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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.

Read more: Antiques Considered - February 17, 2010

Antiques Considered - February 10, 2010

A collector from the Eastern Shore inherited these three whippet figurines from an English friend.  She referred to the two sitting ones as a pair, but actually they are two of a kind, in that both face in the same direction, and thus do not complement each other. She asks if they are Staffordshire. The bottoms are unglazed. The sitting two are 5 inches high and the recumbent one is 4 inches long.

Read more: Antiques Considered - February 10, 2010

Antiques Considered - February 3, 2010

Over the many years that I have participated in appraisers’ fairs, I have seen many memorable antiques and collectibles.  At the recent Saint Clement’s Island museum fair a lady came with one of the finest pieces of American Indian pottery I have seen. Her story that went with it was equally captivating.

Read more: Antiques Considered - February 3, 2010

Antiques Considered - January 27, 2010


This past Saturday we spent the day at the Saint Clement’s Island Museum at Colton’s Point in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland at the annual Appraisers’ Fair.  This year marked the 10th anniversary of the museum’s sponsorship of the event, and thus far I have attended all 10.  I was happy to see many of the regulars I have gotten to know over the years, which included those who journeyed across the Potomac from the Northern Neck.
The breadth of fine items that the attendees brought for us to examine was perhaps the finest ever, and the stories often were riveting.  The first lady came with a magnificent Steuben bowl, for which she had paid $1 for at a yard sale several months ago.  It was particularly fine, and worth $450.

Read more: Antiques Considered - January 27, 2010

Antiques Considered - January 20, 2010

Last month I wrote about a pair of Staffordshire lions. That column caught the eye of a reader, who now asks about his small Staffordshire "vase" (quotation marks are mine). His wife inherited the piece from a friend of her mother, but she does not know about its origin, and it bears no maker's mark. It is in perfect condition.
This piece is not really a vase, but rather a spill holder. It served a decorative and utilitarian purpose in the days before matches appeared on the scene. In the evenings couples would sit by the fire and twist pieces of paper, usually newspaper, into small rods, called spills, which they would store in this container. They were about six to eight inches long.
The spill would be used for carrying the fire from the fireplace to candles to illuminate the passage from the sitting room to the bedrooms. The spill played an important part in the daily ritual of going to bed. Its use was both an English and an American custom. Here in this county, glass spill holders were quite common as well.
With the advent of the match, items such as this one could be used for flowers, but principally they became purely decorative. This dates form the early 19th century, and is a good example of the genre. Staffordshire, as I noted last month, was the host to a major industry because the clay deposits there made for good molds into which plaster of Paris could be baked.

Read more: Antiques Considered - January 20, 2010

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