Nicholas Middleton Box Desk, ca. 1805

Value (2005) | $12,000 Retail

I bought it in Houston from a dealer who also operated a restaurant.

So, like, you could go in and eat and buy antiques?

Yes, exactly.

Well, I see a lot of box desks, and you see them in various sizes. Beautiful brass inlay, nicely cut panel here, very nicely done escutcheon here. And, of course, as soon as you see one of these plates, the first thing you look for is an inscription-- see if it was presented to anybody, which it didn't have. But let's take a look at the inside. It's a big writing surface, and it's got some very nice hardware, very fancy hinges. We've got a brass inlay and an ivory escutcheon. So immediately I know we're dealing with some quality. The leather is probably not the original, okay? That doesn't worry me. But what's special, of course, is as soon as we open this up... and I know you do this better than I.


Now, I got to tell you, when I saw this label, my jaw was dropping, because label examples of this are not unknown. But it's when I read the label and realized what it said that absolutely blew me away. It's Nicholas Middleton. He's by appointment to the king and the Prince of Wales. Now, today, we all understand things that are called Royal Warrants as what are given to people who supply the royal household. And it can be anything from a raincoat to toilet fixtures. But when you look at it this early-- and we looked up Middleton's dates, and it's 1801 to 1810-- this is at the height of George's fame, power, before he completely goes off the deep end. And then when we start reading everything that he supplies-- he supplies cutlery, pens, everything. This guy was the high-end supplier to clearly the best people in London-- the royalty and the nobility. This guy was number one in a field that was highly competitive. But what really hit me was, we not only have one label, but if I can get you to... Got to flip this. We got a second label. And if we ever had any doubts that the label was original, the crack's right through the middle of it-- no question it's always been there. And, you know, these crisscross are simply to store your envelopes in. It's a wonderful touch. But the next very nice thing is how many secret compartments there are in this. There we go. And look, it's got its own lock in two places, beautiful brass fittings.

The dovetailing on these drawers is pretty extraordinary.

This is a spare-no-expense object. The secondary woods are all mahogany. The terms "fit for a king" are absolutely true in this case. There's nothing about this that isn't first-rate. And a whole 'nother row of drawers.

This... slides out like this. And this... slides up like this. Down here, you have to push the right spot. This comes out here and then there's a drawer.

Obsession with secret compartments and locks was a favorite of royalty. Louis XVI of France-- you know what his hobby was? Lockmaking.


Now, how much did you have to give for this when you bought it?


Without question, if I had it in my shop, I would be selling this for about $12,000. I'd have a stand built. That would run you probably $500, $600. When I was through, I'd be asking about $15,000. It is the most magnificent box desk I have ever seen. It is the absolute Mount Everest of box desks. You are one lucky guy to have it.

Well, thank you very much. My family will be very surprised and happy.

Appraisal Details

J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
Baltimore, MD
Appraised value (2005)
$12,000 Retail
Houston, TX (July 16, 2005)
19th Century
Box, Desk

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