Friday, December 11, 2009

Collecting Vintage Litho Tin Doll Houses

Playing With Vintage Plastic Doll Furniture

I got lost in Linda's booth at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT playing with the doll furniture in the 1950's tin doll house she had on display. I may even go back tomorrow and buy this wonderful tin litho doll house.

Styles of Doll Houses

Litho doll houses were especially popular during the late 1940, 1950s and into the 1960s accompanied by plastic doll furnishings and accessories.

Companies like Marx, Ohio Art, Wolverine etc. specialized in tin toys. Houses resembled the homes of the era, ranches, split levels and the traditional colonial.

Doll houses of the 1940s were made of cardboard, fibre-board with paper covering resembling shingles, brick and clapboard. Wood furniture was common until the 50's when plastic was the new material being used.
The first Marx Colonial Style doll house came out in 1949. In 1957, a six room doll house sold for $3.79. It was a six room house with a Living-dining combination, kitchen, nursery, bedroom, bathroom, utility room, and sundeck.

Doll Houses Come in All Sizes and Prices

On the average you can find typical vintage tin doll houses for about $45.00- 65.00 with or without furniture. There are also plenty of tin doll houses on Craigslist and other on-line sites which are selling for $25.00. Look around before you buy. Sometimes the seller has accumulated a bag of hard plastic furniture which is more valuable than the dollhouse itself. In fact today a lot of dealers sell the plastic furniture (and dolls) separately and usually ask at least $5.00 and more per piece (common items). The dollhouse family is hard to find and when they do show up they are pricey.

Litho Mansions

When I was writing my second book, one of my photo contributors sent along some pictures of some very fancy and hard to find Marx Toy Company Litho houses that were priced at $200-300. I was in disbelief until I checked around and learned that some of these houses can really get up there in price. Marx doll houses are very popular and were featured in the Montgomery Ward catalogs.

Tips About Buying Doll Houses and Plastic Furniture

When buying these baby boomer favorites, check to see that the windows and doors are intact. Also look for warped pieces, dents, scratches and rust.

Need I say that when you buy one of these tin doll houses you can't be sure you are buying one with the original furniture. Often sellers collect odds and ends and put "sets" together. Companies that made hard plastic doll furniture were Marx, Ideal, Plasco and Renewal. Furniture was made to look like the grown-up styles of the 50's.

Saving a "Lot" of Plastic Doll Furniture

Right now I have a huge bag of plastic doll furniture sitting in my basement. I have saved this bag of furniture for decades. I can remember telling my daughters (now adults) that they needed to be very careful with this doll furniture because these toys were actually "collectibles". Now I don't have the heart to sell them (the furniture, not the daughters).

Little Girls Dreams

Like my children, I loved playing house and arranging the miniature furnishing in the big tin doll house. As a child growing up in a very small apartment, I dreamed of someday living in a dream house just like the one I played with. I hoped for lots of bedrooms, a cute baby nursery, a fireplace in the living room, a couple of bathrooms and a patio with lounge chairs etc.

Now I am dreaming of a condo near the beach and a doll house to play with!

out Tin Dollhouses:

Dollhouse and Furniture Advertising by Dian Zilner

American Dollhouses and Furniture From the 20th century by Dian Zilner

Tomart's Price Guide to Tin Litho Doll Houses and Plastic Doll Furniture

Toy Buildings & Dollhouses 1880-1980 by Cooper and Zilner

*Visit These Terrific Sites

View More Dollhouse Photos

Photos Courtesy of

Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT

For more information about doll houses, junior housekeeping toys etc, be sure to read my books.

C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro cafĂ©.

To read more articles by C. Dianne Zweig click on this link:
C. Dianne Zweig’s Blog Kitsch ‘n Stuff

Email me at

Visit my website,

Dianne is a member of:
The American Society of Journalists and Authors
The Authors Guild, Inc.


  1. Hello Dianne,
    The blog looks great and once again thanks for the great read. I am selling a few of your fabulous books in the shop for the holiday's. I think you need to do another soon!

    Pink Pig!

  2. Diane,
    I was lucky enought o recieve a tin dollhouse as a child, but I never appreciated it as much as I would now! I would being going back to buy that one you saw! I even have some doll furniture I have bought thru the years on EBay.....never have seen one that wasn't just right or if it was the price was beyond me....I really enjoyed this post! Nice memories! Especially this time of year!

  3. Diane,
    Thank you for putting our dollhouse in your blog and for the credit too. I had a dollhouse just like the one in our store as a child in the 1950's, complete with furniture. I have not seen one like this particular dollhouse anywhere until one day I ran across this one. It really brought back memories..Thanks again and I enjoyed this blog.
    Dee "Cozy Cottage Vintage".

  4. Hi Diane, Great blog. I'm going to check the whole thing out. Meanwhile, I found you because I just wrote about Marx tin houses on my blog and have been cruising around the 'net looking at other sites that cherish the old houses. I have four in my collection and I love them to pieces. I keep them in my shop for display, which drives my customers nuts because they want to buy them. I'm thinking of putting them up for sale, but I know my Vermont customers are going to gasp at how much they are worth these days.

    Thanks again for a great blog.

  5. I had a metal dollhouse as a child! I loved it! All this photos bring back great memories.

  6. I have acquired a tin dollhouse with all the originial items, people, furniture, dogs, car!!! Mint condition!!!! All for helping landlord clear out her attic!!!

  7. I have acquired the exact same house featured in the top image of your blog post. It was found in my roommates grandparents house, and he wants me to sell it. Do you have any idea what it might be worth with all the original furniture pieces or anyone who would love to have it? We have no use for it and want it to go to a good home. Thank you for your time

  8. These are great! I love old tin doll houses and even painted a huge painting based on old Marx houses. If you want to take a look it is on Flickr. I also met a young woman named "Rainbow Mermaid" on Flickr who collects and does really fun things with old doll houses. Cool site.

  9. love your site and love old dollhouses! Here is a painting I did based on old Marx houses. I am an illustrator so I re-stylized every thing. Enjoy!

  10. I spent many happy hours around 1959-60 playing with my Marx split-level doll house...that is, when my 17-lb cat Fluffy wasn't backed into the upstairs bedroom, hindquarters in the master bathroom, facing out. Never saw him crawl in, but there he'd be, facing forward and snoozing soundly. Always took him a while to crawl out, stretching and yawning. It was like clowns coming out of a VW, only it was a mile of long yellow and white fur.

  11. Hello. I have a 1940's metal dollhouse that I have had since a very young child. It is in very good shape but would now like to sell it. Do you know anyone who would like to purchase it. It is two story with a garage on the side and a deck above the garage. 2149083856 Barbara

  12. I have a 1940's metal dollhouse that I have had since I was very young. It is in excellent shape. It is two story with a garage on the side and a deck above the garage. I now would like to sell my dollhouse. If you are interested in it please let me know. 2149083856