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Aaron Spelling’s widow sues Annapolis auction house over dolls

WASHINGTON — The widow of TV producer Aaron Spelling is suing a Maryland auction house that sold part of her extensive collection of antique dolls, claiming it owes her money and failed to return unsold items.

Candy Spelling filed the lawsuit against Annapolis-based Theriault’s at the end of April. The lawsuit, which was filed in California, claims that the auction house didn’t live up to its contract because it failed to give her a timely and complete account of the sold items and pay her for them. Spelling’s lawyers declined to comment. Theriault’s president disputed the allegations.

Spelling offered nearly 400 of her dolls for sale at a Theriault’s auction in New York City in November. The majority of the dolls were made by the iconic New York-based American doll company Madame Alexander and dated from the 1950s. One doll, a plastic ballerina with a white lace and satin tutu, sold for $11,000, according to an online record of the sale. Another, a doll with red hair and a lavender dress with flower details, sold for $6,250. The published prices for the dolls total about $460,000.

“We are saddened at this dispute with an important customer, and are puzzled at this turn of events, especially since, until her lawyers got involved, Mrs. Spelling had voiced nothing but unqualified compliments regarding the services we were providing,” said Theriault president Stuart Holbrook in a statement.

Holbrook said that the lawsuit “does not represent an accurate description of the events regarding the consignment.” He said Spelling had planned to sell her collection of dolls in a two-part auction, the one that took place in November and a second auction in December. She cancelled the second auction and was told at that time that doing so, cancelling that portion of the contract, would delay her receipt of payment and the return of the remainder of the collection.

She was given complete reports on the parts of the collection that have been sold and the proceeds from the sale and has been provided with a complete list of the unsold items, he said.

According to promotion materials from the auction, Spelling assembled her antique doll collection over a 20-year period and purchased some at previous Theriault auctions. She decided to sell the collection after the death of her husband in 2006 and the sale in 2011 of their 125-room estate in Los Angeles. HGTV chronicled her move out of the mansion, which sold for $85 million, as part of a two-part series, “Selling Spelling Manor,” in 2011.

Theriault’s has been in business since 1970 and specializes in the appraisal and auction of antique dolls and toys. The auction house conducts between 30 and 40 auctions per year, selling thousands of pieces.