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Antiques Considered - March 6, 2013

This Victorian painted dresser comes from a family that acquired it at an antique shop many years ago. It already was painted when they purchased it, and they question whether the present finish is original. The glove boxes are not attached, but are painted in the same vein as the chest. All of the drawers have the original locks.
This chest dates from the third quarter of the nineteenth century. It might have been a dresser with an attached mirror, or the glove boxes might be latter additions, particularly as they are not attached. I suggest looking on the back for screw holes where a mirror frame might have existed.

The painting is quite good, and enhances the overall value of the piece, whether it is original or not. I suspect it is not, but the artist who did the artificial wood graining and the geometric design was proficient at producing a motif that is consistent with the quality of the piece. The carved handles or pulls are interesting, and give definition to the drawers. Having all the locks is a decided advantage, especially if the key remains as well.

The question of the originality of the finish is not significant in evaluating the present worth of the piece. As is, assuming it is not missing a mirror and frame, the piece is worth $450. A similar piece in fruitwood, pine or walnut would be worth $150 less, thus the painting has contributed to the overall value. Upon investigation if the evidence shows that the piece once had an attached mirror, the value would be less. Antiques that bring the highest prices are those which remain as close as possible to their original design and execution.

I also recommend looking to try to find an artist’s signature perhaps on the sides of one of the drawers or on the back. The more that one can learn about the piece, the more its value might increase.
Happy Antiquing!

Henry Lane Hull and his wife, Lisa, own and operate Commonwealth Antiques & Appraisals, Inc.,  P.O. Box 35, Wicomico Church, VA 22579. Call them at 804.580.3301 or email Henry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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