Mennonite Dowry Chest, ca. 1870

Value (2004) | $12,000 Insurance

GUEST:
When I first encountered this blanket box it was at an estate sale in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, which is a strong Mennonite community here in Minnesota. However I had no idea it was a Mennonite chest when I... when I bought it at the estate sale.

APPRAISER:
One of the things that I find exciting about this piece is that this is truly representative of a very special part of Minnesota's cultural heritage and history. This uh, is a dowry chest; it was an integral part of the young woman's future in a Mennonite family. It was given to her as her property, uh, as a young girl. It was meant for her to accumulate all those items that she was going to need in her hopefully married life. This represents a continuity of a folk tradition, a cultural tradition. A furniture form that starts in the late Medieval period, and we find ourselves here looking at an example that by all rights looks like an 18th century chest and piece of furniture. But in fact, we start looking at various details of it. Take a look at the skirt and apron and those curved feet that reflects Biedermeier tradition and influence. Uh, we're looking at hardware and side handles of the chest, which, while at first glance look 18th century, we realize they're slightly stylized-- a little bit later. We see architectural pilasters down the corners of the chest. Again, they are in the shape and form that are reminiscent of 17th and 18th century architectural forms. But if we look at some of the other aspects of the chest, we realize it is later, and in fact, this chest was probably made perhaps in the 1870s, judging from some of the little flourishes on it. There's a decoupage floral decoration on the top, but the other aspects of it are truly 18th century. If we go to the interior of the chest, again we have these strap-like hinges but, in fact, these are in the style of... they're following the formulaic design from 200 years earlier, but these are made in 1870s. It has the traditional interior of a Mennonite chest, a side till for small valuables, jewelry, a little shelf at the back of the interior, which was used for small, delicate linens like handkerchiefs that the woman might have had. All in all, it's an extraordinary example of continuity of furniture form over almost a 300-year period. Do you mind revealing how much you paid for it at that estate sale?

GUEST:
It was $850.

APPRAISER:
Eight hundred and fifty dollars. What a good day you had.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Regional furniture forms can have very strong local base of interest. These are not common, they're highly desirable, and I would say that if we look at it safely for insurance purposes, I would be putting a $12,000 value on this.

GUEST:
That's incredible! I'm flabbergasted.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
Appraised value (2004)
$12,000 Insurance
Event
St Paul, MN (June 26, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Form
Chest
Material
Wood

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.