Little Objects Were a Big Deal

October 7, 2021

Joyce Schoedinger of Columbus, Ohio, had the right idea. Collectors love to collect, but ardent acquirers eventually run up against this hobby’s greatest roadblock—space. Just how much stoneware can one house hold? Yes, there’s always room for one more piece, but how many examples of quilts, early lighting, and furniture can be contained before the crush of collecting sets in?

Space can be an issue unless one delves into the fascinating world of miniatures. Suddenly, the prospect of high volume ownership becomes doable. Just ask Schoedinger.

How about a library in miniature? This collection of ten children’s books by Barbara Raheb, each from an edition of 300. The group sold for $937.50.

More than a dozen fully outfitted miniature houses, shops, and cottages resided in the home of advanced collectors Joyce and Jay Schoedinger. While Joyce acquired miniatures, her husband, Jay, turned to toys. Though the couple collects and lives with full-size antiques, it was Joyce’s fascination with miniatures that really took wing. She was the owner/proprietor of a dollhouse and miniature shop in Columbus, The Little Shop on Lane, for years, a venture that aided and abetted her collecting prowess.

As with most collections, the time came for the Schoedingers to downsize, and Selkirk Auctioneers & Appraisers, Saint Louis, Missouri, was chosen to do the selling of Joyce’s miniatures. The event, “Petite Exposition: Bespoke & Dollhouse Miniatures,” took place on October 7, with Amelia Jeffers, formerly of Garth’s, advising and helping to catalog what was to sell.

“Joyce’s collection was extensive, all encompassing,” stated Jeffers. “Both Joyce and Jay were true collectors with built-ins in their home to show off their things. Joyce’s dollhouse displays included a complete silver shop, a teddy bear store, and a Paul Moore cabinet dollhouse exquisitely decorated. Each house was filled, and all needed to be disassembled, cataloged, packed up, and sent to Selkirk.”

Jeffers remembered suddenly feeling overwhelmed about four days into this process. “And that’s when it hit me. Prepping for an auction usually involves dealing with one household. We (I had six people helping) were taking apart more than eight actual households. Yes, they were miniature so the moving of larger items like furniture was not the same, but all the pieces still needed to be handled. We were exhausted but loved every second. The material was just so fascinating!”

Not only were Jeffers and her crew taking apart the dollhouses, but they also had to pack up many of Schoedinger’s items that were not on display. “Joyce had items tucked away she hadn’t seen in years, fantastic things. We found many wonderful items simply sitting on shelves in the basement. So much fun,” Jeffers stated.

There are highly talented artisans who create only miniature pieces of stoneware, rugs, furniture, and even the houses themselves. “The more we handled this collection, the more we appreciated the craftsmanship of these miniatures,” Jeffers explained. Prices realized proved that the buying public did as well.

It was not surprising that the top lot of the collection was the museum-caliber Paul Moore cabinet dollhouse room box. This Georgian cabinet house featured Clare-Bell brass sconces and draperies by Marcia McClain. Sitting atop its custom base, which had two drawers, the house also boasted two glass doors. Said to be the largest cabinet created by Moore at 57" high x 52" wide x 19" deep, the miniature marvel sold for $17,500 (including buyer’s premium), well above the $1000/3000 estimate.

An early 1900s lithographed wood log cabin or Adirondack hunting lodge by R. Bliss Manufacturing Co. sold for $1500 (est. $500/1500). Having three rooms with an attic, the cabin sold with four rugs, a Native American topper to the roof, and a circa 1870 birch-bark canoe made by Charles Sebeck of Brooklyn, New York.

The miniature furniture sold well, prompting Jeffers to point out, “Many of the miniature pieces sold for more than their full-size counterparts have at auction of late.” A 7" tall Gerald Crawford miniature highboy, a Boston Queen Anne example with batwing brasses and drop finials, sold for $2875 (est. $200/400), while a miniature game table by Julian Biggers, with a fine marquetry-inlaid surface, sold for $2375 (est. $150/350). The 2½" tall signed table had stylish serpentine legs with ball-and-claw feet.

A pair of miniature camelback sofas by Betty Valentine, later reupholstered in silk with a foliate design by Marcia McClain, sold for $1625 (est. $250/500). Each was 3" high. Another Gerald Crawford miniature, a Colonial dining set consisting of a gate-leg drop-leaf table with three rush-seated chairs, also sold for $1625 (est. $150/350).

Silver was a big deal at this auction of miniature wonders. Created by Peter Acquisto, a William and Mary-style ten-light miniature silver chandelier sold for $1875 (est. $300/500). A limited edition, the stunning chandelier was created after a circa 1697 example by Daniel Garnier. Also selling for $1875 (est. $200/400) and by the same artist was a miniature sterling silver punch bowl with a ladle, ten cups, and a footed tray. Number 29 from a limited edition of 300, the set weighed 46 grams.

A single lot of a dozen miniature sterling silver items by silversmith Eugene Kupjack sold for $1500 (est. $150/300). Weighing 60 grams total, the lot included a bowl, teapot, syrup pitcher, footed tea tray, tankard, chamber stick, pitcher, sauceboat, birdcage clock, snuffer and tray, and a ladle.

Pottery by artisan Jane Graber was in high demand. Twenty miniature pieces of redware by Graber sold for $1375 (est. $100/300). In the grouping were a teapot, lidded bowl, jug, pitcher, teacup, lidded jar, candlestick, chicken piggy bank, and plate. These sold with a 6" high shelving unit by Cindy Malon that had several pieces of redware tacked to its back wall. A Graber grouping of stoneware and spongeware sold for $1250 (est. $100/300). Included were crocks, a spongeware set, nesting bowls, and a dinner set.

A finely carved 5¼" high floor harp with all its strings intact, the work of Ken Manning, sold along with a certificate of authenticity for $1500 (est. $200/400).

Better yet was the lot that included two hand-painted paper fans signed by Marjorie Adams. The pair sold for $1062.50 (est. $100/200). Each fan was at the most 1" in size.

A pair of miniature mahogany inlaid knife boxes sold for $7500 (est. $50/100) along with a mahogany tea caddy; all were the work of artist Richard Simms. “I found these in Joyce’s basement,” Jeffers stated. “The number of pieces making up her collection was vast!”

There were books, rugs, oil paintings, and mirrors. The entire contents of a child’s bedroom complete with toys and furniture sold well. There were teddy bears, candelabras, a historical photography grouping, cradles, a violin, and even a globe. Perusing the sale’s catalog was a delight.

Just as delightful was Schoedinger’s devotion to these tiny pieces she adored. “Once the catalog was done, Joyce couldn’t bring herself to look at it,” stated Jeffers. “She did not watch the auction take place. It was all too personal. She also thanked me for being the intermediary between herself and the auction house, for taking care of her things so she could let go.”

Jeffers added, “Joyce did keep a few things, saying to me, ‘Amelia, I am going to keep a little, but I’m not keeping the good stuff. I hate it when collectors do that.’”

After the sale, “Schoedinger was quite happy with the results,” Jeffers stated. “But not for the dollar amount per se. Joyce said to me, ‘I am so glad these things found new homes with collectors who obviously feel the items have value. I feared this collecting area had died off.’”

Between 400 and 500 bidders were involved in this auction, and no lots were passed. It appears that the magic of miniatures is alive and well.

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This article was originally published in Maine Antique Digest, January 2022 issue. © 2022 Maine Antique Digest