Appraisal Video: (3:58)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: It belonged to my grandfather, and when he passed away in the early 1940s, he left it to my mother.
GUEST: And it's been in our house ever since.
APPRAISER: Now, do you remember this as a child?
GUEST: Yes-- we lived right across the road from my grandparents, and so we were in and out all day. And that was the first thing we did when we got home from school is go over there and see what she had that we could nibble on. And of course, when we were little, we would raise it up, and get a lump of sugar or something out of it.
APPRAISER: Well, how did they use it? You said lump of sugar.
GUEST: They had loose sugar.
GUEST: Now, I don't remember them keeping coffee beans in one side of it, but I know they did, because it smelled like coffee.
APPRAISER: Okay, so if we open it up here, we can see that it's divided in two parts, and you said they kept sugar in this side...
GUEST: And then, in the early days they had coffee beans there.
GUEST: Because they ground the coffee then, you know.
APPRAISER: Well, you know, what's absolutely wonderful is that this piece was always used for what they intended when they made it.
APPRAISER: We call this a sugar chest.
APPRAISER: Now, whenever I see a sugar chest, I always say to people, "What's the most valuable thing in your house that you keep under lock and key?" And most people say, "Oh, the silver" or "The liquor," but in the 19th century and the 18th century, sugar was as expensive as tea or liquor or coffee, and so they really prized sugar. And so it was something that they wanted to keep away from the mice, from the servants, and from prying hands of little children.
APPRAISER: When we look at this object, we know it's a sugar chest, because this form is absolutely central. In other words, there aren't a lot of variations on it; it's a sugar chest, it's never anything else. The neat thing about this one is it's so large. Over time, it's had a little bit of wear.
GUEST: Well, it's over 100 years old.
APPRAISER: Oh, it's more than 100 years old. When we look around this edge here, you can see these nail holes. It probably had a molding.
GUEST: I thought that, maybe, too.
APPRAISER: That would kind of cover this lip, so it would protect it from being pried open, and keeping bugs out. And then you can see these wonderful hand-cut dovetails.
APPRAISER: But when we look at the back, we can see how the hinges broke out. Now, that probably was because there was no stop, and when they opened the top one time, it fell back, probably broke the hinges. Not a big problem, because we know it's the original top.
APPRAISER: So the fact that the hinges broke is not great, but it's not a problem. So when we bring it back around here to look in the front, the other interesting thing we see is there's no hardware on the drawer, and there never was.
APPRAISER: When you get to country furniture, they had less access to metalwork, and the hardware was always imported. So you will occasionally see these without any sort of hardware.
GUEST: Um... do you have any sense of where it was made?
APPRAISER: No. Even though we can't have it analyzed here today, we can pretty well tell it's going to be from that eastern Tennessee swatch, down through the western Carolinas into Georgia. The date is probably around 1830 to 1850, which is great. It's a very early one. Beautifully sharp turnings, great condition, wonderful surface. Have you ever had it appraised?
APPRAISER: What did they tell you it was worth?
APPRAISER: How long ago was that?
GUEST: Oh, a couple of years or so.
APPRAISER: Yeah. Well, the nice thing is that the market for these is very strong because A: they're a localized form-- we know where they come from; the Southern furniture's really rising in value. If I took this to a show, I would certainly price it more in the range of about $6,000 to $8,000.
APPRAISER: So that's a lot of good sugar, isn't it?
GUEST: Yes, it is.