Happy Holidays! Are you looking to give a dollhouse this gift giving season? Where does one even buy a dollhouse? This guide details it all!
First, consider the age of your dollhouse recipient. Is it a young child, an older child, a young mom, yourself, or a grandparent? There are two main categories for dollhouses, so it’s good to start there. Plastic dollhouses are usually considered toys and they are great for small hands that aren’t quite as careful yet. Wooden dollhouses come in two varieties, highly detailed or blocky. The blocky ones are also excellent children’s toys for some of the youngest dollhouse enthusiasts. The detailed and often exquisite dollhouses are not children’s toys. This is the other category. These are dollhouses for hobbyists or ‘miniaturists’. These dollhouses are for adults, or VERY careful older children.
I’ve broken the list into where you can buy a USED Dollhouse and where you can buy a NEW Dollhouse. I personally am a huge fan of buying a used dollhouse for many reasons. The first reason is they are always SO MUCH CHEAPER. New dollhouses are crazy expensive. This whole hobby is expensive, so I’m going to cut costs where I can. The second reason I prefer used is because it helps keep these old dollhouses out of landfills. Lots of dollhouses end up in the trash because the kids grew up and no one wanted it. That’s so sad, and wasteful.
It’s not like a dollhouse can ever be ‘used up’ so, sure, I’ll snap it up, and give it a fresh coat of paint, some new wallpaper, and a new life. That ties into my last reason. For some reason, it’s just easier to rehab/renovate a dollhouse when it’s already old and decrepit. You have so much more confidence and creative freedom when you know ANYTHING you do to the poor dollhouse will be an improvement.
The downside to used dollhouses is their availability. If you are looking for something specific, you might be waiting a long time. With a new dollhouse, you can order it today, and have it home with you in no time, and it will be exactly what you want. Even if you aren’t crafty you can immediately jump into setting up all the furniture and playing with the family that comes in the box. This, however, is a perfect route to go if you are buying a toy dollhouse for a child. Children often prefer the nice shiny new box and they like all the preprinted stickers of background furniture on the walls. They are a different audience entirely.
The shiny new dollhouses often lack charm though. Used dollhouses are always so unique and interesting. Since they’re my favorite and it’s my article, let’s start with where to buy a used dollhouse first, shall we?
Where to Buy A Used Dollhouse
If you are looking for a great virtual garage sale site, this is it. The OfferUp/LetGo site lets you sort by location and if you are willing to have an item shipped to you or not. Each item is listed by individuals, and if you like it, you chat with them to arrange payment and pickup.
I was able to score some sweet furniture back in summer of 2019, a huge lot of what I thought was mostly plastic junk toys but had a few Lundby gems in it, and a PERFECT finished dollhouse with furniture! Check out this great house!
The only downside to the site is there are a lot of ads interspaced between all the listings. Don’t click on them. These are just ads for regular stores selling you brand new full priced items. Here is a search for dollhouse to get you started. You’ll need to tell it where you are, but that’s a good place to start. It’s good for both the detailed miniaturist items and also the kid plastic toy houses.
2. Facebook Marketplace
Another great virtual ‘garage sale’ place to buy a dollhouse is Facebook Marketplace. This is a place where people on Facebook can sell items and users can message them to inquire about and arrange payment and pickup.
Last week I was able to score this amazing 1970s mid-century modern Tomy dollhouse WITH furniture. The lady said her mom was cleaning out her basement and gave her dollhouse back to her. She only has boys, and she would rather it go to someone who enjoys this sort of play. It’s admittedly a little worse for wear, but I love this one and will likely be rehabbing it myself in the future, so stay tuned for that!
Marketplace moves very fast, and sellers usually operate on first come, first serve, or at least first to message. If you see something, jump on it. There is also a bookmark button to save items, but depending on the item, it might be gone by the time you come back to look at it again.
3. Estate Sales
Estate sales are an excellent source if you have patience to wait for an interesting find to come along. An estate sale or estate liquidation is a sale or auction to sell off a substantial portion of a recently deceased person, or that of someone who needs to facilitate a move. It’s a little on the squicky side, going to a dead person’s house to pick through their stuff, but the family members are usually not present. They hire an Estate Sale company to run the event and it’s quite professional.
Estate sales are first come first serve, and they always start early. If you aren’t an early riser, this might not be an option. You can always call the sale coordinator to learn if the item has already sold, but they can’t reserve items for you, nor take payment via phone.
