After Wes Cowan rejected Kevin's wooden document box -- at auction, the dealer refunded the money in order to re-take possession of the box. Why would a dealer ever give back money? Because he felt this box truly was a 19th-century antique — and he set out to prove it.
The dealer showed the box to dozens of dealers at The Arions York Show. Their general consensus was that the box was a legitimate antique, probably from 1840-60, though possibly 1860-80. They identified the scene on the box as a reproduction of "The Errand Boy," an 1818 painting by the Scottish artist David Wilke, and most thought this was a steel engraving that was cut out and applied, then varnished or shellacked.
When asked about the dealer's experience at the Arions York Show, Wes Cowan had this to say:
"My first reaction upon seeing this box was "It's not old." I'm sticking with that. The box is put together with wire nails, there is no way to tell when it was painted, when the découpage decoration was added, or when the cloth was put inside.
Wire nails didn't first become available for mass use until the 1890s, meaning that the box was more than likely not made before this date. And while the engraving may be "old," if the box wasn't made until around 1890, the engraving couldn't have been added any earlier than this date.
While découpage has a long history in the decorative arts, it was exceptionally popular among hobbyists in the States during the 1960s. Fifty years ago a découpage artist might easily have clipped an early steel engraving, glued it to the top of a box, applied a layer of shellac (which is how one protects the applied paper), and a half century later, voilà, the shellac has yellowed. ... You get the picture.
In addition, I have seen few if any boxes from the mid-19th century (or even later) that are lined with cloth. More often than not, such boxes are lined with paper — either plain, wallpaper, an old newspaper, or a similar product. I don't believe for a minute that the cloth is old.
So is it possible the box is from the 19th century? Sure — but late 19th century. Is it possible the engraving itself is actually from the first half of the 19th century? Sure. But is the box a real antique, or a put-together hodgepodge? I'm sticking with my first impressions, based upon my experience!"
And here was Kevin's response:
"It did surprise me when I saw Wes deny the 19th-century decorated box for sale. I knew it was a 19th-century box. It was a well-made New England box with a découpage and hand-painted exterior (beautiful yellow striping). I felt the interior was replaced but easily removed if so desired. The original square nails could be seen under the painted surface and the oxidization of the pine wood also showed its age and smelled like "grandma's attic." Items for his auction were to be worth $50 or more. It absolutely filled the bill — obviously not a piece one could retire on but a nice little box someone would enjoy owning I am sure. It probably would have sold for a couple of hundred dollars.
We all make mistakes but for whatever reason, I believe Wes has a hard time admitting his. He stated that the Carl Moon "orotone" photograph I bought 'was a complete fake' when the one I purchased was identical in all aspects to ones in the archives of art databases, some of which were sold by Wes Cowan himself. The engraved front name, the way it was matted, the label on the back- my research online revealed these were the tell tale signs that this photograph was an authentic Moon orotone, identical to the ones Wes Cowan has sold at his auction house for thousands of dollars. I think Wes Cowan should come clean and make the statement that he has sold many — not just the one he's admitted to but many "Carl Moon orotones," all of which he later found out were fakes.
Do the right thing, Wes. If not for me and if not for yourself, then clear the air about these orotones for the next person that goes onto art reference sites online, sees your sales results and then makes the same mistake that I and many other people have made because you have never made public what you know.