Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tell Laura I Love Her ...

I recently bought two fantastic catalogues on Australian ebay, from a Sydney toy shop called Hoffnung's. They are from 1968 and 1969, and as well as the toy shop's list of stock, prices, and some black and white illustrations, they both have bound into them various manufacturers' catalogues! Both have Bestoys catalogues!
The Laura dolls house is in both years. You may remember that when I showed my Bestoys Bambolina dolls house, I mentioned that Anna-Maria is very kindly storing for me another Bestoys dolls house called Laura, which she collected for me from a Canberra seller. That Laura looks like this:

The 1968 and 1969 Bestoys catalogues show two other, different Lauras!!!

Here is the one from 1968:

and here is the new Laura from 1969:

I think that my Canberra Laura probably dates from 1970 or just after - it has the same diamond-shaped moulding on the roof as the 1969 Laura, and I can imagine that the artificial flowers might have looked great to start with, but not lasted very long ... so replacing them with a fancy lithographed railing would make sense.

Not long after I received the catalogues, I spotted the 1968 Laura on ebay!!

Missing the front door, but still, look at that lovely sixties crazy paving style flooring!

And the gorgeous aqua shutters!

So, I put a bid on straight away. A middling bid - not as high as I would probably decide to go, but not low either.

Then, the night before the auction ended, I was working late on the Dolls Houses Past and Present magazine (as I have been most evenings the last few weeks), then stopped, went to ebay, put a bid on one auction and .... zooop! ... the power went off. Not just in my house, but all around too. So I got the torch, lit some candles, and did the night chores by candle light - went to bed by torch light - and got up the next morning to find - yep, STILL NO POWER!

The power was off right across the Darwin region, even as far south as Katherine (300 km away). The government had to shut schools and government offices, the police ordered the buses off the roads because it was too dangerous, and had police cadets directing traffic at some intersections until they could get generators for the traffic lights ... and I couldn't bid on my Laura!!!

In my consternation, it didn't occur to me to ring my sister and ask her to bid for me. I have a landline that doesn't need power - very useful in a place that often has blackouts, though they are not usually this long except after cyclones. The power was out at my place for over 12 hours - some suburbs got it back sooner, some later (they had to stagger it, apparently).

So I lost my Laura! To know about three different models of the same Australian-made dolls house, to have the possibility of owning two of them - and then to lose, because of a power outage - I was devastated - and also very cross!

I did message the seller to explain, and say, in case of non-payment or any problems, I was still interested! However, both seller and buyer have left feedback on the auction, so Laura has a new owner, who is not me :-( I just hope they don't wreck renovate her and destroy the original features!

At least I have the photos, so I know the colours of the walls, shutters, flooring and so on ...

Similar colouring to the Canberra Laura, but that is plainer:

The Canberra (ie probably ca 1970) door slides, rather than being hinged as the earlier door is:

So, although I have two Bestoys dolls houses (Bambolina and Canberra Laura), I can't really say I have a collection, yet. Perhaps another Laura will pop up ...

In fact, one already has - with balcony railings and shutters which have the diamond-shaped moulding, but with a hinged door! so clearly I do not yet have enough evidence to date the series ....

But this Laura has been overpainted :-( Is it worthwhile trying to buy her? She would not be as easy to reach as the Laura I lost, which was in the Blue Mountains - this one is in a western Sydney suburb ...

The Bestoys 1969 catalogue has given me another dolls house to dream about, too: Cinderella! Strange name for an A-frame, but I won't hold it against her.


  1. It would be great flicking through the catalogues. I really love the look of the top picture, the Laura like yours. Pity you missed out on the other Laura. The A frame house looks cute - something a little different.

    1. I buy quite a few catalogues, and I find them fascinating! These two are big, lots of lists without pictures, but then the manufacturers' catalogues inserted - such a lovely surprise! Now I know they exist, I will keep my eyes peeled for another Laura like the one I missed out on - and the A-frame, too! :-) Hope I can find out more about the firm, too.

  2. Wow what a story. Funny how dollhouses make their way to us or slip through our fingers! Love the aqua shutters too,

    1. You're baaack!!!!! Wonderful! I've missed you, and wondered if it was the problems with your google account? Yes, there are other dolls houses I almost bought - or did win, but the seller cancelled the sale for some reason. I guess I should follow the advice to put in my maximum bid early - definitely not within the last 12 hours - on something I really want! I hope the buyer is another collector, and will cherish it.

  3. Oh dear Rebecca...what can I say! I sympathize hugely but how annoying. However, I must say that I'm not familiar with these Bestoys dolls houses so have found all your information and particularly the photos very interesting indeed. Thank you for sharing all this with us. Celia
    PS. The latest DHP&P Magazine is absolutely brilliant...as always! Well done on a super issue.

    1. Hi Celia, I wasn't familiar with them either until recently - although I suspect that my childhood dolls house could have been a Bestoys (all I remember of it is that it was mainly white and had two storeys). Hope I can find out more about them - and find more models of their houses, too!

      Thanks, glad you like the latest issue :-)

  4. I've not seen pictures of the Laura house before, it is fascinating. I think I have seen the Triangle shaped house in the past, it reminds me of some unusual houses I saw overlooking the see in Cape Town, though I also have a feeling that a childhood friend of mine had a dollshouse that shape which I may have played with when about 6 or 7 years old (hence the hazy recollection).

