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Antiques Considered - January 7, 2009

A couple from King George recently purchased this chair from an antique shop in Fredericksburg.  She refers to it as being tiger oak, but I suspect the possibility exists that it is English oak.  The finish seems to be in its original condition.  They paid $175 for it, and speculate whether it is a church chair or not.
My initial comment is that the couple got a wonderful bargain.  This chair appears from the photographs to be Jacobean Revival, dating from the mid-nineteenth century.  It is probably not an altar chair from a church, but rather possibly part of a larger dining suite.  The latter likely included another armchair, several side chairs and a large refectory-style table.  I see no carving of religious symbolism on the chair.
This chair replicates the style which was popular in the reign of King James I of England, the first Stuart king, who also James VI of Scotland, and who ushered in a new wave of furniture after the reign of Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch.   
The Jacobean Period, which was the predominant motif down to the reign of William and Mary at century's end, came back into vogue in the reign of Queen Victoria, 1837-1901, and pieces were in great demand.  From the dark tone of the oak, I question whether the chair is English, but it also could be American.  To be certain I should have to see it in person.
The carving is the great value in the chair.  It is done by a master craftsman, and shows a high level of sophistication.  Happily, no one decided along the way to strip and refinish the chair.  Given its excellent condition, it is worth $350, or twice what the sale price was.   Obviously, were the chair an original Jacobean piece from the seventeenth century, the value would be much greater, but the Revival pieces have a fine market of their own.
• 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 - December 31, 2008

This Victorian walnut étagère comes from an estate.  It was purchased many years ago, and now is on the market once again to settle the estate.  Minor damage exists on some of the woodwork, and the original half-turtleback marbletop is missing.  The finish is original, and in good condition.
This piece dates from the period immediately before the War Between the States, It is a nice example of the style that predominated in the 1840s and 1850s.  I suspect it is of Northern manufacture, and comes from a cabinet shop, rather than having been made by an individual craftsman.
The tone of the wood is excellent, and the patina seems to be fine.  The broken pieces of wood can be repaired easily and inexpensively if all of the components are still on hand.  The big loss is the marbletop, which could be quite costly to reproduce, yet without it the piece is a fragment of what it once was.
I suggest inquiring from a reputable marble company as to the types of marble available, and the cost of cutting and fitting it into the top.  Inasmuch as the original section is missing, whatever color marble one chooses would work, providing, that is, that the choice is consistent with what would have been used in 1850.  The greatest cost is going to come from having an ogee bevel carved around the edge, if the repair is to be successful, that is a must.
• 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 - December 17, 2008

This week's entry is an antique mahogany humidor, replete with its original lining.  It has belonged to a family in Lancaster County since it was new, and is in excellent condition, with its original finish and tin interior.  The lock works perfectly, and there is a silver escutcheon.
The humidor dates from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when gentlemen retired in the evening to their smoking rooms to enjoy puffing away on a pristine Havana cigar, preferably sharing their stash with like-minded guests.
Unfortunately, over the years many of these boxes underwent radical transformations.  The tin interiors were stripped of the perforated tinware lining, and then painted or varnished, converting the pieces to letterboxes.  This one, having not only its interior, but also the silver escutcheon and brass corner pieces, is particularly nice.
By all means do not refinish, and do not paint the tinware.  The latter never will rust, and its presence doubles the value of the box.  In such fine condition, this humidor is worth $150, and at a good auction with cigar connoisseurs present the price might be even higher.
Humidor is an interesting word in that it speaks to the theory that the cigars should be able to breathe, that is, air should be circulating around them, thus the perforation of the tin top, all designed to keep the cigars fresh and moist.  Today, when smoking cigars offends many people due to the heavy smoke and odor, this custom has decreased.  To diehards it still is important, and items relating to the tobacco habits have their loyal followers.
Not being a smoker myself, I tend not to pay much attention to tobacco-related items, but I can appreciate the value of them to those who do.  This humidor would be a fine addition to any such collection.
Happy Antiquing ….

Antiques Considered - December 10, 2008

This week a student asks about his autographed copy of MY AMERICAN CENTURY by the recently deceased Studs Terkel.  He bought it used, and did not know of the autograph until he had gotten it home.  He wonders if it is worth more than the $2 he paid, given the author's demise.  The condition is like new.
Studs Terkel is an icon in American pop culture.  He was born in Chicago in 1912, attended the University of Chicago and its Law School before setting out on a seventy-five-year odyssey as actor, radio host, interviewer, interviewee, and all-around gadfly.
He published MY AMERICAN CENTURY in 1997, and died last month.  Clearly the book is worth more now that he is dead.  It is also worth more because the inscription merely reads "Peace Studs Terkel."   Unless the person to whom the author inscribes the book is famous, the value is greater without a name.  A book inscribed to a celebrity is a different story in that provenance, or ownership, is an important factor in evaluating books and other personal property.
This book is worth $40.  Not sufficient time has elapsed to know how much greater the value will be due to the author's death.  He had an enormous following, which will continue to revere his works.  Those admirers who do not have such a copy might be willing to pay significantly more now that the supply is fixed and cannot increase.
I recommend checking on the internet periodically to see what price fluctuations take place over the next year or two.  In the meantime, I suggest keeping the book out of sunlight in a closed clear plastic bag to prevent mold, mildew, silverfish or accidental damage.
You made good use of the $2 you spent for this volume.• 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 - December 3, 2008

A couple in the Northern Neck called me several months ago to ask about a small repair on their postmaster's desk which dates from the mid-nineteenth century.  The gentleman's great-grandfather was postmaster of a small office in the Shenandoah Valley, and next to the desk they display his photograph at the desk and his certificate of appointment signed by the Postmaster General in 1889.
They had moved to a new home and wanted to place the desk in the entry hall, but the upper cornice on the left side was broken, with a piece missing.  Their question was whether repairing the desk would affect its value negatively, or whether they should leave it alone.
Their quandary is not untypical.  Many people debate the same question, and my answer is usually the same, namely, that whatever the antique, unless it is stored in a barn, individuals live with it every day.  Consequently, the importance of a piece is relative to its function. In a beautiful, new home, featuring a fine antique with minor damage is not what most of us would do.  I know I should not.
Repairing this piece of cornice, in my judgment, was precisely the right course to take.  As fixed the new top is secure, and less likely to lose more from dusting or future moving.  In this case securing the piece is as important as securing the provenance.  The desk is a splendid family heirloom, with intrinsic value as a fine example of Shenandoah Valley craftsmanship.  It is in the Federal and Hepplewhite style, and shows the fine pegjoinery of the native walnut with which it is made.
As an antique, this desk combines all of the significant aspects which I look for when examining any piece:  1) we can date its age to the early nineteenth century; 2) the condition is excellent with its original finish still in tact, 3) we know the place, if not the maker, of origin, and 4) we have a chain of unbroken provenance.  I am happy that the owners chose the course that they did.
• 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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