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Antiques Considered - February 17, 2010

A family in Poquoson inherited these five English dining chairs, which they brought with them from the Mother Country to Virginia.  The condition is not good, and they need substantial refurbishment.  The family writes that they are weighing the cost of restoration versus the possibility of selling the chairs.
These are Mid-Victorian English chairs, which undoubtedly are survivors of a larger suite that included at least three and possibly seven other chairs and a great extension table.  They date from the 1840s or 1850s, and have as their greatest attribute the fine carving on the front legs.
The cost of restoration will be significant.  As readers are aware, I do not recommend refinishing in most instances, but here the chairs’ appearance makes an exception.  I doubt that the present finish could be saved sufficiently to make the chairs acceptable in most dining rooms.  Obviously, the upholstery calls for replacement.  In all, one could spend $300 per chair in a heartbeat.

This thought brings us to the next problem.  As the survivors number only five, how could they be of service?  British and American dining furniture always has an even number of chairs, whereas Victorian parlor suites are of an odd number of pieces.  Chairs of this style require a major table, but they are so few in number that they would be lost in the presence of the appropriate table.  Perhaps other relatives in Britain have additional chairs that the family could acquire and reunite the suite?
As is the value is not significant, given the future expense of restoration.  The set is worth $150, or $30 per chair.  I suggest first, exploring the possibility of additional chairs, and if none exists, and secondly, if the expense is too great, consider donating them to a charity. At either auction or an estate sale, they would not do well.
Happy Antiquing …
Lisa and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. (P.O. 35) Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to him there or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with pictures and descriptions of items.

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