Dr. Niblack Carved Desk & Chair, ca. 1950

Value (2010) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
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GUEST:
I bought it about eight years ago. I was on a trip in Vegas, and when I was on the way out of town, some friends told me I had 15 minutes in order to go through an antique shop. So in rushing through, I went into one of the little rooms and, lo and behold, here was this desk and chair. I had no money, no credit card, no checks. I begged them to please hold it for me, and they said, "Well, couldn't do that." Then I got back to Montana. I tried to borrow money from my husband. He wouldn't loan me money for a piece of junk. So then I had to go to the bank, borrow the money, and I got the desk.

APPRAISER:
The piece was made by Dr. Niblack, who was a doctor in Colorado who used dental tools to carve with. Do you know if he was a dentist?

GUEST:
No, he was a chiropractor in the Denver area.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
He was active in the 1950s, did work for Disney, and there's also a museum in Custer, South Dakota, that has a number of examples of his work, including a near mate to this desk. I think it's fabulous in the sense that it really captures the whole Western movement. Some of the decorative elements that I find fascinating: the wagon wheels. Near you on that cupboard door we have a cowboy, or cowpoke sitting on his fence, perhaps. And this door, a miner on mule. When we come down the desk, the center drawer with a log cabin. The "Let 'er Buck" symbol on this door. Chair, fascinating. Again, the same symbol incorporated onto the door with the miner and the mule. Another thing that's interesting is this piece was really made to be shown in the round, because as we go around the back here, we can see that it's carved with an American Indian and also a buffalo. Not a tremendous piece of woodwork, necessarily, but it is a great representation and celebration of the American West. And for people who collect Western Americana, it's a very difficult thing to find. Very few people were making this type of furniture in the mid-20th century. Do you have any idea of value?

GUEST:
I know what I paid for it, which was $2,900.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
It's whimsical. I love it. It's priceless to me, so...

APPRAISER:
A lot of flash for the cash, as we say.

GUEST:
That's right.

APPRAISER:
I could not find any comps where any of his work has sold at public auction, so I consulted with a number of appraisers and we're all of the opinion that an auction estimate would be $3,000 to $5,000.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
So about what you paid for.

GUEST:
Right, right.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Witherell's
Sacramento, CA
Appraised value (2010)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Event
Billings, MT (June 26, 2010)
Period
20th Century
Form
Chair, Desk
Material
Paint, Wood

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