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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.

Antiques Considered - February 11, 2009

   This was a recent estate sale purchase.  It has many coats of paint on it, but the iron mechanism works perfectly.  The owner asks our opinion about whether to strip and refinish or not.
The answer is an emphatic yes.  This chair dates from the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  I am positive that the wood will turn out to be either oak, or more likely, chestnut.
   When first made it bore a finish highlighting the wood, but probably across the years as it aged and discolored, someone decided to slap a coat of paint on it to freshen it up.   They did it no favor.
   The chair probably originated at a factory in Ohio, Pennsylvania or New York, and is representative of the new age of industrialism which came in after the War Between the States.   The style is typical of that late Victorian era.
   Almost certainly, it always was an office piece.  Possibly somewhere in the iron parts underneath is a factory name and a manufacturing year.  It the ironwork is rusty or bears as many coats of paint as the wooden surfaces, I suggest having it stripped as well.          You either cause paint remover or can have it blasted with baking soda.  I suggest avoiding sandblasting, as the process could leave permanent damage.  Baking soda is milder, and does virtually no harm.
   Once cleaned of the paint, rust and dirt, a clear satin finish would be in keeping with the original finish.  I also recommend a clear spray on the cleaned iron to retard future rust.
   As is the chair is worth $35; properly restored, $250.  In good condition these pieces are quite popular, and carry a heavy demand, but ones in the condition of this one are slow to move.  In this case every dollar spent on proper restoration, will enhance the original investment.

   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. Snapshots once sent on to the JOURNAL for publication, cannot be returned.

Antiques Considered - February 4, 2009

    Last week I noted some of the treasures which we saw at the Appraisers Fair at the Saint Clement's Island/Potomac River Museum at Colton's Point, Maryland.  The artwork which visitors brought to the Fair was also outstanding, and worthy of discussion.
    One couple came with a Chinese ancestor portrait, done on rice paper, and dating from the mid-nineteenth century.   The frame was carved bamboo, in good condition, but without a glass cover.  It had been in a house with a woodstove and a family of heavy smokers, thus it was discolored, but still quite good.
    I urged the owners to take it to a conservation-quality frame shop to have the cardboard backing removed, to be replaced with acid-free material, and then to have it put back in the frame, but this time under glass.
We saw several fine watercolors and oils.  Many were family pieces depicting the owners' relatives  as seen by nationally acclaimed artists. One lady came with a wonderful biblical scene of Ruth and Naomi in a fine gilt gesso frame.  It was a typical art school painting, signed Ann McGathran, an unidentified artist, who possibly was a student at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
   The family of Cullen Yates, a well-recognized member of the National Academy of the Arts, brought a wonderful scene of a couple sitting in a meadow.  It too was in the original gilt gesso frame.
   Each year I am impressed by the high quality of the Saint Clement's Island/Potomac River Museum.  It is truly one of the finest regional museums I have visited anywhere.  The professional staff and volunteers work together to produce a memorable experience for all of their visitors.  This Appraiser's Fair was in keeping with that tradition.  If you want a great afternoon, head across the Harry Nice Bridge and turn south to Colton's Point, less than 45 minutes away.  It is a spectacular place to see, and in summer months you can take the boat over to the Saint Clement's Island where Maryland began nearly four centuries ago.

• 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. Snapshots once sent on to the JOURNAL for publication, cannot be returned.
 

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