Appraisal Video: (4:35)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
GUEST: This chair was made by a fellow, Consider Tiffany. My grandmother, in 1904, I think it was, did a whole genealogy history of the Tiffanys. And this chair appeared in a picture in that book and it was given to my great-grandmother. I've never heard of Tiffany as a furniture maker, so I'm kind of curious if there's other furniture, if this is a one-of-a-kind. I know that it's been in the family for a long time. It's very dear to my father, and it was intended to be passed down from my great-grandfather, to my father, to me, to my son.
APPRAISER: Well, first off, we have to show people the back of the chair, because you were gesturing to that, so let's turn it around. It says here, "Consider Tiffany A.D. 1761." Now, I don't think this was an early advertisement to shop at the store. The most famous of the Tiffanys was a man named Louis Comfort Tiffany.
APPRAISER: And I always thought that was a last name, but no. When you go back in the records, Comfort was a first name. And so was Consider. And as I know, you've dug out in the historical record, there were a lot of Consider Tiffanys.
APPRAISER: There were like four or five of them. Now, we did some checking, and we can't find any evidence that Consider Tiffany was a cabinetmaker. So we've considered Consider, and we're going to let him go. There you go, yeah. Now, can you see how this is turned on the back here?
APPRAISER: And it's flat on the front?
APPRAISER: Those are what's called split turnings. And it's an oddity because it's flat in the front and actually curved in the back.
GUEST: So this would actually perhaps be one turning. These two.
APPRAISER: Exactly. So, the question is, do we have any idea who made it based on that information? No, okay? I have no idea who made it. It was made in southeast Connecticut. It's a classic, what we call William and Mary armchair from about 1720, give or take a few years. It's an exquisitely done American armchair. It's what we would call a turner's chair. By that I mean the primary skill was a woodturner. In fact, there's only four pieces that were not turned: the arms, the crest rail, and the stay rail. Those four pieces are carved. In America, a turner was a turner and this was probably made in a shop that didn't have access to a carver. I think when this left the shop in 1730... "ish"-- 1720, I don't think it was carved. I think it was plain. I think sometime between, say, the 1870s and when it got into that book, around 1905, or about 25 years, I think they modernized it. I think they wanted to kind of upgrade...
GUEST: Spoof it up a little.
APPRAISER: Yeah, they didn't want to buy a new chair, so what did they do? They carved it.
APPRAISER: And if you look down in here, it's not easy to see, there's a bird...
GUEST: Oh, yeah, I can see it. Never noticed that.
APPRAISER: And then we have these scrolls. You see how it's even carved on the underside there?
GUEST: Oh, yes.
APPRAISER: Now, as time went by and it started to get all rickety, they not only upgraded, but they added this metal bar here, and when you look down on here, they added... there's bars all on the side. You can see the screws in here. And I'm going to tilt it back, because these chairs were relatively uncomfortable. When you look here, they added a little piece down here.
GUEST: Yeah, yep.
APPRAISER: To give it a little more tilt. Wasn't exactly high cabinet work, but it worked. So they did all this, I think, sometime in the last quarter of the 19th century. And this was a very common feature. I don't think they did it for market purposes, because it's never left the family.
APPRAISER: Here's the problem. From a market standpoint, they virtually destroyed it. Because what they did was take a clean piece, and by upgrading it, they altered the historical fabric, and that in essence ruined it for the market.
GUEST: Got you.
APPRAISER: Now, as an historical artifact that tells us the history of your family...
APPRAISER: It's intact. So, in a retail environment, altered, it's probably about $2,000, maybe $2,500 tops.
GUEST: Ah, it's still great though.
APPRAISER: If it hadn't been touched, I think you'd be looking at a $5,000, maybe even $7,000, chair.
APPRAISER: If it wasn't altered.
GUEST: I wondered about the metal, actually. I never would have even considered the carving. That's really fantastic. That's cool. It'll stay in the family; that makes it easy.
APPRAISER: (laughing) Good!
GUEST: I like it. Thank you very much.