Highest auction record for American doll set at $88,000

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Virtually unprecedented in doll auction history was Theriault’s offering two renowned international museum collections in a back-to-back two-day event in New Orleans July 22-23, held in the midst of the United Federation of Doll Clubs convention.

The excitement was evident in that the total tally of the auctions hit $2.5 million, making it the largest grossing two-day event in company history.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Not only were the total sales impressive, but also a number of individual records were achieved throughout the two days, adding to the excitement and chatter of the thousands of global collectors who either attended on-site in New Orleans or were bidding online or on the phone.

Theriault’s President Stuart Holbrook commented, “The items offered from the two museums complemented each other so perfectly that it was a natural fit in presenting them as we did. Further, it generated a huge buzz amongst collectors and provided for a wonderful energy for the entire two days.”

The two museums offered were the Spielzeugmuseum Prader of Davos, Switzerland, and the Dolls and Dreams Museum of Judene Hansen of Palm Beach, Fla. Both were privately owned and run by noted collectors who spent decades building legendary and diverse collections.

French bisque poupee and her trousseau

Victoria, a French bisque poupee and her trousseau with highlights of the Prader Spielzeugmuseum in Davos, Switzerland, and sold for $55,000 to a California private collector. Photo courtesy Theriault’s.

From the Prader Museum, the unique pieces delved into the entire history of dolls. Collectors fought to obtain even just one of the rarities the collection held.

While collectors will certainly recount the exceptional prices on such items as a Steiff School Set for $50,000 and a rare French Fashion by Clement with trousseau known as “Victoria” for $55,000, it was smaller fringe categories that had collectors gasping throughout the first day of sales.

Such items as a German toy stove by Bing at $12,000 (estimate $1,100-$1,500), and an early French cloth taufling doll with hand-written inscription “Je suis ne le 13 avril 1785” reaching $13,000 (estimate $800-$1,300) were just two of the many pieces that had collectors competing in frenzied bidding.

Few examples of the school room with pupils, Professor and original furnishings are known to exist. This rare example from the Prader Museum topped at $50,000. Photo courtesy Theriault’s.

The Dolls and Dreams Museum focused more on classic bisque dolls of French and German 19th century firms, as well as American dolls from the 1950s era.

Surprisingly, for the first-time ever at a Theriault event, an American doll (well, a set that is) led the pricing battle in the end. A world record price for Madame Alexander was met with wild bidding as a set of six dolls from the coveted and rare series known as the “mystery portrait dolls” reached a top bid of $88,000. This price, while for a group, is also a world record for any American item in the doll genre.

Madame Alexander dolls

Breaking a record for a set of American dolls at auction was the six-doll “mystery portrait doll” by Madame Alexander, created in 1951. The dolls re-invigorated the post-World-War II American fashion industry, as well as earning fashion industry awards for the American doll company. The set sold for $88,000 to a private collector.

French dolls also fared well with rare examples in pristine condition having strong appeal to top collectors. A French bebe by Huret fetched $42,000 and a rare brown-complexioned Steiner bebe in its original opera costume topped out at $39,000.

As in the Prader Museum event the day before, fringe categories also were hitting record prices, including an Italian felt doll “Equestrienne” by Lenci that sold for $27,000 against a presale estimate of $3,000 to $4,500.

Both collections were featured in illustrated hard-bound catalogs that highlighted the theme and history of the museums. Florence Theriault, founder of the Theriault’s and chief-cataloguer commented: “Auction catalogs are not only a means of marketing but, in-fact, should also be a tribute and documentation of great collections and museums. They stand as the final representation to the vision of each.”

For more information on Theriault’s and its doll and toy auctions, contact the firm at 800-638-0422 or info[at]theriaults.com.

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