1864 Secrétaire à Abattant
Appraised Value: $5,000 - $7,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (4:00)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Furniture, Musical Instruments
Ken Farmer Auctions, LLC
GUEST: In about 1953 we were living in Wiesbaden, Germany, and my father had been with Patton and was a pretty high-ranking officer, so we lived in the house that Marshal Tito had once lived in. We were billeted there. Goods were scarce and people would come to the door and would try to sell what they could for food. And one day we got a knock on the door and there was somebody with the desk. They had wheeled it up four flights of stairs and they asked us if we would buy it for 50 American dollars, as many cartons of cigarettes and cans of Maxwell House coffee. I think we gave him one box of Hershey's chocolate bars, and nylons. And my mother liked antiques and she loved this desk.
APPRAISER: Do you know the proper name, what people call these?
GUEST: I believe it's a secretary.
APPRAISER: Well, actually there's a French word. It's "secrétaire à abbatant," which basically means a faux-front secretary. And this particular form actually goes all the way back to like the 16th century. And in what was called the Regency Period, or the Empire Period in America, in the 1820s or '30s, it became popular again. And when I first looked at this, right off the bat, I saw that we had this picture frame molding right here and this molding you see after the 1850s. And this was made like at the very tail end of the time period when they were doing these secretaries. And the cool thing about this is it takes a lot of the guesswork out because it's signed and dated on the lid. Let's show everybody where it's signed. It's got the man's name right there and "November 1864." I don't think his name is as significant as the fact that it actually dates it and gives credence to the fact that it was made, you know, in the later period of when they made these. Well, the most attractive feature about these is the beautiful marquetry inlay. And at the time period this was made, the German cabinetmakers' guilds were very tightly controlled and they were very precise. They would have actually told them which woods to use and how to do the inlays and everything. Now, what it overall is, it's a burl veneer, like a walnut veneer, over top of soft, secondary woods. And what happens through the years is the wood expands and contracts more in the secondary woods than it does on the veneers and it causes the veneers to come loose. It's a very common problem. This is a great piece for decorative purposes and a lot of people love these. Have you ever had this appraised before? Have you ever thought about what it's really worth?
GUEST: We have no idea. You notice we never restored it either.
APPRAISER: You know, one of the things that you mentioned was the fact that when your dad and mom had it shipped back to the States they had to take the feet off to get it in a container. Well, that can be easily fixed. And you're missing one of these carvings right here. And somebody could restore that and have that put back down on that lower side down there. I think a lot of people would put another piece of leather on it and I don't think that's the end of the world and it'd probably be less than $1,000 to have all that work done. In my opinion, at an auction, the pre-sale estimate should be $5,000 to $7,000.
APPRAISER: And if you had the work done that we talked about and you put it in a retail setting, it would probably be as much as $12,000.
GUEST: Great. I think I'm going to send it to market, so...
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