Doll’s house sells for ‘mad’ price of €48,000 at Kilkenny auction

The 1810 mahogany house, once owned by Vivien Greene, had guide price of €3,000-€4,000

Fonsie Mealy and Tara’s Palace treasurer Jenny Johnston with the doll’s house that was  sold by the children’s charity for €48,000. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fonsie Mealy and Tara’s Palace treasurer Jenny Johnston with the doll’s house that was sold by the children’s charity for €48,000. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Even by the standards of the Irish property market, it was an exceptionally high price. A two-room doll’s house measuring just 44cm high and 26cm across fetched €48,000 at an auction in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny on Tuesday afternoon.

The mahogany “travelling” doll’s house, which dates back to 1810, had a pre-auction guide price of €3,000-€4,000.

Auctioneer Fonsie Mealy said he was astonished by the price. “We knew it was rare . . . but it’s an incredible price for it. If you were to make out the price per square footage, how much is that? But it’s a unique piece as well.”

The doll’s house was part of a lot being sold by the trust of Tara’s Palace Museum of Childhood, with the proceeds going to several Irish children’s charities.

Volunteers from the children’s charity. Tara’s Palace, from left, Patricia Woods, Roslyn Nicholson, Jenny Johnston, Anne Lawless and Mary Moore with the doll’s house. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Volunteers from the children’s charity. Tara’s Palace, from left, Patricia Woods, Roslyn Nicholson, Jenny Johnston, Anne Lawless and Mary Moore with the doll’s house. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Bidding began rising quickly, as four prospective buyers chased each other on the phone and the internet. Only one of the interested parties was based in Ireland.

There were sharp intakes of breath in the Castlecomer auction room as the bidding jumped quickly from €10,000 to €20,000 and continued to rise rapidly from there. “When it went over the €20,000 mark, I said this is mad,” Mr Mealy said.

The hammer eventually came down on €48,000 to a private collector based in the UK.

Jenny Johnston, treasurer of Tara’s Palace Trust which ran the Museum of Childhood, said the museum bought the house in 1998 for €7,000. “It’s a great day for children’s charities.”

Auctioneer Fonsie Mealy with the doll’s house. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Auctioneer Fonsie Mealy with the doll’s house. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The reason for the high price was that the house is “very rare, and it belongs to the Vivien Greene collection so that helps”.

Vivien Greene, wife of Graham Greene, was a well-known collector of doll’s houses. Another miniature house from her collection, thought to be one of the oldest surviving English examples, sold for €12,000.

The other surprises of the afternoon included a porcelain ballet dancer which, guided at €80-€150, sold for €3,200, after attracting interest from buyers in Russia and the UK.

A rocking horse which guided €400-€600 made €3,200.