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Possible made-to-order cabinet may be worth $2,000

The presence and design of escutcheons and height of a cabinet provide clues as to the age of the possible custom furniture, explains Ask the Experts panelist Dr. G. Marchelos, in his assessment of reader's inherited item of furniture.

Q I am trying to identify this piece and the manufacturer. I know little about it. My parents purchased a table, chairs and this cabinet when they bought their house. I have been tasked with selling it since my mom is in the nursing home.
Any help you can give me is appreciated.
­— M.G.
via email

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Escutcheons Reveal Cabinet Age

A It is most probably French, Empire/architectural design, eclectic and made to order for a client with a particular inset design on the door. The wood is probably chestnut or a light French walnut. The panels are veneer and the piece has ornate trumpet legs. The escutcheons are hard to see clearly but reveal the piece as coming from the 1860s-1870s. This is just after the height of this type of furniture which was toned down with bodies that were not so busy. France, Belgium and the northern Netherlands produced large amounts of this style during the 19th century and individual buyers could request individual additions which had meaning to them, or as a conceit.

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Tastes were quite different then, and today this style of furniture would have a smaller, but avid, following.

In most markets $1,800 to $2,200 would be a good range, although this could go slightly higher if the right buyer comes along. It would be a unique piece.

Utilitarian Cabinet Bears Basic Design

Q We inherited this small cabinet with 10 drawers in 1988 from my wife’s parents who collected antiques. A major auction representative thinking it had value wanted to take it for their auction but the auctioneer we selected said it was not worth much. So we just kept it and now are downsizing and wonder if we should just donate it or try to sell it.

It measures 14 1/2 inches wide and high and is 8 inches deep. Any information about it would be greatly appreciated.
— P.Z.
via email

A This utilitarian cabinet is most likely flame mahogany although the light in the photo may distort this. It has bracket feet, ceramic pulls, hand cut dove tails, modern hinges, and a key common in the early 20th century. It could be used for several purposes but most likely was a locally made sewing cabinet. It could also be used for jewelry or a combination of purposes.

Cabinet May Appeal to Fans of Fabric

This item was made by a local cabinet maker or craftsman for a customer, neighbor, or family member. The drop handle on top was for easy movement from place to place. Being small, it had a utilitarian purpose as opposed to being a decorative item. It has some styling but is basic in its design and presentation.

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Retail this item would sell for around $100-$125. Hobbyists working with fabrics would be interested in this cabinet. At a quilt show or similar venue it could fetch more. There is some wear but it does not detract.

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