Side Chair from the Lincoln White House, ca. 1860
Appraised Value: $500 - $12,500
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:02)
Folk Art, Furniture
GUEST: Well, we bought 'em from a dealer in Greenville, South Carolina, about 20 years ago. And it was eight from a set of 14. But the eight that we got were the side chairs. And the dealer had some information on the chairs that gave us a little bit of evidence that they may have been in the White House during the Lincoln administration. There is some evidence, but I'm anxious to hear what you say today.
APPRAISER: These chairs do, indeed, seem to have a history of being in the Lincoln White House, used in the dining room. When Lincoln died and Mary Todd Lincoln left the White House, she took the chairs with her. They had a house up in Vermont, and that became the home of Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, and in turn, his son, Robert Lincoln. And it's believed that the grandson sold the chairs to a farmer, and that farmer sold his farm and property to the local country day school.
GUEST: That's correct. That's what we heard.
APPRAISER: And in turn, the country day school then sold the chairs, and that's how they came into the public domain. When you bought the set of chairs, what did you pay for them?
GUEST: Uh, $6,000, which we felt was a lot of money, but we liked the chairs, so we were willing to spend that.
APPRAISER: Well, here we have a wonderful example of how historical association can have possibly a major impact on the value of an object. And the history and line of descent of the chairs sounds, indeed, very plausible, and I think it's something that certainly can be followed up and confirmed and verified. We have here, from a 19th-century print, Lincoln and his cabinet seated around a table, presumably at the White House, and indeed, Lincoln, one of his other cabinet members, appear to be sitting in the two armchairs. And another cabinet member is sitting in a side chair, which appears to be absolutely identical to this. The turnings on the front legs of this chair, and of the ones we can see on the armchair are remarkably close. And then, if we take a look at the ear of the side chair, we find the same shape profile. If we were looking at simply a set of eight Victorian side chairs, the value would be about $4,000. But if we can absolutely nail down that historical association, the set of eight chairs would in turn catapult in value to somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 to $100,000 at auction,
GUEST: Wow! Wow!
APPRAISER: for an estimate.
GUEST: That's awesome.
APPRAISER: So I think that was a successful venture. And now we'll work on pinning it down.
GUEST: Well, great. That's, uh, great, great news.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.