I was recently able to pick up my second Lundby house, for just $40, and it was FULL of furniture. SCORE! If you are interested in rehabbing a house, this is a great option. Estate sale items will almost always be used and old, but they aren’t usually terribly broken. A few of my furniture pieces had seen better days, but the house itself was fine.
I use the website EstateSales.net because they have a nifty Treasure Tracker feature. I tell the site where I am, how far I’m willing to go for a sale, and what keywords to look for. Then, I get an email notification anytime a sale with the word ‘dollhouse’ is in my area.
Craigslist is a good place to regularly check in on. It’s full of terrible photos and even sketchier communication (you have to text or email complete strangers!) but because of its low bar, plenty of people try to use it to offload their junk.
Craigslist is specific to location, so my link here is only good if you are in the Chicago area like I am currently. If you aren’t in the greater Chicagoland area, start here at their homepage and find the area closest to you. From there, on the left side you’ll see a search box. Just type in ‘dollhouse’ and hit enter. It will search all the appropriate categories for you, so don’t start off in one category or you’ll miss a lot of posts. Once the search results pop up, I always check the box that says “has image”. It doesn’t usually weed out too many, but honestly, I don’t want to be bothered with whatever doesn’t have a picture.
In 2016, I was lucky enough to find a Lundby dollhouse for sale. I used it for my #DollhouseTherapy challenge and wrote three blog posts detailing my renovation of it.
Oddly enough, I find Craigslist prices to be higher than a lot of the other online garage sale sites. If you want to buy a dollhouse on Craigslist, I’d recommend negotiating. Oftentimes dollhouses on Craigslist sit for a very long time before being sold. The seller might be willing to take a lower offer just to be rid of it finally.
5. Goodwill / Thrift Stores
This one is similar to its digital brethren, but I haven’t found a good way to figure out if a thrift shop will be worth my time or not. You are just going to have to go to them often and hope one of them has a dollhouse at the time you visit. I love thrifting, but I’ve only ever once seen the traditional wooden dollhouse at a thrift store. If that’s the type you are after, look elsewhere.
I got lucky way back in 2014 and found a Real Good Toys dollhouse at my local Goodwill. I snapped it up without hardly even looking at it. RGT dollhouses are worth it. The store wanted $50 for it, but through the kindness of the elderly customer behind me in line due to it being my birthday, she purchased it for me with her Senior Citizen discount and I got it for a bit less.
If you are looking to buy a Barbie dollhouse or some sort of kids’ plastic or wooden toy dollhouse, this is a great option. Barbie houses are very common and kids outgrow them quickly. They are huge, so they are one of the first things parents try to get their kids to let go of. Barbie houses and Fisher Price dollhouses at garage sales and thrift stores might just be a dime a dozen, so don’t snap up the first one you see unless it looks to be in good shape and you feel that it’s a good price.
Where to Buy a NEW Dollhouse
1. Local Dollhouse or Family Run Hobby Stores
This is a great option if you happen to have one in your area. Many locally owned small dollhouse and hobby shops are going under, so if you have one, PLEASE go visit and support them. They often have the same dollhouse kits that you’ll find on Amazon, but you’ll usually have much better customer service and support if you run into trouble. Assembling a dollhouse is tricky, and these shop owners can recommend the exact product that will help you through whatever spot you are stuck on.
If you are looking for a kids dollhouse though, this is not usually the place to find them. Sometimes these stores stock a few of the Kid Kraft dollhouses to try to help stay afloat, but this is usually a shop for the adult miniaturist.
My local shop was Entertrainment Junction in Ohio, before I moved to Chicago. It’s one of the largest indoor train layouts in the world, and because model railroaders are a type of miniature hobby, those shops often pair up with dollhouse miniatures. I bought my first dollhouse kit at one such shop in Massachusetts when I was working at Hasbro in 2008.
Miniatures.com provides quality dollhouses. I personally own five from their list included here, though I did not buy them all from them. The Real Good Toys brand of dollhouses are not diecut or punch-kit houses, they are made from thick wood (often MDF known for its straightness). They have a yearly Creatin’ Contest, in which everyone builds and decorates the same house. I’ve participated in it twice, and I can confirm, the kits are quality.
Yes, technically you can find used dollhouses here too, but the prices are RIDICULOUS. I only recommend Ebay for ‘new’ dollhouses. Most of these dollhouses will be unassembled kits, just like what you’d get from Miniatures.com or other online retailers. Assembled dollhouses on ebay are just crazy expensive, and sometimes, just plain crazy.
