Salesman’s Sample Medical Examination Table, ca. 1890

Value (2010) | $15,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
Watch  

GUEST:
Well, it belonged to my great-grandfather. He was a doctor. I know it was a salesman's sample that he kept in his office. When my parents passed away, I inherited it. My mother sent pictures of it to an appraiser in San Francisco in, I believe, '79 or '80, and they sent her back a note saying it was worth around $1,500.

APPRAISER:
Well, it is a salesman's sample. A lot of people wonder what's the difference between a salesman's sample and a miniature, and the keynote of a really good salesman's sample is that it has functionality, because the whole object of the piece was to demonstrate the item. The salesman could carry this around from town to town and show the doctor exactly what he had. And of all the salesman samples I've dealt with over the years, this is probably the most amazingly functional item I've ever seen. It's a doctor's examination table, and it's a multifunction examination table. The patient could lie down here and be examined, with a pillow. If he had to have his height adjusted, this could be adjusted here. If he had to have his legs examined, the legs would come up like this. They could even do one leg at a time. It's absolutely astounding. This is a little accessory that would go on the side if he had to examine an arm...

GUEST:
That's what I thought.

APPRAISER:
Or maybe draw blood. And it could of course go on either side. The table would rock to one side. I'm not exactly sure what that was for, but it could go either way. This whole leg assembly comes off.

GUEST:
Oh, I didn't know that.

APPRAISER:
So that another feature of the table could be in place where it becomes a gynecological examination table with the installation of these stirrups. Other features... this bends down. So it has all this incredible functionality. Another thing that elevates a salesman's sample to the next level is if we can identify the maker. Now, right here on this upholstered foot rest, we see "Allison." I did some research. There was a company called "W.D. Allison" in 1905, 1900 in Indianapolis that made all manner of medical equipment.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
Nothing they made in that period that I've seen online was as amazing as this table. But I think this table was made pre-1900, amazing detail, amazing condition, complete in all respects.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
And I would estimate it in an auction at $15,000 to $18,000.

GUEST:
You're kidding.

APPRAISER:
I am not kidding.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
This is absolutely one of the finest salesman's samples I have ever seen.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Noel Barrett Antiques & Auctions Ltd.
Carversville, PA
Appraised value (2010)
$15,000 Auction$18,000 Auction
Event
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
Period
19th Century
Material
Wood

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.