Saturday, December 02, 2006

Difficulties In Dating

I picked up a copy of the Antique Trunks: Identification and Price Guide on the recommendation of several trunk websites to aid me in dating my vintage trunk.

Well, the bad news is that I can't reliably state the manufacturer of my trunk. I found just one trunk with similar decorative leather edging: an 1885 Drucker steamer trunk wrapped in leather and edged with pig skin. My trunk is canvas-wrapped, but has similar decorative leather edging picked out with rows of brass tacks and beautiful scrolls around the dust band. So far, Drucker/Mendel-Drucker is the only manufacturer whose trunks show the same distinctive leather edging and decorative elements as my own.

According to many of the trunk histories, canvas lining both the exterior and interior became very popular in the 1880s, so it is not a stretch of the imagination, I believe, to tentatively date this trunk to approximately 1895. There is no maker's mark or patent information on the lock, which is why I date it older rather than newer. While it is certainly possible that whoever made this simply threw on an older lock left lying around the shop floor, it is probably no younger than 1910, simply based on the changing styles of trunks.

The good news is that this same guide had photos of many of the locks used in the past two centuries, so I was able to date and, more importantly, identify the lock. It is an Eagle trunk lock manufactured between 1890 and 1910.

According to the price guide, if my trunk weren't in the condition it is in, it would be worth perhaps $200 - $300. Refinishing the trunk could destroy any remaining intrinsic value or bestow more value than usual if done well. Naturally, as with all antiques, the actual value is approximately what someone will pay for it and may be higher or lower than your estimated value.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

In the beginning...

I have always wanted an antique steamer trunk.

Big or small, restored or plain, I've always loved them. Yet, finding one that I could afford was a challenge on my limited budget. Plus, I couldn't decide whether a dome-top, camel-top or flat-top was for me, what colors I would want or even what size.

Late one Thanksgiving weekend night, I went looking on the Seattle Craiglist forums for a cheap (or free) end table to set next to my reading nook. To my surprise, a lady was selling a "vintage trunk in need of TLC" for just $35. I emailed her and hoped I'd beaten any antique dealers to the punch. Snohomish county is home to one of the largest antique communities in the United States and the largest in the Pacific Northwest.

I got lucky. She still had it and I was first in line.

So, this snowy afternoon, my fiance and I drove down to meet her and her trunk. I'd seen the pictures, they weren't pretty. It was worse in person. On the other hand, I could see the beauty it had once had and could have again. At this point, I believe it to be a classic flat-top trunk, most likely built between the late 1800s and 1920.

According to Debbie and Jeff, the trunk was last purchased by their grandparents and then stored in Jeff's storeroom attic for at least twenty-five years. At some point before it was stored, every inch had been painted flat white, from the canvas to the leather to the hardware. They had offered it to their eldest daughter, currently away at college, but unsurprisingly considering its condition, she declined. So, it was time for it to move on to a new home.

Now it's mine and I hope to restore it to something near its former glory.