Philadelphia Dressing Table, ca. 1750

Value (2005) | $70,000 Retail$80,000 Retail

GUEST:
I grew up around this piece of furniture. It's been in the family for several generations, four that I was told about. And it was in Fairfield County, Connecticut, in the family homestead, but I always remembered it and loved it, and it was given to me by my aunt in the '90s. I believe it's walnut.

APPRAISER:
You are correct; it's black walnut. It has a really nice, mellow old surface. It's not an original finish, but it has great color, and the walnut has great figuring in it. On the top and on the drawer fronts, you see that great curly figure in the grain, and that's solid-- it's not veneer. Does it look like a Connecticut piece to you?

GUEST:
I saw an appraisal from the '70s that said it was period New England.

APPRAISER:
Hmm.

GUEST:
But I don't really know. I thought this kind of wood was more... prevalent in Pennsylvania, Ohio area.

APPRAISER:
Well, you're right. This is a classic Philadelphia dressing table, or lowboy, probably made in the 1750s, so this is a very early piece.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
And I've been through it top to bottom, and it's in really pristine condition. No major repairs. In looking at the top, it has the original pegs that hold the top on. It's never been off as far as I can tell. If you look at the front, these big, beautiful brasses are original. They were driven through, and they've never been out of the piece.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
And those were expensive in the period, so to have six of them like that is a real expensive detail. Now, this skirt is particularly interesting. In studying the early Philadelphia cabinet shops, there's one shop that seems to be using that exact skirt pattern a lot, and it has relatives in Irish cabinet making, and we think maybe there was an Irish influence going on in this cabinet shop, but we don't know the cabinetmaker. So when I saw this piece, the first thing I did was go through it hoping maybe there would be a signature in it, because none of the other pieces have any... any clues about who made this. Unfortunately, no signature, but it's one more piece that we can add to that group that's coming out of mid-century Philadelphia. Now, if you look at the knee carving here, you have fairly shallow shell carving. That's something you see in this shop, but also in this sort of earlier period in Philadelphia. Another early detail are the stocking feet, or the trifid feet, as people sometimes call them. You see this in Philadelphia by the 1730s. In the '40s, ball-and-claw feet start appearing, but there's a big crossover. From a collecting standpoint, the best detail about this piece, I think, other than condition and brasses, is the big overhang on the top.

GUEST:
Yeah, even in the back.

APPRAISER:
Even in the back. That was so it could go flush to a wall over a chair rail, so it would be stable. A lot of these that we see have less overhang on the top and the proportions are not quite as pleasing. I think at a major antique show, it would be priced retail probably at $70,000 or $80,000.

GUEST (stammering): Come on!

APPRAISER:
So it's... it's a great rarity, and it's a real... it's a real treasure, so... so congratulations, um...

GUEST (exhales loudly)

APPRAISER (laughing): Yeah. Is that a... is that a surprise?

GUEST:
Well... I guess I didn't thank her enough for the gift. Yeah, it was... Seventy?

APPRAISER:
It's... it's... It was quite a gift.

GUEST:
That's amazing. Lord have mercy.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Brunk Auctions
Asheville, NC
Appraised value (2005)
$70,000 Retail$80,000 Retail
Event
Tampa, FL (June 25, 2005)
Period
18th Century
Form
Lowboy
Material
Walnut

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.