18th-Century Rhode Island Chest on Chest

Value (2003) | $30,000 Insurance$35,000 Insurance

GUEST:
Came in the family about 30, 40 years ago through my wife's grandmother, who was a collector. And it's been sitting in the same location in our living room for 30 years.

APPRAISER:
It's a chest-on-chest. Some people call them "double chests," but most often we refer to them as a "chest-on-chest."

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
We know it was made in Rhode Island, probably in the range of, say, about 1760 to maybe even as late as 1790.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Look at the foot... And see how its got that little kick right at the bottom? That's very, very typical of Rhode Island.

GUEST:
Can you pinpoint who actually was the cabinetmaker?

APPRAISER:
No-- I wish we could, but we can't. If I pull this drawer out here and we look at the side, you can see here how they've taken the bottom board and just nailed it to the bottom here. It's not set in a groove, it's not set in a dado or rabbet. And then they've nailed this strip on the bottom. That is the earliest form of drawer construction and, interestingly enough, in Newport they kept doing that long after everybody else gave it up.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Now, you said you haven't moved it for 30 years. And we're going to move the top off for a second and put it back. Because I want to show you something interesting about its history. See how this has been painted black?

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
That never would have been done in the period. For some time its life, these two pieces-- which I know went together and were created at the same time-- actually lived separately. Now, they probably were in the same house, maybe even in the same room.

GUEST:
But there are no feet on this.

APPRAISER:
I think it was probably just set on either a table or some sort of low-lying support, because there's no reason to paint the top of this. You can see the marks, you can see the ring, all the staining. Maybe they put another top on it, like a piece of marble or something. But this was done because this was exposed at some time. Now if we can bring our crew back and we can put it back together. Now, the most interesting thing about it is it's maple, and it's curly maple. Nobody knows what causes curly maple. It's called "curly maple," "tiger maple," "fiddleback." There's a lot of different names for it. There were theories: it was grown on the windy side of the hill and it was the waving of the tree that caused the curl. The answer is we don't know. You can go to people who buy maple and they cannot tell, until they cut the tree, what was a curly one and which one wasn't. Now... in the marketplace today, curly maple is as hot as it gets. Now, the finish is a little bit against it because it's been refinished...

GUEST:
How can you tell that?

APPRAISER:
Well, after years of experience you can see the difference in the quality of the color, the depth of the color... and how much light is getting through and how reflective it is. And maple's a tough wood when they refinish it. That's going to affect value somewhat. But in the current marketplace with the great strength for maple and the great interest in Rhode Island material, if I was going to insure this, I would say about $30,000, $35,000.

GUEST:
Great. Okay.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
Baltimore, MD
Appraised value (2003)
$30,000 Insurance$35,000 Insurance
Event
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)
Period
18th Century
Material
Tiger Maple

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