Antiques & Collecting: Furniture styles evolved during Victorian era

Victorian furniture was larger, heavier and usually darker and much more ornate than the mid-century or even modern pieces used today. The houses were large and dark. The electric light was not invented until about 1805, and the candles and oil lamps used for light could only illuminate a small area.

Big carvings could be seen, dark wood covered some of the flaws and wealthy homeowners who bought the expensive furniture had large homes with big rooms and the furniture was styled to show off the size and wealth.

The best furniture makers and designers in New York favored George Hunzinger, who came from Germany in 1855. He made unusual furniture that had wooden parts that looked like lollipops and plumbing parts. Many chairs folded up. He patented over 20 designs.

Another star was the firm Kimbel and Cabus. These New Yorkers started in 1862. They created modern gothic style, much simpler than the earlier renaissance gothic and an Anglo-Japanese look. They used tiles, painted sections and metal trim.

A third totally different type of furniture was made by Robert Horner in 1886. Walnut wood was scarce so he used oak or mahogany to make heavy furniture with large carvings of gargoyles and cherubs and trim. Several other furniture makers made similar furniture that collectors may attribute to the wrong maker.

A Cowan auction sold a five-drawer Horner chest of drawers. It had faux bamboo trim on the drawers and a side lock. The bamboo pole at the side is made to slide over part of the drawer to keep the drawers shut and locked. It sold for $1,088.

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Q: I have an extensive glass collection and live in the middle of nowhere and would like to find an appraiser to give me a fair value on my collection.

A: First decide what kind of appraisal you need, one for insurance or estate purposes, or one to find out how much you can sell your collection for. The appraiser will have to travel to see your collection. Insurance companies usually require a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser to set the amount they will cover. Ask the appraiser what the fee is for a written appraisal. It is expensive to get an itemized appraisal, but you can get a less expensive appraisal if it’s less detailed.

After you get the appraisal, call your insurance agent to see if you need to buy extra insurance or a special fine arts policy to cover the value of your collection. Some things, like guns, expensive paintings, books, jewelry and computer equipment, may require special appraisers. These national appraiser societies list appraisers by specialty and location and are listed on our website, Kovels.com. American Society of Appraisers (Appraisers.org); Appraisers Association of America, Inc. (AppraisersAssociation.org); and International Society of Appraisers (Isa-Appraisers.org) are the largest national groups.

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Q: I was a pharmacist for 50 years and have collected pharmacy products that are antiques now. I’d like to sell them. Can you give me the name of a company that might buy my collectibles?

A: Pharmaceutical items are collectible. Medicine bottles, advertising trade cards, catalogs, labels, displays, thermometers, scales and other items sell at advertising and medical auctions, shows and flea markets. You can search online or check the listings in the business directory on Kovels.com to find auctions that handle medical or drug-related items and contact them to see if they can sell what you have. If you have old bottles that still contain medicine, be careful. Cleaning them may release poisonous fumes.


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