Fake Block-Front Chest
Appraised Value: $3,000 - $5,000 (1998)
$3,000 - $5,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:14)
Senior Vice President & Director, American Furniture and Decorative Arts
GUEST: I was kind of hunting and looking for a piece like this for about five years.
GUEST: And I've subscribed to a couple of auction catalogs from the East and outside of Pennsylvania. I saw on the cover this beautiful block-front. So I inquired about it, and that same week, there was a local show in Milwaukee. And while I was there, they have a little area up on top for the dealers that are kind of new, and it's kind of hidden by itself. And I took a walk upstairs and lo and behold, here's another block-front. And I bought the piece in Milwaukee.
APPRAISER: And that was pretty recently, right?
GUEST: That was about three years ago, yes.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, I want to just tell you this right from the start. Unfortunately this is not a real 18th-century chest of drawers.
APPRAISER: It is, in fact, a fake made to deceive. And I want to point out why and go through some of the reasons. And I know it's probably disappointing. When I first looked at this...the form and the proportion is right, the design is right. It has the block front, has the correct Queen Anne brasses, but when you start to look more closely, the flaws come through. And initially looking at it, the wood grain on an 18th-century Boston piece of furniture like this, you'd see...the wood figuring would be very strong grain, very highly figured.
APPRAISER: And the top is especially true in that respect. It's not highly figured, the top. You'd see the grain coming through, and it's not. But it's when we take out the drawer... Look here at the dovetails. And if you look at this dovetail, this is painted up with a red stain to cover up the cut from the old board they cut it from.
GUEST: All right.
APPRAISER: Additionally, they induced wear on these drawers, and on the inside, actually used pieces of metal and marked up and chopped up this interior. And all of this is stained with a reddish permanganate stain which is made to look like old oxidized wood. The second big error that the cabinetmaker made was, in fact, he used the wrong secondary wood. In Boston, white pine was used as a secondary wood. This is tulip poplar, which you'll see in the 18th century in Pennsylvania. So all the secondary woods are wrong. And if we look at the underside...if you'll help me just turn this over.
APPRAISER: Look at the feet. We'll see evidence on this foot and all the feet of this wash that's been covered over to make it look like it's oxidized. These are actually poplar blocks that have been stained. Also, you'd see much more natural wear along these edges. It's much too sharp. You can almost cut your finger on that edge. If we could set it up again, it'd be great. Well, if...when these are original, 18th-century block-front chests like this can bring upwards of $30,000 to $50,000.
APPRAISER: And then great ones can bring closer to $50,000 to $75,000. Ones that have claw-and-ball feet and are highly figured wood. This chest is probably worth in the area of $3,000 to $5,000.
GUEST: About what I paid; I paid $5,000.
APPRAISER: That's good news. So you didn't really pay too much.
GUEST: You betcha.
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