Most of the kits available that I see are for Greenleaf dollhouse kits (Affiliate Link). These houses are die-cut or punch-pressed. Each kit comes with a number of sheets of particle board (usually a very terrible quality). The walls, floors, trim, everything is cookie-cutter’d into these sheets. You push them out and assemble it from there. I happen to own one of the most popular and cheapest Greenleaf dollhouse, an Orchid. However, it is quite honestly my least favorite dollhouse I own because of the poor quality of the wood. It’s still half painted in an old storage box somewhere, and I don’t see myself coming back to it anytime soon. This isn’t to say pass over them entirely. I’ve seen some amazing haunted houses made out of these little Orchids (Aff. Link). For $40, it’s a great kit bashing option.
Now, if you have a bit more money to spend, then I’d DEFINITELY recommend a Real Good Toys dollhouse kit (Aff. Link). They are more expensive, but they are made from real wood (or MDF), and all the pieces are already cut out for you. The prices on Ebay are comparable to Miniatures.com, with the later often being a few dollars cheaper, but sometimes you are able to find a reseller selling off overstock or someone clearing out an attic or basement who happened upon an unopened kit. Long story short, if you want a kit, save up to buy an RGT Dollhouse.
Amazon also has the Greenleaf kits and the Real Good Toys kits, for about the same prices, if not a bit more expensive. The interesting find on Amazon though, are these new 1:24 scale room box kits. Lots of other retailers are starting to have them, but Amazon still seems to have the cheapest prices. Be warned, these come from China, and the English half of the instructions are pretty terrible. These are not for the complete beginner.
I was gifted one of these kit boxes for Christmas and plan on doing a project follow-along for it soon. Stay tuned for that project! (Affiliate Link Images).
If you are looking to buy a kid’s dollhouse, Amazon is right up there with the other large retailers. You will find Barbie, Calico Critter, Playmobil, Lego, literally everything. Their prices are MSRP and they’ll deliver it to you fast. The images below are clickable Affiliate Link searches set up for you.
5. Big Box Stores
5.1 Hobby Lobby
This store is one of the few that offers assembled dollhouses. They have the Real Good Toys line of dollhouses entirely unpainted for an obscene amount of money, like more than 3 times the kit price. Please do not buy these dollhouses. They also offer the kits, so you can compare the prices to see just how badly they are marking them up. The assembled dollhouses are offered in store only, subject to local availability, so it is my guess that they have store workers assemble a kit in the back every time the one on the shelf actually sells. They also offer the Greenleaf kits, but to no surprise, they don’t offer assembled ones.
The one product line I would recommend here is the Mayberry Street Miniature roomboxes. These are not full dollhouses, and they are 1:24 scale, so they are significantly smaller, but since I recommended a similar product for Amazon, I’ll do the same here. I assume that an English speaking company has white labeled these from China and hopefully replaced the instruction book. I haven’t heard anything about terrible instructions from the people who have done these, so I assume that’s what they did. A few reviews do mention missing or broken pieces though, so please consider carefully.
You won’t find any dollhouses for adult miniaturists here, but Target has plenty of kids dollhouses to choose from. The main brands you’ll find are Kid Kraft, Barbie, Melissa & Doug, Lil’ Woodzeez, and PlanToys. While I don’t currently own any of these dollhouses, (just a similar Calico Critter house, but Target carries Lil’ Woodzeez instead) I have seen them in person and can vouch for their quality. These dollhouses can range from 1:6 scale (Barbie and some Kid Kraft) to 1:12 (Kid Kraft, Melissa & Doug, PlanToys), to small 1:24 (Lil Woodzeez). Make sure you are getting the right size for your dolls!
Walmart appears to have all the same dollhouses as Target for the same price. The few I went specifically looking for were less than a dollar difference in price. They do appear to have a wider variety, so if you can’t find the exact one you want at Target.com, then check Walmart.com. The other main difference I found was that Walmart doesn’t appear to stock any of these dollhouses at their stores. They were all Delivery Only. If you want to walk out with a dollhouse in hand, go to Target instead.
Kohls is getting in on the kid’s dollhouse game, but their prices are usually a bit more expensive than Target, and they have fewer options. Unless you have both coupons and Kohl’s cash burning a hole in your pocket, I’d skip this one too.
I hope this list was helpful to you! If you find another great source of dollhouses that I haven’t listed here, please let me know in the comments! I’d also love to hear about all the great deals you get on your used dollhouses, and if you have links to your renovations of them, those are my absolute favorite! Thanks and enjoy!