges etc, check out the value of the items you want and then check the customs' pricing limits. Always message the seller to ask for their p&p prices to the UK.

I bought this beautiful old vintage Schweitzer soft metal pram from USA for a buy it now £2.50, I messaged the seller and asked for their cheapest shipping method and paid less than £3 for postage. 


Auction Houses are another way to source old pieces, check out on google your nearest auction houses and look through their upcoming online catalogues. It may be a while but eventually an item will come up of interest to you.
These two very small old vintage tins I bought from a local boot sale, the Germex one cost £2 and the red with the picture cost 50p. 
I find charity shops and boot sales a goldmine of miniature bargains to be had. Most High Streets have at least one charity shop (op shop in Australia; thrift store in North America), it is always a good idea to chat to the workers in these shops and make it known that you are a Doll's House / miniature collector. One of my local shops puts items they think I may be interested in by the door in a cabinet so when I pop in during my work lunch break I can have a quick look and still have time to eat my lunch! Remember to keep an open mind, always check out any fabric boxes on the hunt for any old lace or tapestry / embroidery pieces (ideal for carpeting the older house). Check out the picture box where often small sized pictures can be found. Old pieces of small patterned material from the 1960/70's can be found which are ideal for making Doll's House curtains / bedding covers for houses from that era.
I found this Schneegas wash stand cupboard at a vintage fair for £15; it has one leg missing.
For those of us that are lucky enough, the Antique / Vintage Dolls House Fairs are an excellent chance to find some bargains. Always rummage through any boxes by the sellers' tables, sometimes you will find some lovely old items for 50p / £1 with some damage, which with some imagination and a small amount of time can be transformed into a lovely useable piece again. These items can be used until you are able to find the same piece in complete good condition.
I love this old vintage cardboard desk. I paid £1 for it in a bargain box at a vintage fair, it has dark dead woodworm holes in the back, I put it in a concealed plastic bag and left it in the freezer for over 2 months to be on the safe side. 
I bought this lovely old wall hanging sink for £5 at a Vintage Dolls House Fair. 
Think about doing a selling table yourself or maybe with a friend to share the cost of the table, find out the costs then take off the amount of entry fee, you may find it isn't as expensive as you first thought. It is an ideal opportunity to sell houses or miniatures that you no longer require, and the new funds can buy items you really want.
This house is a G & J Lines no.18 Dolls House,
I bought this at a vintage Dolls House Fair for £30.
It had missing original features: roof, attic window, widow's walk (I had to use new balustrade as I do not have the machinery to recreate these parts) on the lefthandside, chimneys, wooden decorative pediments above the windows, railings (I used old original Lines balustrade). It took me a lot of time but I feel it was well worth while. The house previously looked so sad and the seller was having trouble selling it due to its condition,
I felt very sorry for it. 
Happy hunting!!

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