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Great White Fleet embroidery may stitch up $1K

In these appraisals, Ask the Experts' Dr. G. Marchelos, expands on a reader's research regarding a rare silk embroidery military artifact.

QI bought this at a garage sale a couple of years ago, and had no idea what I had purchased. I just thought it was an interesting piece. Then when I did some research on it, I discovered that I had stumbled on to a silk embroidery of the Great White Fleets cruise around the world 1907-1909, with the route being outlined around the countries. The embroidery measures 26-by-30 inches. Can you tell me anything about it, like where it was made and what all the different pictures and symbols mean? Is it valuable?


I think that the signature at the bottom says Vincent Merrill. When I blew the signature up, it looked as if this name is written over another signature. I don’t know if this is the signature of the artist or the signature of the person it was made for – or if Vincent Merrill acquired it and wrote his name on it?

The embroidery is displayed in a gold gilt frame that measures 35-1/2-by-41-1/2 inches and is in very poor condition. A lot of the gold gilt is missing and it is very dirty. There is a small crack in the corner of the glass, in the bottom right-hand corner.

— G.W.
via email

A This is an unusual silk embroidery in a frame showing the route of the Great White Fleet. The fleet was sent around the world in 1907-08 to show the new might of a rising United States. This piece is perhaps one of a kind. Although similar items are known, they were each made by hand.

Although military related items from this period are not widely sought after by collectors, it does have a following. Because this episode is famous even today, the item should sell for at least $1,000 and in the correct venue, perhaps more. It is in excellent condition. Collectors of U.S. naval history, military history or U.S. history in general would be interested in owning the item. It is ideal for display.


Q Can you give me any information about the vase – value, age, whether it is one of a pair? There is no mark on the vase that I can find. It is approximately 9 1/2 inches high and 10 inches wide at its widest point. Thank you.


— C.L.
via email

A This is a fairly intricately carved soapstone vase. These were all the rage in the 1920s and 1930s when thousands were brought back from the Philippines and other places in the Pacific, by all the naval personnel aboard ship. While some are worth a high price, most can be found in antique shops and malls all over the country for $35 to $125. While this example is more ornate, it suffers from a large crack in the back and is worth about $95 as is. The colors of these vases varies, and this example has a nice pattern and patina.

About our columnist: Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.

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