Ask AT: Mason’s Vista pattern now back in style

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You may send your questions to “Ask Antique Trader” either by e-mail with attached digital images (preferred) or by regular mail with color prints (photos cannot be returned and individual replies cannot be made).

Ask Antique Trader, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001. askat@fwmedia.com

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Antique coffer.


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Q  
I am in my eighties and have collected for years. I have the “Vista” pattern by Johnson Brothers, which was made in England. I have service for eight and also a lot of extra serving pieces. I am asking $400 for all. What do you suggest for selling this set? — B.M.P., Gallatin, Mo.

Your red “Vista” china is very chic these days, which is so good for selling. Have you seen the recent television commercial for Behr paint? A lady is seen painting a wall in front of built-in cabinet that is chock full of Vista.

Your Vista was made by Mason’s, not Johnson Brothers. Why I am so sure? Right now I am holding a Vista plate, which is part of my good set of china. I collect it because my antiquer Aunt Panny did when I was a child. But your china is hands off for me, because this appraiser never buys what he evaluates.

Dennis Auction Service in Stewartsville, N.J., on July 23, 2010, sold a set Vista consisting of 76 pieces for $750. Remember the net amount for the consignor was less after paying auctioneer’s commission and shipping, etc. So $400 seems a very fair price for your set to sell on your own, but here is a better idea. You are not too far from Kansas City, so check with auctions there.

And remember to go with gut feelings. By that I mean if you have positive vibes from a potential auctioneer, go for it, and, of course, stay away if the opposite. Good selling!

Q   I have this old desk that I know dates back to 1929, but I can not find any names or numbers anywhere on it. Can you tell me the value? It has been re-varnished but is in good condition. — G.P., Big Spring, Texas

A   Your office or teacher’s desk certainly dates back to the 1920s, just as you say. Do not despair about not finding a label, etc. That is just fine, because it was a mass- produced, quality piece of furniture manufactured by one of myriad factories that existed in those days.

My favorite Loomism pertains to a special perk about antique furniture: No assembly is required! Pity those poor noncollectors out there who think furniture only comes in a cardboard box and has to be put together! Just another example of how being an antiquer is so savvy! When researching prices, I found several comparable examples, but the closest to your desk sold on March 26, 2007, the O’Gallerie Auction in Portland, Ore., for $425. That was a few years ago when items were selling better, so being conservative and realistic, your desk should fetch around $350 at auction today.

Q   I purchased the English coffer in England in 1968 when we lived there. It is deeply carved. Although it appears to be refinished, it is not. The glowing finish is due to a special wood feeder that prevents drying and cracking over time. Please let me know about its evaluation. Also any suggestions for the best way to sell? eBay? Advertise in the local paper? — J.C.D., Jensen Beach, Fla.

A  
Bravo for keeping the finish of your coffer beautifully moist. In this country we tend to under wax our furniture. One of the joys of antiquing in France is the tantalizing smell of beeswax, which antiques dealers liberally apply to furniture. Your coffer is an example of an antique whose traditions in England and France date all the way back to the 1200s. The early models were literally boxes with a hinged lid to store valuables. In time, coffers became elongated, resembling your fine example, which probably dates circa mid-1600s. The Yankee versions of coffers have become known as blanket chests and are considerably less carved.

And the 20th-century version has the charming moniker: hope chest. When researching, I found several coffers at various auctions resembling yours, but the one auctioned at Bonham’s in London (Lot No. 185) on Jan. 12, 2010, is the most comparable. It sold for £480 British, which is about $768 U.S. That amount is a realistic idea of what you can expect. You have a very upscale antique, so why don’t you see if a local antiques dealer specializing in high end goods would sell it on consignment? It is exactly like a real estate transaction. Once it sells, the dealer deducts his or her commission, and you net the rest. I think this is a good choice for you.

Frank Farmer Loomis IV is an antiques and fine arts appraiser, lecturer, journalist and host of “Keep Antiquing!” a weekly radio show on WMKV radio in Cincinnati, Ohio, (www.keepantiquing.org). He is the author of Antiques 101 and Secrets of Affordable Antiques in addition to hosting “Antiques, History & Loomis” on Anderson Community Television, broadcast on Cincinnati Public Television.


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Vista serving ware.
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Antique coffer.
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Oak school desk.

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