Massachusetts Queen Anne Desk, ca. 1750

Value (2012) | $10,000 None

Ellen, you told me that this was a gift...


From your husband, Ben.

We had been looking to fill a space next to our fireplace that was very tall and very narrow. And in 1976, for the bicentennial, he spotted the secretary and unbeknownst to me, he bought it, and I really loved it.

Was it a surprise to you?

It was definitely a surprise.

You came home and it was sitting there?

Well, no, it was delivered and I received it at the door, which made it even more of a surprise.

You said, "What's this coming in?" It would have been two big boxes because it's two-part, right?

Right, it’s two arts.

Well, Ellen, what you have here is a very nice Massachusetts Queen Anne slant-front desk with a bookcase section that's on top. And I'm going to tell you right off the bat that only one of these sections...and you're going to have good news in the end, okay? I'm not going to break your heart. But one of these sections is 18th century, and it is the base. What you have here is actually an 18th-century Massachusetts slant-top desk. When you open the lid up, if we open this up... And all of this is period. They've used this tigered maple, this wonderful figured maple. They've put the good wood on the lid, this nice, really shimmering tiger, and on the front is this...a little plainer maple, and they come down to these wonderful shaped brackets and this cabriole leg, that wonderful "S" curve which ends in pad feet, and I love the pad feet. What somebody did is took a desk that is probably worth about $15,000 today, just this bottom section-- they added on this top section. But what I'd like to do is actually take the top section off and show you why this piece is not old. Ron is going to help me bring this around. We're going to look at the back and come down. And this is just...just from the back, we see these boards on the back which have been stained up, and it was stained up actually to match the color on the back of the bottom section. And they've used some old nails, rosehead nails, and all of those are period nails, but they basically reused some old boards and stained them on the back. But the real giveaway that this piece was made as a nice slant-front desk-- and it doesn't look bad like that, does it? You stand back-- let's shut these lopers-- it looks really's a nice desk worth in the range of $15,000-- is this molding, and if we take this molding off...and first of all, it's not an old molding. The molding is stained up. There's no depth to the wood or buildup of finish. And the holes are 20th-century round nail holes so there's no evidence of any 18th-century nails for a molding, okay? On an 18th-century piece that was made as a big secretary bookcase, you'd have one or two early rectangular-shaped holes.


Also, this wood is maple, which means that it was meant to be exposed originally. So these moldings weren't here originally. On an 18th-century desk and bookcase, this would be white pine or another secondary wood, not a primary wood because you weren' one could see it. So they stained it up a little bit and then put this top section on. With the top section, if it were period it would have been about $50,000 or $60,000, but it's worth at least $15,000, so...

Can't complain.

Not bad.

It's wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Keno Auctions
New York, NY
Update (2012)
$10,000 None
Appraised value (1998)
$15,000 None
Milwaukee, WI (June 20, 1998)

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