For years, I’ve shared auction catalogs from well known auction house Theriault’s. I’ve done my fair share of ooohhhing and awwwing over the dolls on the auction block. However, as of late, I have only heard negative things about this company. Because this was surprising to me, I decided to write this piece to share what I’ve found on the internet with you, just in case you’re thinking of using Theriault’s to sell your collection.
As a quick disclaimer, I have not experienced anything good or bad from this company. I am just taking what I’ve seen and heard online and compiling it here in a post. So, now that that’s out of the way…
The Candy Spelling Auction
Did you know Candy Spelling, wife of deceased TV mogul Aaron Spelling and mother of Tori Spelling, was a doll collector? I didn’t, until, that is, an article about her suing Theriault’s came to my attention. Candy is quoted as saying, “I first collected dolls for Tori when she was a little girl… But she told me that she was afraid of them – she felt like they were watching her in her room.” The People Magazine article continues by saying, “Spelling had a separate space built for the collection, which contains more than a 1,000 dolls on display and more in storage.”
According to Dolls Magazine, after downsizing her home, Candy decided to part with over 400 pieces of her vast collection of dolls, many of which were pristine examples of sought after and rare Madame Alexanders from the Golden Era to the 1970’s. They were cataloged and auctioned off under the name, “To The Manor Born” in November of 2011 by Theriault’s.
Fast forward to March 2012, when Candy, unhappy with the lack of professionalism on Theriault’s part, terminated her contract, demanding $500,000 in damages.
From the court documents, “After receiving possession of the Spelling collection, Theriault’s repeatedly failed to provide plaintiff with timely and complete accountings of what items had been sold at auction, what items remained unsold, and the correct amount owed to plaintiff based on the sale of her property,” the lawsuit states. “As a result of Theriault’s acts and omissions in violation of the parties’ agreement, in March 2012, plaintiff terminated her relationship with Theriault’s, requested the return of all unsold Spelling Collection items, and requested payment for all Spelling Collection items that had been sold by Theriault’s on her behalf. Notwithstanding that request, Theriault’s has failed and refused to provide plaintiff with a full and complete accounting of all items sold, has failed to immediately return all unsold items, and has failed to pay plaintiff the amounts due and owing for the sale of her property.”
The lawsuit was settled June of 2012 with Candy saying that she “intends to sell the rest of her doll collection through a different auction house and “would not under any circumstances” use Theriault’s services.”
Phyllis Roberts and Her Dolls
This story honestly makes me mad. Doll Collector Phyllis Roberts also had trouble with this well known auction house. After her husband passed, the 94 year old doll collector decided to part with 64 of her most valuable dolls, estimated at over $100,000 in value, from her beloved collection to cover the cost of her nursing home.
A true collector, Phyllis is quoted as saying, “My dolls meant something. I didn’t buy stuff because it was available, I bought because I loved them.” According to Phyllis, after she turned over her dolls to Theriault’s in 2015, she never heard another peep or received any payouts. In 2017, Phyllis filed a lawsuit against Theriault’s claiming elder abuse, deceit, unfair practices and breach of contract, among other offenses. Of course, Theriault’s has called these claims false.
When Fox11 in Simi Valley called to question Theriault’s about this, they claimed they were working on her accounting and would be cutting her a check. However, I can’t find any record of whether this actually happened or not, so this is a mystery left unsolved.
I do hope Phyllis received her dolls back and all that was earned from those that were sold. They really do come off as taking advantage of an elderly lady’s trust in this case. I mean, she gave up parts of herself to be able to afford life without her husband and her nursing home and they treat her like that? Watch the video in the linked article from Fox– my heart goes out to this lady! Shame on you, Theriault’s.
Show Me The Money
Then there’s the 2005 case from Chicagoland resident Monica Larson. Monica knew her art dolls wouldn’t fetch large prices, but would be happy with what she got. She chose to use Theriault’s to auction off her 50ish dolls, because of its good reputation in the doll auction world. On the day of her May 2005 auction, she kept track of the final prices items sold for, deducted the auction house cut and figured she’d earned about $6,700.00.
