1794 Pennsylvania-German ”John Seltzer“ Dowry Chest

Value (2006) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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GUEST:
It came into our family in the late '20s with my grandfather, and it was passed on through the family. It was actually a wedding gift to my husband and I 30-some years ago. So it's been with us for a while. It's part of our family. I just love it.

APPRAISER:
It's been in the family about three generations.

GUEST:
Basically, yes.

APPRAISER:
Okay. And you know something about the maker and the date.

GUEST:
I did find the maker. I believe it's over there.

APPRAISER:
That's right. It's John Seltzer.

GUEST:
John Seltzer, and dated 1794.

APPRAISER:
1794. That is correct. John Seltzer was born in the 1760s and died in the 1820s, so this is a piece made by him in Lancaster County probably midstream in his life. That is, he was a mature cabinetmaker at this time. One of the things that's interesting about these blanket chests is that they were given to a young bride essentially for the storage of textiles. And in that era before the Industrial Revolution, textiles could be the most expensive and important part of a estate inventory. Hence, they were a treasured object. This example is interesting. It has the stylized urns and flowers on it and this painting decoration is very distinctive to the parts of Germany from which these people were coming. Let's open up the chest and look inside. Certainly. This is what we call a "till." And can you lift that till panel?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
There is a secret little compartment under there, probably for jewelry, possibly for coins, but the till was where a woman would store her valuables often.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And you notice that the boards are solid. It says something about the abundance of white pine here in Pennsylvania. White pine, and often we find these made out of tulip poplar. It has its original hardware, its original paint. It's not been touched. I've talked with my colleagues about it. We think auction estimate on this piece would be about $10,000 to $15,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Now, if these were stiles and rails with fielded panels, it would make it more valuable. If it had unicorns in the panels, drawers underneath, if the condition was a little better, it would be about ten times as much.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
These have gone for $100,000 to $200,000.

GUEST:
Right.

Appraisal Details

Appraised value (2006)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
Philadelphia, PA (August 05, 2006)
Period
18th Century
Form
Chest
Material
Pine

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