China Trade Album, ca. 1850

Value (2005) | $3,000 Auction$6,000 Auction

GUEST:
I found it at my local dump.

APPRAISER:
Oh, so you're a dump diver?

GUEST:
I'm a dump rat, yes. Much to my wife's displeasure.

APPRAISER:
Okay, so what do you know about this?

GUEST:
I really don't know anything. It looks to me like it might be Asian in theme,

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
but otherwise, I know it's watercolor...

APPRAISER:
All right. These are the covers to an original album. This is the silk that would have covered the album covers. It was made in Canton, China, around 1850. Now, let's take a look at the inside. These are actually a gouache of watercolor done on pith paper.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And pith paper... It's called rice paper, also.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And they're held in place by these blue silk strips. Now, these were sold to sea captains and first mates and people who were involved in the American-China trade, buying porcelain and teas and things like that. But the remarkable thing is their condition. Pith paper is very fragile, and it hasn't broken up like the covers have.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And I've seen watercolors like this in libraries that are in worse shape than that.

GUEST:
Yeah, I noticed some tears and pulls here and there...

APPRAISER:
Yeah, what they do is they pull from the ribbons, with the glue on the ribbons. But the reason they use the pith paper is the colors stayed so beautifully.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
It absorbed it. If these had been on regular paper, they would have faded considerably. There are some breaks on it.

GUEST:
Yes, condition on most of them.

APPRAISER:
And there are some condition problems with bugs.

GUEST:
Right, okay.

APPRAISER:
But, still, an album of this kind, usually, when we see these, they're valued anywhere between $300 and $500 apiece. So I'm thinking this album is probably in the... $3,000 to $5,000, or $4,000 to $6,000 price range...

GUEST:
Oh, is that right? Really, the whole thing?

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
So each print, you say, is worth about $300?

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that's what they usually...

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
So, uh... nice dump day.

(both laughing)

GUEST:
Yes... Yeah. So what could be done to conserve them?

APPRAISER:
Best thing is to frame them.

Appraisal Details

Appraised value (2005)
$3,000 Auction$6,000 Auction
Event
Providence, RI (June 18, 2005)
Form
Painting

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