Monday, October 10, 2016

Life in Miniature

QUESTION: My sisters and I loved to play with dolls. My mother bought us each several sets of large doll furniture made by the Hall’s Lifetime Toy Company. We took very good care of this furniture and still have it today. What can you tell me about it?

ANSWER: Hall’s Lifetime Toys of Chattanooga, Tennessee, made some of the best doll furniture on the market in the 1950s to 1980s. They became known for their quality pieces which came in every size, shape, and style to match various types of dolls available at the time.

Charles Hall built his company up from a single canopy bed which he took to the New York Toy Show in 1942 where it won several prizes and was even featured in the New York Times. He took home orders for 2,000 beds but didn’t have a place or a staff of workers to make them. So he rented a store, hired some workers from a local furniture plant to make the beds.

Eventually, he produced his canopy bed in five sizes. It became the basis of his new toy business.

The furniture Hall made in the 1950s was for 8-inch dolls like Ginny, Muffy, Ginger, Madame Alexander, and others. Later, he began producing pieces large enough for  Barbie dolls. To add some variety to his canopy beds, he created three styles of headboards.

Halls became the largest manufacturer of wooden doll furniture in the country. The company sold its wares to a number of high-end toy and department stores, including FAO Schwartz and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Marshall Fields in Chicago, and I. Magnin in San Francisco.

When Hall died in 1959, his wife Marie took over. She added doll houses, made by Arcade Lithographing, to the company’s product line, selling them for $25 in 1964.

The firm’s promoted the quality of their products and packed a guarantee pamphlet in every box. Also included was a black and white fold-out pamphlet with numbers assigned to each doll furniture item.

The peak years for Hall’s Lifetime Toys were from the 1960s to the 1980s. Over the years, they made furniture for 8 to12-inch dolls, 3/4" scale miniature furniture, and 1/12 scale furniture and dollhouses.

Today, you can find Hall’s pieces on eBay and Etsy and other online collectible auction sites. The value of these varies but has remained quite high. A four-poster Barbie-size bed sells for around $64 while a wooden make-up table and stool for Barbie sells for $59. A single bed plus make-up vanity and bench sells for $110 on eBay. Some pieces, such as a pink vanity table with mirror and bench for a Ginny Doll, can sell for as much as $110. A patio chaise lounge and side  table alone goes for $30.  A three-piece living room set—sofa, armchair, and coffee table—goes for around $100. All prices include shipping.

Hall’s made a wide variety of doll furniture, from period pieces to sleek modern renditions. The company even produced bathroom sets, complete with tub, sink, and toilet. All of its furniture was handcrafted out of wood and painted in a variety of colors. Beds came with mattresses, pillows, and blankets, and living sets had real upholstery.