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Antiques Considered - April 18, 2012

A lady, who is 91, owns this walnut spinning wheel, which has passed through a number of generations of her family.  It is in excellent condition with the original finish, but unfortunately the arm with the spool on it is missing.  The framed fabric in the background is a place mat made of flax woven on the spinning wheel.

Spinning wheels are not as popular as they were a half-century ago. Their collectibility has declined, in part because few people are spinning anymore, and they take up space without serving any functional purpose.  As with the larger flax

wheels, they do not convert readily to modern-day uses.  My mother bought an almost identical one from a lady in Colonial Beach when I was a teenager, and it has sat untouched, except for dusting, since the day she brought it in our home.

As to value, this one, which dates from the mid-nineteenth century, has interesting Shenandoah Valley provenance, but most importantly, the framed mat accompanying it gives testimony to its earlier history.  The mat proves that the wheel was capable of making good flax, and that someone in the family had excellent weaving skills.  The wear on the treadle also gives evidence of its having been used extensively over the last 150 years.

The wheel is worth under $200, and the mat, although not of significant intrinsic value on its own, contributes appropriately to its overall evaluation.  Together they would be worth $250.  I urge the family to write down the known history of the spinning wheel, and enumerate the various members of the family who were spinners or weavers.  The best place to keep such records would be in a clear plastic envelope glued to the back of the mat.

Antiques that sell well today are ones that either continue to serve in their original functions, or have been successfully modified or adapted to meet contemporary needs, such as an armoire now being used as an entertainment center.  Unfortunately, spinning wheels have not been “discovered” by antiques afficianados as yet, and their value reflects the condition of limbo in which they presently exist.

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.

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