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    18th-Century New York Desk and Bookcase

    Appraised Value:

    $20,000 - $250,000

    Appraised on: July 29, 2006

    Appraised in: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    Appraised by: Leigh Keno

    Category: Furniture

    Episode Info: Milwaukee, Hour 1 (#1117)

    Originally Aired: October 29, 2007

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 2 Next 

    More Like This:

    Form: Desk, Bookcase
    Material: Poplar, Mahogany
    Period / Style: 18th Century
    Value Range: $20,000 - $250,000

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    Appraisal Video: (5:52)


    Appraised By:

    Leigh Keno
    Folk Art, Furniture

    Appraisal Transcript:
    APPRAISER: Leigh and I rarely appraise pieces together. Usually, we do it separately.

    GUEST: I'm honored.

    APPRAISER: You're like my hound dog going hunting, like if all of a sudden he...

    GUEST: Uh-oh.

    APPRAISER: ...leapt on it.

    APPRAISER: We're not good poker players, I guess, then, right?

    APPRAISER: Can't help ourselves.

    APPRAISER: We need to stay more calm.

    APPRAISER: Well, stay calm, Les, go ahead.

    APPRAISER: Okay.

    GUEST: Okay.

    APPRAISER: Now, where did you find this desk and bookcase, please?

    GUEST: Came down through the family line, my mother's side of the family. They lived in Hartford, Connecticut. Her grandfather probably was the man that had these. Very important guy in Connecticut history, governor of the state. His name was Richard D. Hubbard.

    APPRAISER: Was there a New York connection, I wonder?

    APPRAISER: I imagine there had to be. At that time, a lot of very famous and wealthy people were buying their furniture, in fact, in New York City, right in the island of Manhattan. In this desk and bookcase you brought in, is a classic example of New York 18th-century design and cabinet making. If we start at the base, these are squared claw and ball feet, classic New York, like a signature. They have a square format to them. Look at this inverted little cutout here, the gadrooned edge. Typical New York. Very typical. And then these drawers, which beautifully graduate up towards the top with the original pine tree brasses. And then if we open up the lid, would you mind pulling up that loper? Thank you.

    APPRAISER: I love this interior, Les.

    APPRAISER: This is the writing desk. This is where all the paperwork was done. You could picture the feather quill here and the ink.

    APPRAISER: This is a classic New York interior, because it has a simple interior with these little curved valances, nice poplar secondary wood, right, Les?

    APPRAISER: Classic New York.

    APPRAISER: Usually these have something, a secret drawer, and we were looking around earlier. Did you know that this has something, a secret drawer?

    GUEST: Mm-hmm.

    APPRAISER: You knew? Okay. Okay, because this is so neat. Way back under this panel, here's where you'd hide the what? The gold coins or the jewels. Have you ever hidden anything, seriously, in there yourself?

    GUEST: I hate to tell you, I haven't.

    APPRAISER: You haven't. Well, now, okay. Well, now everybody is going to know where it is, right?

    GUEST: That's right.

    APPRAISER: We see that beautiful prospect door carries up across the lid.

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: And then you've got the same matched panels on these two beautiful doors. And it gives it verticality. It looks like, it's like a flame of a fire. You have a pitched pediment with this fretwork, which I love, which is classic New York. If you look at that finial, that is the cherry on the sundae, so to speak. That's it. It's just a tour de force of carving. It's a basket filled with flowers and nuts, and it's three-dimensional. But I'll tell you something that almost never turns up, and that's in here. This wonderful label. How rare is it, Leslie, that we see a labeled piece of 18th-century furniture?

    APPRAISER: Hardly ever.

    APPRAISER: This says, "Samuel Prince, Joyner, at the Chest of Draws in Cart and Horse Street, New York, Makes and Sells All Sorts of Joyners' Work on the Lowest Terms." With this wonderful little inscription here, and an illustration of a chest on chest and a Chinese Chippendale chair. So to have that label, to know who made it... Now, Samuel Prince worked in New York from the early 1770s. He started advertising in 1772, and he died in 1778. So basically you know, we know that this-

    APPRAISER: Wasn't made later than 1778, right, Les?

    APPRAISER: That's right.

    APPRAISER: It's an incredible document. If you were to put a piece of Mylar across the bottom of this, it would protect that label. You really don't want that getting damaged. A lot of times we see high chests, secretaries that are married. Because they start out as a desk, somebody makes the top section. Now, we do not think that it's a marriage. I'm going to carefully, just a couple inches, slide this top back. And right here, you have a solid mahogany top. Often, that means that this desk was just made with a mahogany top to be seen by everybody, right?

    GUEST: Mm-hmm.

    APPRAISER: In this case, it's covered up. But every region had different ways of making things. In New York City, they made a group of these desks with a top section, with a molding attached to it that actually rests on top of a mahogany top like this. The other thing that we see that you might have been suspicious about is around the side, you see that this back overhangs the bottom. So it looks like it doesn't fit. Do you know why they did that?

    GUEST: Why?

    APPRAISER: Because they had these chair rails in the 18th century that would be against the wall. So the desk was actually away from the wall. They wanted the top section to be further back, to be snug against the wall. So this overhang is about an inch and a half, and they actually probably made this bracket, the cabinetmaker, to match the molding on the wall. So we often see pieces that are married that have a big overhang. We also see pieces that are absolutely original to each other that have the overhang. One of the other big reasons we think this top always went with this base is that you have these two panels, crotch-figured panels, which are basically from the same chunk of wood as the lid. It's like a fingerprint. And finally, inside, that's a poplar backboard right there. And we saw poplar on those little drawers down on the bottom-- a typical New York wood. Now, let me tell you. If this were a marriage, this is on a really good day, even with this fabulous label, this is worth, as a marriage, $20,000, okay? Probably at best, right. On a good day, okay? Now... But we think, because it has the original brass, the condition's great, the cartouche, the proportions, wonderful finish, that the estimate on this piece would be $150,000 to $200,000. Okay, and I'd like to say also, in retail, for instance, in New York, it could easily put $250,000 on this piece, okay? And I... now...

    GUEST: Well, thank you very much, that's good.

    APPRAISER: Well, you're welcome. Now, I want to tell you one little thing. To be 100 percent sure, I would actually get something called microscopy done, where you take a little sample, you wouldn't even see it. It's the tiniest little flake, and you look at the archaeology, the layers on the top, versus the layering on the bottom, and those are going to match on this.

    APPRAISER: That's right.

    APPRAISER: But if I were to put it in my shop at a quarter million, I'd want to have that done.

    APPRAISER: It takes about three days, and it's a done deal. And it's...

    APPRAISER: But we're already convinced you have a fabulous thing. In fact, a New York masterpiece, right, Les?

    APPRAISER: It's a masterpiece.

    GUEST: This is fun. Thanks.

    APPRAISER: Very good. Thanks for sharing your Sunday with us. Thank you. We finished, I guess?


    APPRAISER: This is what we live for. What do you think?

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