    1. Hi DollMum, How fascinating to hear that you remember (even if hazily!) an A-frame dolls house from your childhood! I remember one real house with this shape, at the beach where we used to go for holidays in northern NSW, in the late 60s, early 70s. There's also one in a caravan park here in Darwin! I don't have one as a dolls house yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open.

  5. Hello Rebecca,
    I am the owner of the 1968 Laura House (Aqua shutters) you have pictured. When I found it on ebay, I was thrilled as I own another Bestoys Dolls House which dates from the early 1960s, it is the house you have pictured in an earlier post. The house that sits on the shelf with the painted decoration around the windows, the toy shop owners are standing in front of it. My house is my childhood dolls house and it was purchased from a well known toy shop in Melbourne. It did have 2 manufacturers labels on the front right near the door, however over time they have worn off, and the only one that remained was underneath, it reads For Quality Bestoys.
    So rest assured the Laura House will remain untouched, just like mine which is in its original state apart from paint wearing off and a few repairs (done by my husband who is a builder). It has carefully been glued as I sadly lent it some years ago to a small girl who didn't cherish it as much as I had. Nonetheless I got it returned to me, and it was rescued about 5 years ago from my Dad's shed where he had safely stored it away for me. I even found my original Barbie Dolls!
    My mother thinks that I was given my house in 1963, and it was furnished with Dol Toi and Barton dolls house furniture from England. I was allowed to add one piece of furniture or dolls house accessory every visit to the city, I do have some remaining pieces and I am still searching my Dad's shed for any that I have forgotten about. Getting back to the Laura House, when I saw it on ebay I knew it was made by the same toy company as my house, I wasn't sure if the seller would send it to me, however while I was emailing about postage you had popped in a bid. So the day the auction ended I went off to my volunteer job not expecting to win the final bid. You can imagine that I was delighted to win as now both Bestoys Houses sit proudly side by side. So rest assured it has gone to a good home. I often look at your blog to see what wonderful houses you have found, I just happened to be glancing at your latest blog this evening when I saw that you were the other bidder!
    Kind Regards, Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny,
      Thank you so much for your message - I am absolutely thrilled to hear that the Laura House has gone to someone who will treasure it! Just goes to show that sometimes apparent bad luck can have very good consequences! I'm also delighted to hear that you have the earlier dolls house which I had thought might be Bestoys, but wasn't sure - delighted to know that it is, to know of one outside the photos, and how wonderful that it is your childhood dolls house! I would love to see a photo of it.
      Just yesterday I was googling Bestoys again, and found more information - the trade mark, with the rocket and the moon and the words Bestoys for Quality, was registered in 1963 by Ebe and Nazzareno Bonaretti! So the dolls house names like Bambolina and Laura, and the other names they used, like Contessa for the dolls wardrobe, and Susanna for the dolls cradle, were of Italian origin, as I had speculated. I hope to make contact with some Bonaretti family members to find out more.
      Thanks again for your lovely message, and please pass my love on to Laura!

    2. Hi Rebecca,
      I tried to send you a message the other day but it didn't work. I am still trying to navigate BlogSpot I haven't been on it for ages.
      Thought you would like to know that my Bestoys label is black and white with red. The name actually appears in the rocket.My house has some interesting paint work on the floors which are stencilled in blue and red. My front fence is red and the door is yellow.
      Of course the roof is red and the exterior white. I wonder what the Bonaretti 's called my house it would be interesting to find out. My brother who is a few years younger than me was given a wooden toy garage from the same toy shop, I wonder if Bestoys ever made garages. I am still hunting for it in my Dad's shed, as my brother gave it to my 3 sons when they were little. And good luck with finding out more information on the Bonaretti family, I love to know the origin and history of things, you will have to keep me posted. Will send you some pictures as soon as I clear some disc space!
      Kind Regards
      Jenny (hope you had a Happy Easter).

    3. Hi Jenny,
      Thanks for your message, I did indeed receive it, have just been a bit busy the last few days. My email address is on the last page of the Dolls Houses Past and Present magazine, or you could send yours in a message which I wouldn't publish, but could then email you. I haven't contacted any Bonarettis yet, hopefully they will have some more information - and I expect there is more to be found in the toy trade journal, too, whenever I can next get to look at it!
      cheers, Rebecca

  6. Hi Rebecca,
    Just trawling the internet and found your posts - what a surprise!! You may be interested to know that Bestoys was my father's business and I, my sister and brother worked in the factory making these products waaaaay back in the mid-sixties to early eighties, last century (yoicks!!). Bestoys itself was established in 1958 and my dad was inspired to design the rocket and moon logo by the launch of Sputnik the previous year.
    If you'd like more info on the range of products we manufactured, please drop me a line while I still have my mental faculties :-)
    BTW, the "Laura" doll's house was named after my sister and a drop-side cot was named after me. My brother had to settle for a corruption of his name in "Polo Pony" rock-away.
    Sue Bonaretti

    1. Oh my goodness, Sue, how wonderful to hear from you! I have been meaning to email you, and I will do so asap! I now have two more Bestoys dolls houses, the overpainted one shown above, and an earlier one, which makes 4 altogether. Another collector friend has another version of Laura, too. I've also been able to look through two more years of the toy trade journal, and found more Bestoys ads and photos with dolls houses - and two photos of your father! One report mentioned you, your sister and your brother too. I have seen the Susanne cot on ebay. I'm not sure if I've seen a Polo Pony, though a Horse Rocker does appear in some of the ads. I will be in touch! Thanks so much for leaving a comment :-)