Massachusetts Dressing Table, ca. 1760

Value (2017) | $8,500 Auction
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GUEST:
Well, I found it last fall in a local antiques store. I went to visit it almost every weekend for... for a month, and it was meant to be mine, you know. I absolutely love the piece.

APPRAISER:
I mean, this piece of furniture dates from probably 1760, '70. It's made of mahogany, as you know. This has the earmarks of a Queen Anne dressing table of good quality. They went to the trouble of molding the edge of the top, the top has a little bit of overhang, which gives it more grace. The drawers are thumb-molded, and that's typical of that period. And thumb molding is this, is this molded edge. The central drawer has a well-executed carved fan, and that cost extra money. So whoever ordered this up said, "I'm willing to spend X—what can I get for X?" Well, here's the result. These legs are well-formed, in pad feet on platforms. And a pad foot on a platform, again, cost a little bit of extra. We could just look quickly at drawer construction. Again, the top edges of the drawer sides are double-beaded. That's a sign of a good cabinetmaker. And he didn't have to do it, but it finishes it off nicely. And there's this on the bottom of the drawer. This is terrific oxidation. But you can see the center of the drawer, which runs on a central support underneath, you know, the oxidation is considerably worn away. These are things that we want to see, okay?

GUEST:
Great.

APPRAISER:
I think the origin of this piece, probably the North Shore of Massachusetts, in the Salem area. I've seen similar dressing tables and high chests that have very much the same treatment of a valance.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So at the time that you purchased it, what did it cost?

GUEST:
I ended up paying $8,500 for it.

APPRAISER:
Okay. And do you think you got a bargain? What do you think it's worth?

GUEST:
I feel I got a bargain. I was told that... Well, that the family might have had it appraised some time in the early '90s, and the appraisal came in rather high.

APPRAISER:
How high?

GUEST:
$30,000.

APPRAISER:
$30,000, okay. Okay, this is what's happened to the American furniture market. A) You're buying at a really good time, because as wonderful as this piece is, it isn't worth particularly more than you paid for it. So you paid around $8,500. I think that's kind of on the money. In an auction situation, for example, I would not be surprised if it brought $8,500. I think, I think that's realistic.

GUEST:
Yeah? Okay. Well, to me it's worth a million, so... And I absolutely love it, and I'll pass it on to my son.

APPRAISER:
It's money well spent. Smart purchase. The thing that prevents it perhaps from being a little more valuable is that the brasses are old, but they're not original. They've been replaced.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
And also the quality of the mahogany, as good as it is, is not spectacular. These are all very subtle things that ultimately add up to what it's worth on today's market. Today's market is not supported by a lot of young folks. The fact that you're interested in this is a really good thing. But that's what's lacking. Competition for these pieces today is just not what it used to be 25 years ago. 25 years ago, when the market was up, you know, $35,000-- that's what I would have gotten for this.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Skinner, Inc.
Boston, MA
Appraised value (2017)
$8,500 Auction
Event
Newport, RI (September 18, 2017)
Category
Furniture

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