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Antiques Considered - January 4, 2012

This Victorian washstand comes from an estate in the lower Northern Neck.  The primary wood is walnut, and the secondary is pine.  The pulls are original and the marble is in excellent condition. The finish appears to be original. The heirs are considering selling it as no one in the family wants to have it.

As Victorian washstands go, this is a nice example.  The marble top, splashboard and two shelves are elaborate, and the pulls show good carving techniques.  Almost certainly, this piece once was part of a larger bedroom suite, consisting of a huge bed, armoire, dresser with mirror, and perhaps a chest.  The latter two pieces would have had

marble tops that matched this one.  Today these suites are rare because families broke them up in divisions among heirs and auctioneers found that selling the individual pieces brought more than the suites did as whole units.

In the present economy the market for antiques is suffering the same as the real estate market.  Five years ago this piece might have brought $450, but today the value would be significantly less, in the range of $300.  Quite simply, it is a luxury item that no one needs to have, thus a potential sale depends on finding a buyer willing to spend for a piece that, although beautiful, is not necessary to own.

Ironically, washstands, which once held a washbowl and pitcher set, along with a soap dish, toothbrush holder and water pitcher and cup, have found new life today as in-home bars, holding liquor and wine bottles.  The marble tops are not damaged by spills, and the lower cabinets can hold the liquor larder.  In other venues washstands are cut up, and fitted with modern bathroom sinks, which destroys their antique value, but makes a decorative appearance in a modern home.

From the design of this piece, the overall suite must the been truly impressive, but alas today this item only can give us a hint of what the group must have been.

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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