The toys we know today to be dolls house miniatures originated in Ancient Egypt and were used to embellish Egyptian tombs. These miniatures made of wood illustrated people, animals and household items as they were 5000 years ago. Taking into consideration that gathering is a natural human trait, it shouldn't surprise us that throughout time different cultures have collected various representative and significant objects of their civilization. It may come as a surprise, but miniature collecting was not reduced only to women in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries. Important people such as scholars, rich merchants and monarchs held cabinets in which they displayed various collections from rare coins or precious stones to fossils.
During the XVIth century wealthy families in England, Netherlands and Germany were known to collect cabinet displays named Baby Houses. These collectible dollshouses made of wood were built to resemble reality and were endowed with lifelike miniatures. An example of such a house is The Tate House built in 1760 in England. During that period it was extremely common for wealthy families to travel often, therefore these dollhouses were made in several parts in order to be transported more easily and to avoid breaking. The Baby Houses were an important part of every day life as it was expected of a guest to present the host with objects to exhibit in the cabinet as a sign of appreciation.
In the XVIIth century extravagant sums of money were spent by the wives of rich Dutch merchants on collectible dollhouse midgets. Petronella Oortman whose husband was a Dutch silk trader ordered a Baby House that was built between 1686 and 1705. In order to bring her plan to completion, she recruited several experts and artists. In the construction of the dollhouse materials such as marble, copper and tortoiseshells were used. Also, the furnishings and tapestries were made of velvet and silk and the house was decorated with porcelain brought from China. The entire work cost about 20000/30000 guilders. With the same sum you could have easily bought a canal and a house in Amsterdam. Sources say that the Oortman Baby House is the only one from that period which has a delivery/lying-in room.
Another famous dollhouse is the Killer Cabinet House known by this name because it was ordered by Doctor John Egerton Killer (a Manchester doctor) in 1835. The doctor ordered a copy of his favorite cabinet in which the ladies in his house could put their handmade miniatures. Apart from the miniatures crafted by his family such as a chair made of pheasant feathers, the doctor ordered additional objects from London.
One of the most impressive dollhouses of our times is The Fairy Castle exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. It belonged to the silent film celebrity Colleen Moore who contributed to its embellishment even after donating it. It is said that 700 professionals contributed to the Fairy Castle's making, amongst them Chinese craftsmen and jewelers from Beverly Hills. Even Walt Disney took part in this project, painting some of the dollhouse's paintings and murals. Emeralds, diamonds, pearls, ancient statues and the smallest bible ever made are displayed in The Fairy Castle. The entire dollhouse costs about $500,000 and hosts more than 2000 miniature objects. Taking into account all of the above, we can safely assume that collecting dolls house miniatures and dolls houses has been and will forever be a natural calling of mankind