Baltimore Secretary, ca. 1825
Appraised Value: $6,000 - $15,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:24)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Silver
Owner, Appraiser and Chief Auctioneer
APPRAISER: How tall are your ceilings at your house?
GUEST: Uh, they are about an inch taller than this piece of furniture, so they're a little more than nine feet.
APPRAISER: Do you know actually there are feet missing on it?
GUEST: Yes-- in fact, I have them.
APPRAISER: You have the feet?
GUEST: I do have the feet. I brought them with me.
APPRAISER: Did you take them off?
GUEST: I took them off because I didn't have enough room.
APPRAISER: What do you know about the piece? Do you know where it was made?
GUEST: I know very little about it. It was given to me by my father's cousin. She told me that she thought it was made in Philadelphia.
APPRAISER: Well, she was close. It's probably... I'm almost sure it's made in Baltimore. You see how these fluted columns are sharp?
APPRAISER: The ones in Philadelphia and New York would not be sharp. So that definitely puts it into the school of John Needles, who was a very famous cabinetmaker in Baltimore during the period of 1820 to 1830, which is when this piece was made. It's from the Classical Revival period. It was right after the War of 1812. Another nice feature of this piece is it has a lot of gothic details. You have these gothic arches here on the double doors, which are quite nice. And then below that we have what's known as a butler's drawer, and this opens up as a desk. Do you know what kind of wood this is?
GUEST: I don't. I thought it was like a tiger maple.
APPRAISER: That's exactly what it is, and it's absolutely beautifully executed. And Needles was very famous for using tiger maple. This is a wonderful little drawer with a scalloped shaping to the bottom of it. You turn it over. The reason we know that it wasn't made in New England is because we have poplar as a secondary wood here, which was used in New York and further south.
APPRAISER: The little ivory knobs are probably original. This is a wonderful feature in here with this little scroll. Every one of these little details cost a little bit more money. This piece was very expensive when it was made. Any chance you had relatives from Baltimore?
GUEST: My relatives were actually from Wilmington, Delaware.
APPRAISER: Well, that's close. Again, we have gothic details here-- the gothic arch here, the quatrefoil here, Corinthian capitals. And, you know, this piece probably had wooden knobs originally. These could be the original knobs. These, uh, escutcheons here, the keyholes are Victorian copies that were probably put on in the late 1800s.
APPRAISER: It's really a beautiful piece of furniture. Notice the original panes of glass.
GUEST: I wondered if those were original.
APPRAISER: They are original panes of glass. See the little bubbles in them? Do you have any idea what its worth?
GUEST: I really have no idea.
APPRAISER: Big pieces of furniture don't bring a lot of money because the smaller pieces are what people can fit into their smaller homes and will pay a lot of money for. If this piece was New York or Philadelphia, it would be estimated at $3,000 to $5,000 at auction. Now, because it's Baltimore, it would be double that-- it's $6,000 to $10,000-- and probably for an insurance appraisal it would be safe to say that it should be insured for $15,000.
GUEST: That's great.
APPRAISER: I guess you just have to find a home with higher ceilings so you can put the feet back on.
GUEST: That's fabulous.
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