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Antiques Considered - May 6, 2009

Several years ago a Northern Neck family purchased this sugar shaker at an estate sale for $2.  The bottom is marked "Hand-painted Nippon", and it is in excellent condition, with no damage to the gold leaf embossing or to the painted blue flowers.  The cork is missing from the bottom.
This piece dates form the turn of the nineteenth century. It is particularly high-quality Nippon, which is the name used for Japanese porcelain of that era.  The colors are quite good, and the overall design is well executed.
Originally, this shaker would have been part of a larger breakfast set, probably including a teapot, coffeepot, creamer, sugar bowl, and fruit bowl.  In other words, it has lost its family.  The missing cork does not affect its value, and a new one should be easily obtainable.
The $2. price was a bargain, as good Nippon sells today for big dollars.  This item is worth $30., and possibly much more to anyone with other pieces which would match it.  I suggest looking on the Internet to see if any similar pieces are available.  Putting together a set might be difficult, but this piece is an excellent start if one is interested.
Japanese porcelain marked "Nippon" is the ancestor of Noritake and other modern makers' products.  It has risen spectacularly in value over the last 30 years, with collectors' clubs having been formed with newsletters and websites.  I know several collectors here in the Northern Neck, who always are eager to learn about new finds coming on the market.
 Whether used or not, the piece never should be put in a dishwasher, lest the brilliant color gold and blue be lost or damaged. This piece is fine for use today, filled with powdered sugar, ready to be sprinkled on homemade pancakes.  What could be better for breakfast?
• 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 - April 29, 2009

   A couple in the Northern Neck inherited a set of four oak dining chairs from his parents, one of which we have pictured here. Family tradition holds that they came here on a steamboat. They have hand-caned seats, which were re-caned when they were refinished about 35 years ago.  One was badly damaged in a move and they are questioning whether to restore it or not.
These chairs date from the 1890s, which makes the possibility of their having arrived here by steamboat quite plausible.  The rope turning on the side pieces is quite good, as is the "printed" swag on the crest.  The term "printed" comes from the technique of pressing into the fresh-cut oak the printed of the design, thus the work is not carving, but printing.
The chairs are typical of that period, but I have not seen ones with this exact design previously.  As a set of four, in perfect condition, they would be worth $500., given their elaborate ornamentation. Depending on the extent of the damage, and the cost of correcting it, restoration of the broken chair is probably a good idea.  If the set of four is complete once again, although I suspect originally it consisted of more than four chairs, the value would be greater than if it consists of three chairs.
Chairs of this nature are not unusual here in the Northern Neck where all of the old hotels at Colonial Beach offered meals as part of the fare, thus dining chairs abounded.  After the Second World War when modern safety standards and the changed economy ended the glory days of the venerable frame hotels were finished.  Many went the auction route, thereby providing furniture for many homes across the area.
This set is good quality, possibly made in Baltimore, and with its Northern Neck background, it provides a vignette of life here in bygone days.

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 - April 22, 2009

   This week we have an inquiry about an antique jug which has been in a family for many years.  It is marked, "John Ahern & Co. Alexandria, Va."  It has no chips or cracks, and appears to be in original condition.
   This stoneware crock dates from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.  It is of later vintage than the gray, brown and green ones, which have the elaborate blue floral and geometric decorations.  Those pieces, which largely come from the Shenandoah Valley, bring the high prices.  These tan types, with the brown upper sections, and attractive, but command far lower prices.
   The big question concerns John Ahern.  He could be either a merchant in Alexandria, who used this to bottle his product for retail sales, or he could be the potter himself.  Alexandria had a significant stoneware manufacturing era, and crocks and jugs bearing the city's name are uniformly expensive in today's market, but again, I am referring to the ones with the blue decorations.
   This tan and brown jug, with the stenciled name, is worth $85.  A knowledgeable collector might go higher if trying to complete a set. Regionalism plays a vital role here in that as with all antiques, pieces are worth more in the area where they were made.
   Stoneware is one of the most popular collectibles.  As a child my parents would take me up in the Shenandoah Valley where they would buy wonderful old pieces for merely a couple of dollars.  Those days are ancient history now with some auction houses even offering sales exclusively devoted to crocks and jugs.  Judging from the way they have appreciated over the last thirty years, I would say that good stoneware crocks and jugs are among the best investment quality antiques one can buy, but always remember that chips and cracks eviscerate the value.  The moral of the story is to buy good ones.

Antiques Considered - April 15, 2009

   This humpback steamer trunk belongs to a lady in Fredericksburg.  It appears to have the original finish, and the metal banding is in good shape.  The leather handles are gone, but the clasps that held them ate still in place.  The inner tray is missing, but the rest of the paper finish is in tact.  The lock does not work.
This trunk dates from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  It is American, probably from the Midwest.  The term, "steamer trunk" derives from its utilitarian purpose of carrying a traveler's possessions on a steamboat.  Perhaps a careful examination might show a manufacturer's label or stamp, or shipping labels from its days of practical service.
   Humpbacks always have been popular, and usually sell for several times those with the flat tops, although the latter make good coffee tables, and are excellent for storing children's toys in a TV room setting.
   As the finish is in good shape, the trunk appears only to need new handles, a lock and a replacement tray.  Trunks are a genre of their own, and a quick browse of the Internet will offer the names of numerous suppliers where one can locate the replacements for the missing parts.
    A capable carpenter should be able to make a tray inexpensively.  I suggest using white pine for it, and then papering it with a design compatible with that of the rest of the interior of the trunk.
   This particular one, without the strap handles, lock and tray, is worth $100.   Repairs to those areas would increase its value to $250.  Several years ago we sold a magnificently restored humpback trunk for a client, and it brought $350.  As I noted above, they are hot items, and this one is well worth the cost and effort of restoration.
   In years past the Northern Neck was a good place to find trunks, as a great many of them came here in the glorious days of the Potomac and Rappahannock River steamboats.  Today, most of those items have been identified and in many cases purchased by collectors, and now are prized possessions in folks' homes.

• 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 - 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.
 

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