Dollhouses have been a popular toy for several centuries, delighting children of many ages, both girls and boys, in many countries. Before children were ever allowed to play with dollhouses, these small-scale homes were built for adults as decorative collector's items. Antique dollhouses are often on display in museums, but when they are for sale, wealthy collectors will sometimes spend thousands of dollars to bring them home for upkeep and display.
The first known dollhouse was built for a Bavarian Duke, Albert V, in the 16th Century. It became common for wealthy citizens to commission craftsmen to build dollhouses and miniature furniture.
Because many people could not afford intricate dollhouses, a "cupboard dollhouse" became popular. This dollhouse looked like a regular piece of furniture, but once it was opened, tiny rooms with furniture and miniature dolls were featured on display.
With the advent of mass production, dollhouses (often called "baby houses") became much more popular among children in the mid-17th century. They became common in nurseries as toys and as tools to teach girls about domestic life.
In the early 20th century, dollhouse makers began constructing dollhouses "to scale." The popular scale at the time was the 1-inch to 1-foot scale. (A perfectly scaled dollhouse was built for Queen Mary in the early 1920s.) In this way, the dollhouse displays began to look more formal and like real miniature rooms. Today, this is an important aspect for the dollhouse collector, as there are several scales to be found.
In more recent years, dollhouses have become extremely popular for children, especially young girls, and are probably still instructional to some extent in the ways of the home. Small children are often given plastic dollhouses that are hard to break, but as they begin to mature, the gift of a lifelike dollhouse can become a prized possession.
Adults are still avid collectors of dollhouses. Some enthusiasts like to build one after another while furnishing them with miniature people and seemingly shrunken household items that have incredible detail. The satisfaction in building and completing intricate, accurately detailed dollhouses can be enormous, and the cost of materials is very fair.
Building dollhouses has become a popular and affordable hobby for the masses, which is quite a change from its humble beginnings, when it was only available to the privileged few. Many of us enjoy collecting, in one sense or another, and upon further inspection, may find a great deal of fascination in the world of dollhouses as well.