Carved Hadley Chest, ca. 1710

Value (2011) | $30,000 Auction$35,000 Auction

It came out of my hometown, which is south of Erie, Pennsylvania, and it had been in the family for years and years, and I've had it in my collection for 15 years, maybe. I'm sure that the top has been replaced, but I bought it anyways.

Okay. This is from a group of chests that are known as Hadley Chests. Hadley chests were made in Western Massachusetts, anywhere from about 1680, all the way until about 1730. This is a chest that probably dates to 1710 or so. So this is a 300-year-old piece of American furniture. So you're absolutely right, this is very early. In 1710 or 15, in Western Massachusetts, this was really what people wanted. It is the largest identified group of American furniture from this early period, and that's part of why it has been so studied. It has sort of a low, angular form. The construction methods are in keeping with very early construction methods, and as is the design. So, while it was in style in 1710 or 15, pretty soon it was out of style, and often they got put in the basement or the attic. They got used as storage containers or shipping crates, and they were really ignored for a very long time until about 1880, when the very first American furniture collectors rediscovered them. We often think of them in terms of dowry chests. I think sometimes they were and sometimes not. You're absolutely right, the lid is a replacement, and the reason that so many of these have replaced lids-- if you look here, you've got that very small hinge attachment onto that pine board. It's called a snipe hinge or a tang hinge. If you let this go backwards, what would happen? Yeah, you'd break it off. It would just tear right off of there, and invariably that's what happened. So most of these that survived do have a replaced lid like that. We also see that they've often been cut down. The feet have been reduced in height. This one has good full height. Yours has traces of its original red paint. Another big plus to collectors. Most of these got refinished in the Arts and Crafts days when people wanted to see that oak. We have a rule of thumb that if you have a terrific important object that has one fatal flaw, your object is worth only ten percent of what it would have been worth without that flaw. What did you pay for this?

I think I paid $5,000 for it.

Did you know it had a replaced lid at the time?


In today's market, I would expect this chest, with a replaced lid, to bring between $30,000 and $35,000. So I think you bought very well.

Well, thank you.

In 2010, a pretty comparable example that had its original top sold for about $300,000.

Appraisal Details

Brunk Auctions
Asheville, NC
Appraised value (2011)
$30,000 Auction$35,000 Auction
Pittsburgh, PA (August 13, 2011)

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