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Theriault’s Doll Auction Results

Theriault’s May 31 antique doll auction in Chicago was titled “A Fine Pretending Tea,” a phrase from a poem about doll’s tea parties. But there was no pretending about this auction. The dolls were abundant and awesome. The collectors responded, and prices soared. Buyers flocked to the auction and bid in person, or left traditional absentee bids, or bid by telephone, or bid live online throughout the day. Theriault’s live Internet bidding offers an actual video/audio feed from the auction and as one collector who stayed home, fixed to her computer screen, said later, “This was so much fun. I wanted to go to that auction so badly but just couldn’t get away. I watched the entire auction, won my doll and I will have the memory of ‘almost’ being there.”

For the buyers who came to the auction it was special, too. The dolls were presented in Theriault’s renowned rich displays just as they might have been offered in 19th-century doll shops. Collectors gasped, sometimes, as they saw a doll that was much larger than they had imagined, or when, seeing a doll “all around” they were able to relish the beauty of the entire costume or coiffure. Florence Theriault, cataloguer, lamented that “we just can never show enough photographs of each doll in our catalog. It’s hard to choose. Face? Body? Dressed? And size! How many times have collectors said they had no idea how large (or small) a doll was even though they read the description. That’s why it’s so important to come to the auction if you can.”

Prices for French dolls continued very strong. The cover doll, a 13-inch bebe by Thuillier, soared to $52,000. An early portrait bebe by Jumeau doubled its pre-sale estimate at $18,000, while a 26-inch Triste bebe topped at $19,500. Two Bru bebes, each 20 inches, reach $34,000 and $25,000 respectively. Leading a fine small collection of French poupees was a wooden-bodied fashion lady by Adelaide Huret that reached $20,000.

German bisque dolls were very popular, too. From the early period were a fine group of bisque ladies with sculpted hair whose prices ranged from $1,100 to $2,700. Dolls by Simon and Halbig included a rare smiling 1019 model at $5,200 and a petite 12-inch 908 model at $2,700. Kammer and Reinhardt offered examples from their art character series which were very popular with bidders, including a 22-inch Hans, model 114, that topped at $5,800, a 20-inch Marie, model 101, that sold at $4,800, and a 15-inch Googly, model 131, that rushed to $8,400. Dolls by Kestner continued their popularity trend. Two petite all-bisque models with swivel head sold for $4,100 and $4,000. A beautiful 12-inch brown-complexioned doll known as the “A.T. Kestner” went for $6,200, and another black doll, Kestner’s 143 model, at only 11 inches, reached $1,900. A good collection of character dolls by Gebruder Heubach included the wonderful model 7843 which collectors variously describe as yawning or crying, that sold at $4,200.

The auction featured a superb group of dolls from the archives of the Cleveland Museum of Art, being sold to benefit their Education Fund. These included rare early 19th-century dolls of Japan including a rare large Mitsuore or “triple-jointed” doll that sold at $8,000, and an early Palace, 27-inches high that went for $10,000. Other dolls from the Museum holdings included a folk art lady and gentleman that sold for $1,800, and a pair of Schoenhut dolls, models 308 and 312, that topped at $1,700 each.

Theriaults, headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, conducts its prestige doll auctions nationwide. The firm specializes exclusively in antique dolls and related childhood ephemera and is owned and operated by the Theriault family who formed the firm more than 35 years ago. For more information visit