Texas Desk & Bookcase, ca. 1850
Appraised Value: $7,000 - $10,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:44)
Folk Art, Furniture
GUEST: Well, it's been in the family since it was made, I guess. The family was living on a ranch outside of Seguin, Texas. The ranch was established in about 1840, and so sometime between that time and about 1870, this piece of furniture was made.
We feel like that it is a Texas handmade piece of furniture, and it is made from walnut that family lore tells us came from the ranch itself.
APPRAISER: Well, let's try and put this piece in perspective. The counties surrounding San Antonio are often referred to as the hill country of Texas, and they were largely populated, beginning in the 1840s, by Germans. This piece also tells us about the German influence here. If you'd just give me a hand, and we'll pull this... forward. The primary wood on this desk, as you say, is walnut-- beautiful walnut-- and the drawer fronts on this are not walnut. They, in fact, are sycamore. Additionally... we have pine, and the bottom boards of this piece, and some of the other boards in the drawers below, appear to possibly be pecan. Now, all of those are native woods that were used here. There's also a couple of construction techniques that point to its German Texas origin. First of all, it is heavily built. Look at the thickness of even these small, secondary drawers. Also, the fact that they were built with dovetail construction, not simply rabbeted or nailed. In addition, the bottom board here is held with three wooden pegs-- an unusual construction technique and one the Germans would've used. We see that further reflected in the kind of massive, overbuilt style of this piece-- the thickness of this slab of wood, the dovetailing of the bracket feet in the back. There is also a clever, clever way of adjusting these shelves. It is done not with grooves, in which these boards would slide in, but instead, this carefully calibrated step, and you can see that there is a dovetailed wedge which can be pulled out and adjusted so the shelves could be adjusted. Now, it probably dates from very close to 1850, and this was probably the most expensive furniture form made by Texas German cabinetmakers. This probably would have cost about $45 in its own day, and to put that in perspective, you could have bought a table for about four or five dollars. So this was a high-class piece. And there's no question in my mind that this was built, as you suggested, in one of the counties adjoining San Antonio. I know this is descended in your family. Have you ever had it evaluated or appraised?
GUEST: Yes, I had a gentleman look at it about 15 years ago, and the appraisal was about $6,000.
APPRAISER: Okay, that was probably a good appraisal for that time and date. I would think that locally, this-- if I were to estimate it for auction-- today, I would conservatively say $7,000 to $10,000.
GUEST: Very good! And thank you for bringing this in.
APPRAISER: Well, thank you very much. It speaks German to me.
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