Fake Federal Sewing Table

Value (2012) | $800 Retail$1,000 Retail
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APPRAISER:
Phil, your grandfather was a great collector in the '20s. Tell us the story of how he found this. You had said that he discovered it, actually, this table.

GUEST:
Well, he was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on vacation. And he took a wrong turn and got lost and stopped to ask for directions. And there happened to be an antique store there, so he went in. And he purchased this in 1929 for $45.

APPRAISER:
And have you had this appraised, this Federal sewing table?

GUEST:
It was appraised about 15 years ago in Baltimore for about $4,500.

APPRAISER:
Your grandfather bought it as, and it is, a Federal style piece. Okay, you have this mahogany top with these wonderful flitches, these thin sheets of veneer, which are matched on the front, and reeded legs, all typical of the federal style, that very light, airy look. It is a sewing table, a little sewing table that ladies would have had if they were fashionable, if they had leisure time to sew or to write on. And by all appearances, it's a lovely piece. Typically of Eastern Massachusetts pieces, Boston to Portsmouth. Probably a Boston area piece. If it were from 1810, it would be very valuable, probably be worth about $12,000 to $14,000. Unfortunately, this piece, this is something that was made as a fake.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Yes. Your grandfather, probably for very good reasons, thought it was period. And I'll show you those reasons why. If we open up this drawer and pull it out, we flip it over, what we look for in a piece is this old oxidized wood. This particular drawer bottom is actually... is not old. Stain has been put on to make it look old.

GUEST:
Uh-huh.

APPRAISER:
This is all new. Also the pieces of wood are made up from different... they come from different places. You have an old piece here, you have this stained piece. If we take the other drawer out, we see that this drawer is made from an old piece that's been recut and stained. So it's all these different parts from different places put together to make an old looking piece. It's made the right way, with the dovetails, but it's just not old. Now, if we turn it over, we look inside, we can see the coloration. You want this oxidation to be a gradual dark to light. The air darkened the wood here and didn't darken it as much up inside, because it was protected by the drawers inside. This is in fact stained, and all colored up here. So this color has been added to make it look old. And that's something that was done in the teens and '20s by a whole group of fakers in Boston that knew that this was a fashionable style, people wanted to buy this type of Federal sewing stand, so they were knocking them out in large numbers. I've probably seen about 15 to 20 of this type sewing stand.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
When they're not period, they're worth about $800 to $1,000, you know?

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
That's still a lot more than your grandfather paid for it.

APPRAISER:
I don't know what interest would have...

GUEST:
I brought it here to find out what it was all about, so thank you very much.

APPRAISER:
You're welcome.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Update (2012)
$800 Retail$1,000 Retail
Appraised value (1997)
$800 Retail$1,000 Retail
Event
San Francisco, CA (August 09, 1997)
Period
20th Century
Form
Table
Material
Mahogany, Wood

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