Late 19th-Century Chinese Ivory Wrist Rests

Value (2008) | $5,000 Auction$7,000 Auction

I got them from my ex-father-in-law, who has since passed away. And he was in the Navy for 38 years and got those in the Far East.

They were made in China, probably in Canton, and they probably date from the late 19th century, probably about 1880, 1890. And do you know what they are?

No, not really, just ivory carvings.

They're actually wrist rests for calligraphy. They used to be laid flat like that. You'd be holding a writing brush, and it was like this for your wrists so you could write. They're scholars' items. And beautifully carved. Really detailed carving. Also, the two of them are mirror images of each other. Really very, very finely carved. And even the backs are carved and have considerable toning due to age. One thing is, these ivories are absolutely legitimate to buy and sell. These things were made 70, 80 years ago. A long time ago. So they're entirely legitimate.


To own, to sell, to transport across state lines. These are the kind of things that, in terms of value, even five years ago, were $800 to $1,200. Today the Chinese market is so strong that these would be conservatively estimated at auction at $5,000 to $7,000.

Are you kidding me?

Oh... And might even sell more than that.

Oh, my, I can't believe it. I'm so happy about it! (choking up): It was so nice of him to give them to me.

Appraisal Details

Tremont Auctions
Newton, MA
Appraised value (2008)
$5,000 Auction$7,000 Auction
Wichita, KS (July 12, 2008)
Asian Arts

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.