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Antiques Considered - January 21, 2009

 

 

   At the Washington Antiques Show this year several dealers displayed some fine toiletries cases, replete with all of the accoutrements which were deemed necessary for proper ladies and gentlemen of the nineteenth century.

Seeing them I thought of a lady from the Northern Neck who asked about her own box.  It is mahogany with mother-of-pearl inlay, and contains all of the original fittings.  These include perfume bottles, files, pomade jar, ivory comb, and tweezers.  The box is trimmed with brass corners, and has an ivory escutcheon.
The cases served a useful purpose for those who traveled.  Being tightly fitted and lockable with a key, they could be used safely on a coach ride or later on the railroad.  Some were for ladies, others for gentlemen.  Rarely, one finds a complimentary pair, which always have been together.
   More often, such duos have suffered separation, either through estate divisions, or simple sales, which have cast them to the wind.  In addition, many have lost some of their contents, items which were unique to each case, and thus cannot be replaced.  Other pieces of glass have been chipped or broken, thus a good, complete case is especially desirable.
   A good case can reach into hundreds of dollars, depending on the wood, trimming and contents.  Ebony ones with silver and ivory decoration are the most expensive.  Others with brass trim, usually sell for less.  An important aspect of value is the condition of the velvet or leather lining of the interior.  Ones with replaced leather or velvet never seem to look as good.
   Toiletries boxes must be distinguished from letterboxes or lap desks, which are an entirely different genre, one to which I shall return in another column.  Box collectors are a determined sort, and for all types of wooden boxes they can run prices up quickly at auction, particularly if the items are pristine and decorated in an ornate manner.
   This coming Saturday, January 24th, we once again shall be participating in the Saint Clement's Island/Potomac River Museum's annual Appraiser's Fair at the Museum at Colton's Point in Saint Mary's County, Maryland.  Each year it is a great event, and the attendance indicates that its popularity only grows over the years.  I hope to see our readers and their treasures there;   the Fair is always worth the effort.

• Lisa  and Henry Lane Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont  Hwy. (P.O.Box 35) Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579, a firm which he founded in 1973.  The appraisal service began in 1976.  Write to him there,  or by e-mail at comantqu @ crosslink.net, with pictures and descriptions of items you wish to have him treat in "Antiques Considered."
   Please include a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish a personal acknowledgement. Snapshots once sent on to the JOURNAL for publication, cannot be returned.

 

 

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