Oliver Coffin Nantucket Basket, ca.1870

Value (2005) | $6,000 Retail$7,000 Retail
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GUEST:
The basket was in my wife's family. When her mother died, it passed on to her as part of her inheritance.

APPRAISER:
And what do you know about it?

GUEST:
I don't know anything about it except that it's a Nantucket basket.

APPRAISER:
Nantucket basket. It is indeed a wonderful Nantucket basket. One of the nicest things about it is the label that's on the bottom. And it says "O. Coffin," and he was a 19th-century basket maker. And one of the other nice things is, it says it was made on the "South Shoal Lightship." Do you know what the lightships were?

GUEST:
Not really.

APPRAISER:
Lightships were floating lighthouses, and the men were stationed out there for about three months. And they would just be really bored, so they started basket making. They'd take all their equipment with, and the molds that these are...

GUEST:
So Coffin was one...

APPRAISER:
...was one of the fellows who was stationed on this South Shoal Lightship.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
The other interesting thing about this label is the original price: $1.25. This basket probably was made in... 1870. He made baskets in the 1860s, but I think with the paper label, it's probably in the 1870s. Of the many, many, many Nantucket baskets that I have seen in my time, this is the first labeled Oliver Coffin basket that I've seen.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
So I was pretty pleased with that.

GUEST:
Wow, that's great.

APPRAISER:
And the price, of course.

GUEST:
The price is terrific.

APPRAISER:
And these were made on molds. The paper label on the back covers up this hole where it was attached upside down. And they would weave the whole basket together and then secure it at the top with the reed.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
What makes this really special is, number one, it's an oval basket. That's much harder to make than a round basket.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Number two, it's a small size. Smaller sizes are harder to make on a mold than the larger baskets. Number three, the color is fantastic. But the most important thing is to have that wonderful, wonderful label on the bottom. And it's appreciated a bit, I would say, since that $1.25 in 1870. In our shop, we would sell that between $6,000 and $7,000.

GUEST:
Oh, you're kidding!

APPRAISER:
That's how rare it is.

GUEST:
No kidding.

APPRAISER:
It's really an exciting basket.

GUEST:
Really? Oh, that's terrific. (laughs) Thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
You're welcome.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Longmont, Colorado
Appraised value (2005)
$6,000 Retail$7,000 Retail
Event
Providence, RI (June 18, 2005)
Period
19th Century
Form
Basket

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