Appraisal Video: (3:59)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: I don't know all of its history, but it's been in my family since 1870, about. First with my great-grandparents, then with my grandparents, then with my mother, and when she died, my sister and I each took half, but now my sister has moved where she can't have it, so I have both pieces again. They're together.
APPRAISER: But as long as you've known it, it's had these feet up here and been in two parts?
GUEST: Yes, my grandparents did that, because they didn't have a good place for a highboy--
GUEST: --and they wanted to use both parts. My grandmother wanted to be able to reach the drawers.
APPRAISER: Well, I want to tell you, you have one of the rarest instances of American furniture I've ever seen. Normally, what happens is, if a piece gets separated, they never get put back together.
GUEST: Oh, I see.
APPRAISER: At some point in time, in your grandmother's day, they turned it into two pieces. Now, we have a very odd look, too, because what we're looking at is the top and a bottom with these feet in the middle, which of course is not what it should look like. We should take these feet off, and we should take this board out of here, and this would drop in perfectly.
GUEST: This piece would fit over here?
APPRAISER: It'll fit right in behind this molding.
APPRAISER: It will fit perfectly.
APPRAISER: Where do you live now?
GUEST: Wakefield, Rhode Island.
APPRAISER: And your grandparents, did they live in Wakefield?
GUEST: No, they lived in Worcester.
APPRAISER: Okay, well, actually, you're closer to where this started its life than they were.
GUEST: Oh, is that right?
APPRAISER: If we look at this piece, which was made in the mid-18th century-- say around 1760, 1770.
APPRAISER: It's curly maple, which was a very popular wood in New England. When we look at this skirt here, we see these nice drops that are cut here. And I'm going to turn the piece to the side a second. We also have on the side, we've got this skirt here, and we've got this beautiful shot of the leg, okay? Now, I'm going to ask your help a little. I'm going to ask you to pull the drawer out with me. Okay, we're going to pull this drawer out, too. We're going to skip the one without the handles. (laughing)
APPRAISER: That's how they become antique.
APPRAISER: All right, now, if I'm looking at it from here, I can see that it's using probably ash or chestnut as a secondary wood, and it's got chestnut in the bottom board, and all the dovetails line up, which is very important when you want to make sure the top and bottom went together. When I look at the drawers open, I look at the chestnut secondary woods, I look at the way the leg is cut, I look at the skirt, and all this tells me it was made in probably eastern Connecticut or Rhode Island. Very, very typical features of this area. Now, let's turn it back. Now let's talk about value. Curly maple is a very popular wood right now. People really like it, because it's not too formal. And that's a plus. Now, let's look at the worst-case scenario. Let's say your sister had kept half and you had kept half, okay? So she'd have the top. That would only be worth a few thousand dollars, okay?
APPRAISER: And you'd have the bottom, and that would probably be only worth a few thousand dollars, say, $4,000 or $5,000 and $2,000 or $3,000 for this. But when they're back together, we take the feet off, drop it in the way it should look, in today's market, for insurance purposes-- because I know you want to keep it in the family-- I'd have this insured for at least $24,000 to $26,000.
GUEST: Oh, for heaven's sake, $24,000 to $26,000.
APPRAISER: And like I said, you're absolutely enshrined in all appraisers' good graces--
APPRAISER: --for having kept this piece together. And I want to thank you for that and please, keep it together.
GUEST: Oh, I certainly will. My mother said, "These two pieces should always be together."
APPRAISER: Always listen to your mother. It's the thing to do.