Appraisal Video: (3:19)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: Back in 1978, I was living in Sacramento and I drove to Sutter Creek, which is a little mining town. And I found this in an antique store by a gentleman who had a lot of museum pieces, actually, and this was a piece he just displayed items on and I asked if he'd sell it. He said it came from the Mills family estate, the family that started Mills College in Oakland.
APPRAISER: What did you have to pay for it?
APPRAISER: Now how do you know that so exactly?
GUEST: I kept the... his business card and wrote down the date and the amount.
APPRAISER: You know, I've seen less thorough receipts. Says Brazilian rosewood, Mills Estate, Oakland.
GUEST: When I purchased it, it had a red felt top and the footrest was in red felt, but it was pretty ratty. So I took it off thinking I would redo it in leather. And in the interim, I cut this out to put on top and it just seems like time has passed and I haven't...
APPRAISER: Yeah, the projects get away from us.
APPRAISER: First, I'm going to take this off and we'll come back to talk about the top.
APPRAISER: Now, have you ever looked at that little brand down there?
GUEST: Well, you know, I just thought it was a burn mark I didn't notice it as a brand.
APPRAISER: Well, let me tell you, that's a very important burn mark.
APPRAISER: Herter was one of the great cabinetmakers of the 19th century.
GUEST: Oh, okay.
APPRAISER: Gustave and Christian Herter got started in the late 1850s. They did work for presidents, captains of industry. They were, without question, the top cabinet-making and interior decorating firm right at the time of the end of the Civil War through to the mid-1880s. That brand is very important because if I just saw this table without the brand, I'd say it's a nice rosewood Renaissance revival table worth $3,000 to $5,000. Now, with a Herter mark, that immediately puts us in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.
APPRAISER: You also see what it says there, the Mills?
APPRAISER: That's the Mills estate. Now let's turn it back and we're going to talk a little more about that. Now, one of the reasons I took that top off is that underneath what was that red baize, in pencil, it says Mills. Now, Darius Ogden Mills made his fortune during the gold rush, but he was actually from upstate New York. So when he made his money, he went back east to decorate and furnish his home. And his house, I got to love this, is called Happy House. And it was one of the most famous California houses. And Herter Brothers decorated it not just once but twice-- in 1869, '70, and then again in 1880. So this was at the height of their power. Now, when we look at these drawer fronts, you can see that they only asked for enough to kind of fill the center. They didn't have the inlaid band all the way across. So as a piece of East Coast Herter, it's good, but it's not great. But as that classic Western early Herter commission, it's unbelievably rare and important. And the fact that the baize is gone, I'm sorry you took off the original, but it really doesn't ruin it in this case. I would say that in the current market, a retail estimate is easily $40,000, $45,000.
GUEST: Are you kidding me? Wow. I'm amazed.