A granny couldn’t believe her luck buying an old dollhouse to fix up for her granddaughter.
The ordinary toy turned out to be made from an extremely rare antique box worth thousands of pounds.
Wendy Lyons, 60, discovered the quirky dollhouse in an antique store on a day out in Ford, a local village near where she lives in Northumberland.
The house was originally on the market for £65, down to £45 – but Wendy managed to get it for £40.
It’s pretty dilapidated but she plans to raise it up for her two-year-old granddaughter Daisy to play with when she gets older.
Wendy, who works for a medical transcription company, got a big surprise when she took off the rug.
It is revealed that the house has been partially made from an antique box that once contained one of the first lawn tennis kits.
The wood is now worth up to £15,000.
Wendy said: “I really can’t believe I have this piece of wood in my house.
“I kept looking at it and touching it and thinking, oh my gosh.”
Wendy is not an antique collector and has never auctioned anything before.
She says it was purely luck and her love for items has a second life that led to her ending up with the sought-after collectible.
“It was love at first sight,” Wendy said. “It’s hidden in the back of the store and I just thought it was weird and out of the ordinary.”
The cream-colored dollhouse, measuring 2×1 feet, costs £40 for Wendy.
It has a small garage attached to one side and accessories inside include carpets, tin doors and old light fittings.
As Wendy carefully picks up the rugs to start recycling the house, she discovers an unusual logo that interests her.
Wendy explains: “I picked up the rug and discovered a picture underneath the wood at the foot of the house.
“I didn’t recognize it but would love to find out what it is. And if I want to find something, I keep going, so I spent hours looking up this logo on Google but found nothing.”
Eventually, Wendy stumbles across an old photograph of women playing tennis and discovers the photo she’s been hunting.
She then sent a photo of her dollhouse’s base to tennis memorabilia expert Jim Warner to see if he knew what it was used for.
Wendy said: “I asked him if he had ever seen a picture like this and he came back to me very quickly to say that he had indeed.
“He told me it was the label of the first set of lawn tennis equipment and that it dated from 1874 to 1877.”
Jim explains that the mark is for Sphairistike – the Greek word for ball game. This was the original name of the sport before it was 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 can’t believe it,” Wendy said. “It was a really exciting feeling. I kept thinking how old this log was and couldn’t believe it lasted so long.
“I don’t like antiques at all, so all of this is very unusual. I’m just enjoying a day out because Ford is a beautiful village, it’s not something I’ve done before,” Wendy said.
Worth a thousand
The box previously sold for £18,600 at Graham Budd Auctions – but this includes a 24% buyer’s fee, meaning the seller gets £15,000 and the auction house gets the rest.
This puts the value of a whole box for sellers like Wendy’s at around £15,000.
Wendy has now sent her dollhouse to the experts to see if they can determine if the rest of the house is made out of the box or if she just has a piece.
This will determine its value in Wendy’s case.
“Graham Budd is currently investigating the value,” Wendy said.
“We don’t know if it’s just part of a valuable box or if it’s the whole thing that can be recovered.
“Even if it’s just part of the box, it’s like finding a piece of an old vase – you still find something of value.”
Wendy says she’ll be sad to see the dollhouse abandoned, but she’s willing to sell it if the wood ends up being as valuable as experts predict.
Wendy said: “Maybe the base will be replaced with another piece of wood, so I can keep the house.
“If not, I am open to selling it and I will work with a professional to do that as they will come up with ideas to protect the wood, such as maybe putting a transparent floor. I would love it if a famous tennis player bought it for their daughter.”
Although Wendy doesn’t expect the £15,000 dollhouse, as it’s not intact – she hopes to spend any money she earns on recycling more.
“I thought if it was worth the last one I would build a workshop in the garden and open my own little repair shop, so I could go out and find another dollhouse.” she speaks.
David Convery, head of sports memorabilia at Graham Budd Auctions, said: “The saying that one person’s trash is another’s treasure certainly holds true when it comes to finding cash in the attic.
“For sports memorabilia in particular, treasure hunters should keep in mind that what appears to be old junk and worthy of a trip to a recycling center can actually be collected and has potential value.”
If you’re looking for a bargain, we chatted with a shopping expert about items on eBay that you should add to your cart and those that aren’t worth your cash.
And a car trunk seller reveals tips for finding rare items.