Philadelphia Low Boy. ca, 1750

Value (2006) | $12,000 Retail

APPRAISER:
I didn't expect to have to come to Honolulu to find a piece from the East Coast. Do you know where this piece is from?

GUEST:
Greenwich, Connecticut.

APPRAISER:
You think it's made in Greenwich, or what do you think?

GUEST:
Oh, I'm not sure where it's made, but that's where my grandfather lived.

APPRAISER:
Okay. And so that's where he brought it from. So he brought it from Greenwich. And how did it come to you, may I ask?

GUEST:
Uh, my grandfather was living in Kipahulu on Maui, and he and my grandmother were there, and they needed some help, so my husband and I moved over there to help him. My grandmother died, and so I was taking care of it. And by this time, he had shipped some of his pieces from Greenwich--

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
--out to his house, because he lived there full-time now. And I ended up with this piece.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
I had my phone on it for the last 20 years.

APPRAISER:
That's all right. Look, it's a nice phone table to me, I'll tell you. I love this, because I live and breathe wonderful wood in 18th century furniture, okay? That's what makes me tick. Okay. I don't know if you know, but it does, okay? This was made right in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-- not Connecticut-- about 1745 to 1750.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
It's called a dressing table. In the trade, we call it a lowboy. Have you ever heard of that term?

GUEST:
That's what he always called it, was a lowboy.

APPRAISER:
He always called it a lowboy? Okay, that's the trade term, and people still call them lowboys. But these dressing tables, or lowboys, were made with a high chest, a tall piece. They were sold together.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And then, they often got separated. So somewhere out there, there's a mate to this. This molded top is above this long drawer. It has a molded edge. And then, below here, you have three drawers. And you have this wonderful cyma curve and this very baroque arch here with a little drop.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
And it's all supported by these cabriole legs. And you come down to that foot, and some people call it a Spanish foot. This type of foot was typical of the best made in Philadelphia. Now, we know that the thing is authentic. I've looked over the piece a little bit. Just take out the drawer, and if you look at the drawer sides, has these wonderful dovetails. This is all poplar and white pine. And these attach with beautiful rose head nails. And all of this wear. See how that's scraped away?

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
All makes perfect sense, Robin, because it's been scraping on here since about 1750. Now, the top is exactly what you like to see. The top is this wonderful tiger maple, and tiger maple is something that wasn't just grown. You know, you had to cut the tree. You had to go through a lot of maple to find a piece of wood that had this kind of fiddleback. The question is on this: is the top original to the piece? Okay? And I know this is loose, 'cause I lifted it up before, right?

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
So I'm going to carefully lift this. If I just take this board-- it's a two-board top, right?

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
And just put it like this, you'll see that the tigering, the curly figure on the inside of the case matches that on the top. It's clearly from the same wood source. Also, the oxidation-- the discoloration from being exposed to the little bit of air that was getting in there--

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
--it matches. So we know that those two pieces are what? The side of this case and this top have been next to each other, we feel, for about 250 years. I mean, that's a good thing, right?

GUEST (chuckling): Right.

APPRAISER:
Okay, but watch this. We've got to make sure that all the holes on the top match the holes on the case. On here.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
The attachment holes. If we do that and see that there's a big old hole right there, there's no hole there.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
But I was here with my colleagues, and one said, "Leigh, slide the top over." When you slide the top over about an inch and a half, look.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
That hole matches that hole.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And this hole matches. And if I take my finger from these two holes and go like this, here's the hole here, and there's a shank of a nail right there on the top of that leg. So what that means is, this is the original top.

GUEST:
What do you think happened? They redid it?

APPRAISER:
They shaved down a top that had a big overhang.

GUEST:
Oh...

APPRAISER:
They took a few inches off, and they shaved it down. It must have gotten damaged on the edge or something. But the great thing is that everything does match, and you can explain what happened, okay?

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
With the top original but reshaped, the value of this on the East Coast, I'll tell you, it's probably worth a little more probably on the East Coast, probably in Philadelphia and New York, where these things were made, you know?

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Would be about $12,000 retail, okay? That's what it's worth. Now let me tell you what it would be worth if it hadn't been cut, because condition is so important of American furniture.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Uncut, it would be worth about ten times that, about $120,000.

GUEST (chuckling): Oh, boy.

APPRAISER:
I mean, this happened 150 years ago.

GUEST:
Yeah, they cut it.

APPRAISER:
So it's nothing you did.

GUEST:
It's nothing I did.

APPRAISER:
If you told me, "Leigh, I did that last week," I think you'd be a little more bummed out, right?

GUEST:
Right, right.

APPRAISER:
But that's not bad, right?

GUEST:
No, definitely not.

APPRAISER:
It's a wonderful piece. Thanks for making my day here.

GUEST:
Thank you. Wow. $12,000. That's a lot of money.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Appraised value (2006)
$12,000 Retail
Event
Honolulu, HI (August 26, 2006)
Period
18th Century
Form
Lowboy
Material
Pine, Poplar, Tiger Maple

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.