Appalachian Dulcimer, ca. 1880

Value (2013) | $3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail

Well, this was always a wall hanging at my grandmother's house. The story I was always told is my great-great-grandmother, Granny Smith, used to sit on the porch and play the dulcimer and chew chewing tobacco. So you just get that Appalachian image. And I always wondered if it was true. Because as it is, it doesn't look like much of an instrument.

Where did Granny Smith live?

Southern West Virginia, Monroe County.

We see a lot of violins, cellos, horns, clarinets. Rarely do we see a piece like this that is so indigenous to the culture and the place where we're at. This is a classic piece of American folk art work. It's an Appalachian dulcimer, and it has all the accouterments of what we're going to expect from a musical instrument made by hand, by a craftsman who's not necessarily trained in instrument making. It was interesting you said there's a West Virginia connection because that's the first place I wanted to go with this. The sides, the top, the neck and, I believe, even the head here are chestnut, which is indigenous to West Virginia. I think half the split rail fences are of chestnut there. Folk art crafts people, they see something in the real world, they see a real instrument, then they go home and they reproduce it. And this craftsman here wanted to make F holes like on a violin. And what he's done is he's used an auger and he's drilled this sort of S-F shape. It's wonderfully ingenious. And what I really loved was the head. He's thinking of a violin, he's thinking of a scroll. And he sort of gets this almost creature-like curve up here. It's a great, great piece. Found materials, putting materials together. The back is very interesting because I think it's a drawer bottom from an old cabinet. And you can see the rippling lines here from a planer. I'm dating this around 1880. It's rare to find these where they are this early. And they're pre-folk revival that Jean Ritchie made so famous. You could string it up and use it today. It's extremely deep for a mountain dulcimer. It's going to sound terrific.


Yeah, it really will. This is a rare early piece. I think the market for it is very thinly focused to an institution. For retail I would value it between the $3,000 and $5,000 range.

Wow. (chuckles) Wow. I never expected that.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2013)
$3,000 Retail$5,000 Retail
Richmond, VA (August 17, 2013)
19th Century
Cherry, Wood

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