Thursday, July 24, 2008

Antique Chests, Trunks, Boxes, and other Painted Furniture. What's the Paint Worth?

19th Century Cupboard with old blue paint is offered at Hillsdale Barn Antiques for $2,250

Some of you have heard this story before, but repetition reinforces something in your mind. So for those of you who have already heard the story, it’s a good idea to read it again.

A participant on the Antique Road Show brought a highboy dresser to be appraised. He told the appraiser that when he purchased it, it had been covered in horrible red paint that covered the beautiful grain of the wood, so he had it restored. He gave the highest praises to the restorer.

The Antique Road Show appraiser asked him, “Which would you like first, the good news or the bad news? The man chose the good news first, and that good news was that it was a wonderful piece with no repairs or added pieces. The appraiser told him it was worth about $35,000. “But the bad news is that you washed $100,000 of red paint off of it.”

This story brings me to what I want to discuss today; antique painted items, like boxes, trunks, chests, tables and more. If these painted items are genuine, they can bring big bucks.

How do you know painted items are genuine? For starters, their paint shouldn’t look like it was painted yesterday. Something that’s over a hundred years old should look its age, and have a very mellow patina.

Next, I’ll often ask the person who owns the piece if the items has any history. I’ve often been told the whole story of where it came from and who owned it. Don’t let this be your only means for evaluating an item though, because sometimes the story doesn't match the piece you’re looking at. When you go to antique shows and antique shops, you can examine the real thing and this will prepare you for when that special piece is offered to you.

As you research the patterns that were used during certain time periods on painted items, they’ll become familiar to you. That way, when you see them, bingo! You might have just rung the cash register, and we aren’t talking small bucks here, but very possibly some extremely green money.

A recent example of what I’m talking about showed up at Cowan's Auction last March 15th. There were several nice painted pieces in the catalog, and one was a nice 19th century Bentwood box that had an estimate of $500 to $800. Another was a box painted with flowers estimated at $700 to $1000. Next came the Pennsylvania Dower chest estimated at $6000 to $9000, and what a beauty it was.

Be sure you examine all painted items, large or small, because if they are from the 18th or 19th century they have true value. While some dealers will just pass them by as being new, with your keen eye, you will pluck them right out of a pile of trash.

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