Philadelphia Chippendale Walnut Chair, ca. 1775

Value (2009) | $8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction

GUEST:
This chair came from my stepfather's family from Redbank, New Jersey. His family is an old-time family from that area. I came into possession when my mother passed away. She always said to me, "Betty, don't ever let this go."

APPRAISER:
She just knew. Did she tell you why?

GUEST:
No. I, at one time, got offered $75 from an antique dealer for it. I knew what my mother said.

APPRAISER:
You said, "Don't sell it to this guy."

GUEST:
No, don't...

APPRAISER:
Your mother was looking... was telling you that, right?

GUEST:
"Keep it." Little bit of research I did indicated it might be a Philadelphia shell chair.

APPRAISER:
Absolutely right.

GUEST:
And from there I know there are so many reproductions of a lot of these chairs. So it's to find out, is it one or is it not one?

APPRAISER:
Is it real or not? Yeah. Okay, I'll tell you. When I saw this across the room, I thought that's what I really love and that's Philadelphia Chippendale. So, you're right, it's Philadelphia, absolutely. If a client went into a shop and wanted a chair, he might order a chair really plain or one with a shell. This has these carved ears with nice little tool marks here. They used little chisels. And you come down and this is a typical Philadelphia splat. We call this a tassel back chair. And then we come down and... who did the seat, by the way?

GUEST:
I think my mother did the seat.

APPRAISER:
Your mom?

GUEST:
I don't know what was on there before when she got it. She did a lot of needlepoint and it's her work.

APPRAISER:
It's nice to have that, right? Okay, come down to the skirt and this is a wonderful, classic Philadelphia shell, flanked by carving on the knees and classic claw and ball feet. They have webbing. It's just typical of 1770, 1780 Philadelphia.

GUEST:
I didn't realize that.

APPRAISER:
So it's really great. In addition, if we turn it around to the back, this through tenon right here, this exposed tenon, is a side rail which goes through the back leg, which is typical of Philadelphia. Now, here, on the edges, it's really dark and then it's lighter right here. Now, that's a combination of the fact that people, when they touch this chair, touch it here. And the oil from their hands from over 200 years of touching it has made it this wonderful black color. So if we come back around, we can see that finish on the front. And on this great Philadelphia scallop shell, here's this... see this light, dark, light, dark, light, dark...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
That has all the original rubbing. Plant resin, the original shellac from the 18th century.

GUEST:
So it's a good thing I didn't get it refinished.

APPRAISER:
Oh my, it's a great thing. I mean, it's never been cleaned. Never. And that's what gets me so excited. You come over to the ears, look at this contrast of dark and light. And people ask, "Why is original finish so important?" And one reason is if you took off that finish, that original finish, this shell would look very flat. Now, I'll show you one quick thing. If you tip the chair really far forward, I want to point out the original yellow pine two-part glue blocks which are rounded like this. This is typical Philadelphia 1770s. So we have yellow pine here on the corner blocks, yellow pine on the seat frame and the chair is made of American black walnut, which is really the wood of choice for the Queen Anne style in Philadelphia. Now, if this chair were refinished, let's take off the finish. Let's make believe you didn't listen to your mom and you said, "Oh, it's a... I'll clean it up," it would be probably a $2,000 chair. With the original finish, this chair is easily worth, at auction, $8,000 to $12,000. $8,000 to $12,000 easily.

GUST: All right.

APPRAISER:
So you can average $10,000.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So, not bad.

GUEST:
Not bad, no. It was better than the $75 offer.

APPRAISER:
Now, if it had its original fabric, you could probably double the price.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$8,000 Auction$12,000 Auction
Event
San Jose, CA (August 15, 2009)
Form
Chair
Material
Pine, Walnut

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