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Antiques Considered - April 8, 2009

    This past weekend our firm conducted an estate sale near Wicomico Church.  In it one of the pieces we offered was this small oak desk, which we priced at $150.  It dates from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, and is in excellent condition, still retaining its original oak pulls.   Many years ago the late owner had it refinished, and it still bears some of the spilled ink stains from the days when folks used inkwells, and wrote with fountain pens.
Oak furniture is coming back into its own as far as popularity is concerned.  In the 1940s people gave it away, only to rue their actions thirty years later.  When oak was rediscovered, especially among younger buyers, it hit the market with a storm.  That level of interest has continued unabated over the last generation, and remains strong today.
This desk proved to be a hot item, which generated much interest throughout the sale, and it sold on Sunday for slightly over $100.  The lines are simple and direct, and there is no embellishment such as carving or ornamentation.  Pieces which are more elaborate bring far higher prices.  Actually the arrival of oak on the market in the last decades of the nineteenth century facilitated the arrival of an antiques trade in
America because it became an instant rage, causing many people to discard their Victorian, Empire, and earlier styles to go "modern."
Those pieces became collectible antiques.   I recall many years ago visiting an Ante Bellum home in Alabama, and finding everything to be Empire mahogany.  The owner informed me that after the War Between the States her family was too poor to buy oak, and thus the great Empire pieces had remained in her home throughout the generations.
Today all phases of the past are popular, and for those newer generation buyers find oak particularly appealing, as this desk proved over the past weekend.
• 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.
 

Antiques Considered - March 25, 2009

Many years ago a gentleman in the Northern Neck received this tramp art shelf from a prominent community leader, who told him that it had come down through his family.  It is made of wooden sewing spools and pieces of orange crates.  Many years ago it was stained, possibly when it first was made.
This hanging shelf is difficult to date.  It probably comes from the late nineteenth century, or the early years of the twentieth.  It represents the typical homemade art of that period, composed of found objects, and assembled by amateur craftsmen.
Hobo, or Tramp, Art has become quite popular in recent years.  The name comes from the idea that hoboes, having no money, made things from found objects, which they in turn sold for very little money in order to obtain the necessities of life.   These were indigenous craftsmen who were unemployed, and literally living from hand to mouth.
Some of them were so talented that their works inspired cabinetmakers and artisans to make new pieces patterned after the work of the hoboes.   If one looks at a piece of tramp art, normally the difference in the level of sophistication is apparent.  In other words, one can tell if the piece originated with a genuine, certified hobo.  If so, the value is higher.
This shelf is interesting for both its composition, and its recycling of found objects, such as the thread spools and the orange crate boards.  The value of the piece also comes from its fine condition.  Often pieces of hobo art received rough handling and wound up getting broken.  This piece is worth $75.  I suggest writing its provenance on the bottom of one of the shelves, thereby documenting its local origin.  I have witnessed countless incidents whereby family lore was lost, of left undocumented, thus eliminating a significant part of an antique's history.
• 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.
 

Antiques Considered - March 11, 2009


A writer from Northumberland County asks about this spool cabinet which his mother bought at an antique shop in Sandy Spring, Maryland, about 60 years ago, for a price of $30.  Much later she had it re-finished, otherwise remains as she purchased it.  The wood appears to be maple and pine, and the knobs are original.
This is a fine example of store furnishings.  The cabinet was both the container of and display for Clark's sewing thread in a dry goods store which sold their products.  It dates from the 1880s, and looks to be in great condition.
Unfortunately, the four etched glass draw-front signs denoting the contents of each are gone.  I suspect individual ones might be available through the internet.  If so, I recommend replacing them to make the piece complete.  Sadly, many of these cabinets lost the glass signage when inexperienced antiques afficianados thought they were making improvements by removing them.
Almost certainly, the legs are not original, rather likely having been added to allow the piece to serve in a private home.  In the stores, such pieces rested on the countertops, but the legs do not hurt the piece, and make it more serviceable.  Today these cabinets often are used as silver chests in dining rooms, as the small drawers work well for storing silver flatware.
I hope all of the writer's mother's investments were as successful as the purchase of this spool cabinet.  Today it would be worth $300, and the family has had the use of it all these years that it has appreciated in value. The re-finishing probably did not add to the value, but these are such popular items that it also probably did not hurt the value.
Again, the best course to take would be to pursue getting the glass panels for the drawerfronts, thereby returning the cabinet to a more pristine condition.
• 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.
 

Antiques Considered - February 25, 2009

   Last Saturday our family traveled over to Gloucester County in the Middle Peninsula to see two of our clients about possible estate sales.  After visiting the clients we went to our favorite eatery in Gloucester Courthouse, The Wild Rabbit on Main Street.  The food there is uniformly excellent, and the ambience is especially interesting because of the "peppering" of antiques in the dining rooms.
   Near our table was this nice Victorian walnut marbletop table.  It dates from the mid-nineteenth century and has the characteristic Eastlake intaglio cutting on the corners of the apron.  The condition is excellent, and the finish seems to be original.  The marble is in perfect shape, showing good signs of wear and age.
   The antiques in the restaurant are for sale, and the price for this table is $210, which I thought to be fair.   Many other pieces are for sale, including some interesting mirrors made from old porcelain plates.  They were priced under $30, which seemed quite reasonable, considering the amount of work that someone put into making them.  The artwork is of fine quality as well, and is attractively hung throughout the restaurant.
   Often we think of restaurants and antique shops as being different entities, but at The Wild Rabbit the two converge to make for very pleasant interlude while passing through Gloucester Courthouse.  Apparently the antique business is good there, for the pieces on display seem to change frequently.
   The food is always great, from homemade soups to delectable salads to marvelous paninis.  If one has a reason to travel to Gloucester County, The Wild Rabbit is a must for fine cuisine.  Main Street has received a facelift which has attracted some nice shops to open along its course, and parking is never difficult.
   If you go to Gloucester County and stop at The Wild Rabbit I can say, Happy Antiquing and "Bon Appetit!"
   • 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.
 

Antiques Considered - February 18, 2009

  A writer from Colonial Beach asks about his , which is in the style of the famous New York cabinetmaker, Duncan Phyfe.  
   This piece is a good reproduction of a classic American style of furniture, which was the rage in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  It attempts to replicate all of the characteristics of Duncan Phyfe, such as the carving, particularly with the swag and jabot motif on the crest rail and the nice brass feet.  The depth and positioning of the cushions makes clear that it is a reproduction, which I should judge to date from the 1930s.  
   If I were evaluating this piece with a letter grade, I should call it a B plus.  The swag and jabot carving, which is likely from a pattern and machine-cut, is only in the center panel, and not all across the crest rail.  It is good carving, but not quite to the level one would expect from a period piece.
   In the 1930s this style became popular once again, and the demand for it generated a whole new era of production, but this time the center of activity was not New York, but Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The factories there started putting out huge quantities to meet the demand, and I suspect this sofa could be one from that group.
   From a retail perspective, this sofa is worth $1,000.  The taste for the style has come back, and once again it is popular.  At an estate sale in Georgetown, D.C., several years ago our firm sold a similar one for $400, but it needed re-upholstery.  This one appears to have fabric in good condition, but the mauve color might not be what a prospective buyer would choose.  A good re-upholstery job could run over $1,000, depending on the fabric selected.
   This one has received good treatment over the years, and is a nice example of its genre. Happy Antiquing.

• 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.

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