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Antiques Considered - August 10, 2011

Timber Point, Biddeford Pool, Maine. - As I write this piece I am looking out to the stormy Atlantic, having finished a delicious lobster salad lunch. 

We have been visiting the long row of Maine antique shops along U.S. 1, and observing some great buys.  With the economy being what it is, now is the hour of the buyer’s market.

“Antiques Considered” seems to have a life of its own, and follows me wherever I go.  While here I received an email from a gentleman who

has received an antique family safe from a neighbor, whose grandfather acquired it in 1903 or 1904.  It is a product of the Cary Safe Co., a Buffalo, N.Y. company that was a major manufacturer of safes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Unfortunately, the item in question has deteriorated, as shown by the heavy rust and pitting on the metal.  The owner inquires whether he should take it to an auto body shop to be repainted or should leave it in its present condition. To answer his query, the first consideration must be the safe’s present value.

Given the current state of the finish, the piece is worth less than $100.  At Peggy Carboni’s Antique Shop nearby in Wells, Maine, a similar one by the Alpine Safe Company, in excellent original condition, recently sold for $695.  In my opinion no question exists as to the proposed repainting.  The present condition is such that the safe could not be displayed, or used practically, in one’s home.

Properly repainted, replicating the original color and stenciling and lettering, the piece would be a handsome addition to any home, and well worth the money spent on the repainting.  Ironically, I have been thinking about a similar matter in that I purchased a safe in 1988, which I left in our smokehouse all these years.  It also needs restoration.  A friend opened it for me last year, and I have concluded that we should repaint and bring it into our house as a good location for important papers.  Perhaps we can get a group rate at the auto body shop?

Happy antiquing!

Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy., 22570 (P. O. Box 35). Wicomico Church, Va. 22570. Write to them or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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