From there, she waited for her check. And waited. And waited. Her phone calls, letters and emails went unanswered for months until March of 2016 when she’d had enough and wrote an investigative news column, What’s Your Problem.
The Chicago Tribune’s Problem Solver reached out to Theriault’s. Laughably, even the news source couldn’t get the auction house to return a phone call. Instead, the auction house chose to send both Monica and The Problem Solver a note saying, “that Larson’s dolls, all contemporary pieces, were popular in the 1980s, but demand has since diminished.” It continued saying the “auction house accepted Larson’s dolls with the understanding that “reporting and payment” would take place after the entire collection was sold, not just part of it. Frankly, we discouraged collectors both from a value perspective and a speed-of-sale perspective. Some, such as Ms. Larson, decided they wanted to proceed, despite these caveats.” Monica eventually received a check for less than she had estimated.
At the time of the news article, Theriault’s still had 34 of Monica’s dolls in their possession. I hope Monica received another check and/or her dolls back, because honestly, this is another story that makes me unsure about selling my dolls through this company.
Calling in the BBB
The Better Business Bureau does nothing to encourage a positive opinion of this auction house, either, with four complaints that are all similar to the cases above. Plus, you get to read somewhat condescending responses to the complaints. Florence and George, sister company to the auction house, doesn’t have the best track record, either, but I can’t find any articles written about the problems I’ve heard about, which have all come from doll collecting facebook groups. I don’t feel right publishing details on them. Needless to say, it seems like both Theriault’s and Florence and George have problems describing their items properly, shipping things in a timely manner and shipping them safely.
Yelp To The Rescue
The auction house isn’t well loved on Yelp, with an average of 3 out of 5 stars with 8 reviews. Reviewers have left comments like, “Horrible experience from beginning to end. They talk a good game but do not deliver. Was totally frustrated by their repeated lack of response, the endless months that went by without any update or payment from them, and the awful return I got for my precious doll collection when the check eventually did come.”
Also, “I never was told exactly when the dolls had been sold. Its the same comment many people have made. Countless telephone calls, never being able to speak to any one who could tell me the situation. The check arrived many weeks after the contract date, and only after two letters from an attorney. It is either deliberate or a very strange way to run the business.”
I love that their response to that reviewers original comment was, “I am not certain where we failed to deliver in our services and, in fact, did extend ourselves beyond the normal course in that we returned a doll to you without any fees.” Way to come off as condescending, guys. They really need to hire a social media manager who can word things a wee bit friendlier.
Here’s another review from Yelp. “Unfortunately I have to confirm the other negative reports about Theriault’s on this site. We consigned an expensive antique doll to them to be sold in early 2012. We watched the auction and saw that it sold for more than $19,000. Our contract said we would be paid our net proceeds (75% of sale price) within 35 business days. So far nothing. They didn’t even contact us to confirm the doll was sold, much less the sale price. The only way we know what happened is by watching the auction ourselves. We have called Theriault’s 10 times since the deadline date and had to leave messages every time. So far no one has called us back–or sent our money to us.” They did eventually get their paycheck, but much later than anticipated, like in most of the cases pointed out in this article.
I personally have heard a horror story from a doll shop owner about the poor way Theriault’s treated her mother’s collection, but it’s not my story to tell. Just know, it wasn’t a good story and made the passing of her mother felt even more because of the actions of the auction house.
So, if you survived long enough to get to the end of this post, good job! I know it seems unbalanced, but honestly I think some of these stories need to be told, especially with doll collectors hitting ages where they may be thinking about downsizing. There’s too many horror stories about Theriault’s to not at least warn people about what could happen if they choose to go with this auction house to sell their items. I’m not saying to forgo them completely. If it feels right to you to give them your dolls, go for it.
The purpose of this article is basically to remind you to do your research before entrusting your collection to an auction house of any kind. Google it. Ask your doll collecting friends if they’ve heard anything about the auction house. Put a quick message up on Facebook to hear other people’s stories. Do your research.
Have you dealt with Theriault’s before? Was your experience good or bad? Let us know in the comment area!