Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Susan Whittaker Auction by Theriault's

Theriault’s Press Release

Record Prices for Antique Dolls at Theriault’s January Auction

One of three rare googly dolls, "Virginia, Ginny for Short"

designed by American Illustrator Oscar Hitt in 1927,and made in Germany. It sold for $23,500.

Theriault’s annual January auction even in Newport Beach, California, has become legendary over the years in its offering of some of the world’s most prestigious collections.  This January was no exception for the firm, which specializes exclusively in the auction of antique dolls and childhood ephemera, and is now celebrating is 45th year.

Featuring the storied collection of Beverly Hills socialite, Susan Whittaker, whose 40-year collection became a legend in the world of dolls, the auction fetched prices that would shatter previous record marks set by Theriault’s.

It was the high profile doll by Albert Marque that truly stole the show. The fabulous example, dressed in its period historical costume of Lorraine, fetched a record $310,000 (Including 12% premium) making it an American record for a doll at auction and a world record for a French doll.  Heated bidding ensued from the moment it started at $150,000 and quickly finished off in a battle of a phone bidder, who was the ultimate winner, and an internet bidder which interestingly became the highest online bid every registered at Theriault’s.

But it was not just one doll that people remembered.  The bidding pace was something to behold and the clamor that ensued between online and onsite bidders was a dance of back and forth that had the first day of 300 lots taking nearly 6 hours to complete.  In that time, Theriault’s shattered its own record with the most online bids ever recorded as thousands of buyers from across the world competed for prized objects from the collection.

The auction included six rare bebes by French dollmaker Andre Thuillier, whose dolls had been a favorite of that sophisticated collector.  “Today, it’s difficult to fined even one example of these dolls”, noted Theriault’s president, Stuart Holbrook.  The dolls sold consistently over high estimate with two examples at $60,500 and $65,000.  An exquisite 20” bebe by Aristide Halopeau sold far above estimate, fetching $56,000.

Susan Whittaker’s collecting emphasis was in three major categories: elegant bebes, captivating googly dolls, and all-bisque mignonettes.  The googly collection included rare examples of the Oscar Hitt-designed model, marked “Virginia, Ginny for Short”, the two perfect examples selling at $23,500 and $27,000. Designed by the 1920s cartoonist, Oscar Hitt, who also created the popular tin toy, Hi-Way Henry, little is known about the origin of the doll or the meaning of its mysterious name “Virginia, Ginny for Short.”

More than 150 rare all-bisque mignonettes and miniature dolls were featured in the two-day event, with prices consistently doubling or tripling their pre-sale estimates; a dainty slightly smiling model in original wedding costume and coiffe (pre-sale (900-1300) soared to $3800, for example.

Collectors were equally enamored with doll ephemera.  A 13” French Cinderella coach went to $7800 (pre-sale estimate $700/1200), a 15” French citrine with painted decorations topped at $3200 (pre-sale estimate $1100/1500), and a rare 2” ormolu frame display by Erhard & Sohne soared to six times its pre-sale estimate of $400/600, topping at $3600.

The $2.5 M total result demonstrated the continued demand and exciting energy within the doll collecting world.  Holbrook commented, “One of the most encouraging and positive signs for our industry was not only the record prices, something that we are seeing now on a regular basis, but the number of new collectors coming into the bidding for high-end pieces.”

The dolls were presented in a hardbound 204 page keepsake book with exquisite photography and detailed descriptions   Very limited copies of the book are still available, or collectors can visit to view auction details and prices.

Theriault’s will now turn its attention to yet another landmark legacy collection when it offers the lifelong, fine antique doll collection of Berta Leon Hackney at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas on March 28 and 29, 2015. For further information, visit or call 800-638-0422.

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