I bought a second-hand doll house for £40 – then found out it's worth £15k | The Sun

I bought a second-hand doll house for £40 – then found out it's worth £15k | The Sun

A GRANDMOTHER couldn’t believe her luck when she bought an old doll house to repair for her granddaughter.

The common toy turned out to be made from an incredibly rare antique box that's worth thousands of pounds. 

Wendy Lyons, 60, spotted the quirky doll house in an antique shop on a day out in Ford, a local village close to where she lives in Northumberland.

The housewas originally marketed at £65, reduced to £45 – but Wendy managed to buy for £40.

It was quite run-down but she planned to upcycle it for her granddaughter Daisy, two, to play with when she’s older. 

Wendy, who works for a medical transcription company, received a huge surprise when she removed the carpet.


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It revealed the house had been made, in part, from an antique box that once contained one of the first ever sets of lawn tennis equipment.

The wood is now worth as much as £15,000. 

“I just felt pure disbelief really that I’ve got this piece of wood here in the house,” Wendy says.

“I keep looking at it and touching it and thinking my goodness.”

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Tucked away gem

Wendy is not an antiques collector and has never sold anything at auction before.

She says it was pure luck and a love for giving items a second life that resulted in her ending up with the sought-after collectible. 

“It was love at first sight,” Wendy says. “It was tucked away in the back of the shop and I just thought it was so quirky and unusual.”

The cream doll house, which is 2×1 feet, cost Wendy £40.

It has a little garage attached to the side and fittings inside including carpets, tin plate doors and old light fittings.

It was as Wendy carefully lifted the carpets to begin upcycling the house that she spotted an unusual logo that piqued her interest.

“I lifted the carpet and discovered a picture underneath on the wood at the base of the house,” Wendy explains.

“I didn’t recognise it but was interested in finding out what it was. And if I want to find something out I keep going, so I spent hours Googling this logo but couldn’t find anything.”

Eventually, Wendy came across an old photo of women playing tennis and spotted the picture she’d been hunting.

Memorabilia expert

She then sent a photo of the base of her dolls house to tennis memorabilia expert Jim Warner to see if he had any idea what it was used for.

“I asked if he’d ever seen a picture like this and he came back to me very quickly to say he had indeed,” Wendy says.

“He told me it was a label from the very first set of lawn tennis equipment and that it dates all the way back to between 1874 and 1877.”

Jim explained that the label was for Sphairistike – the Greek word for ballgame. This was the original name for the sport before it was very quickly changed to lawn tennis.

He also sent Wendy a link to an auction from the previous year where a box sold for £18,600.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Wendy says. “It was a really exciting feeling. I keep thinking how old this piece of wood is and I can’t believe it’s survived for so long. 

“I’m not into antiques at all, so this is all very unusual. I was just enjoying a day out as Ford is a nice village, it’s not something I’ve ever done before,” Wendy says.

Worth thousands

The previous box sold for £18,600 at Graham Budd Auctions – but this includes a 24% buyer’s fee, meaning the seller received £15,000 and the auction house receives the rest.

This puts the worth of a whole box to sellers like Wendy at around £15,000.

Wendy has now sent her doll house off to experts to see if they can determine whether the rest of the house is made from the box, or if she just has the one piece.

This will determine what it’s worth in Wendy’s case.

“Graham Budd are investigating the value now,” Wendy says.

“We don’t know if it’s just part of a box that’s of value or if it’s the whole thing, which could maybe be restored. 

"Even if it’s just part of the box, it’s like finding a piece of an old vase – you’ve still found something valuable."

Wendy said she would be sad to see the doll house go, but she’s willing to sell it if the wood ends up being as valuable as the experts predict. 

“It’s possible the base could be replaced with another bit of wood, so I might be able to keep the house,” Wendy says.

“If not I’d be willing to sell it and I’d work with the expert to do that as they’ll come up with ideas to protect the wood, like putting in a transparent floor maybe. I’d love it if a famous tennis player bought it for their daughter.”

While Wendy isn’t expecting the doll house to be worth quite as much as £15,000, as its not intact – she is hoping to put any money she does make towards more upcycling.

“I think if it was worth as much as the last one I’d build a workshop in the garden and have my own little mini repair shop, so I could go out and find another doll house.” she says.

David Convery, head of sporting memorabilia at Graham Budd Auctions, says: “The saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure certainly rings true when it comes to finding cash in the attic. 

“For sporting memorabilia in particular, treasure hunters would do well to remember that what seems like old junk and worthy of a trip to the recycling centre may be in fact collectable and potentially valuable."

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