Miniature Portrait on Ivory of General William Colfax, ca. 1785

Value (2012) | $50,000 Insurance$70,000 Insurance
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GUEST:
This is a miniature portrait of an ancestor of mine. His name is William Colfax. He was captain of the bodyguard staff for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The medallion was painted and given to his future wife-- her name was Hester Schuyler-- and from there, it's been passed down through the generations.

APPRAISER:
Well, this is definitely a general, but he was born in Connecticut in 1760, and then at 17 was commissioned into the Continental Army.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And shortly thereafter, he became the leader of this elite corps of 150 to 250 men who were to protect General Washington. And then he married Hester Schuyler, who is from a prominent New Jersey family.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And in fact, the Schuylar/Colfax homestead is a museum, currently.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
There were other miniatures by this artist, but he's unknown because none that are signed have surfaced to date. Maybe shortly, and then we'll know who the artist is. And he's in his original gold case that was custom-made, probably by a rural goldsmith. In the 1780s, it was painted. His costume is... His uniform is correct for the period. It's in remarkably good condition. Your family has definitely taken care of it through the years.

GUEST:
Definitely cherished.

APPRAISER:
Yeah. I should tell you that because he's an oil on ivory, the ivory laws are changing rapidly because it's not okay to kill an animal for the ivory, so...

GUEST:
Of course.

APPRAISER:
But yours is an antique from the late 18th century, so it's okay to own it. Do you have any idea of its value?

GUEST:
I have no idea. None.

APPRAISER:
Well, I think because of its historical significance, it-- for insurance purposes, because I don't think you intend on selling it-- it's worth between $50,000 and $70,000.

GUEST:
Oh, my goodness.

APPRAISER:
So I'm so glad you took good care of it.

GUEST:
I am, too. Wow. Thank you.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Longmont, CO
Appraised value (2012)
$50,000 Insurance$70,000 Insurance
Event
Corpus Christi, TX (August 04, 2012)
Period
18th Century
October 28, 2013: After this appraisal aired, appraiser Mary Beth Keene realized she had misspoken when talking about what medium was used to paint the miniature. "Almost all miniatures, including this one, are watercolor on ivory, not oil," says Keene. She regrets the error.

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