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Personal effects, Jan. 15

Question: Jerry, I bought this old pine cupboard in rural South Carolina in 2000. The dealer said it had been made around the turn of the 20th century by a local farmer whose grandson brought it in from the barn to sell it. I paid $750. I have the receipt and the name of the maker.

It is in excellent condition, with the original hardware, including a row of those old wire coat hooks inside. The wood is heart pine (hard as a rock), with beadboard doors. Each side is a single 12-inch wide plank. It was empty when we bought it but there were supports on the inside for shelves so we laid two shelves in it. Is it still worth what I paid for it? I don’t want to sell it, but I wonder if it would fetch more in South Carolina where it was made or here in Central Kentucky.

I’ve always been curious about whether antiques are worth more closer to their place of origin or in cities far away.

pine cabinet #1

Answer: You know that is a tricky question. There was a time, not too long ago, that I would have agreed with your above question, “Are antiques worth more closer to their place of origin?” I would like to say yes, but that’s not always true. You see there is a little thing called public discovery and scholarly research that comes into play.

I deal with those two terms as an appraiser all the time. This age of computers has made the world a much smaller place. Today thanks to databases, museum websites, collector forums and online “live” auctions, things have changed.

There could be a collector many states away that is familiar with a particular craftsman from your area. I know for a fact that there are collectors and dealers of some regional central Kentucky artists who live in Ohio, Tennessee and further away. These people know, recognize AND appreciate the talents that these artists have.

Ask someone on the streets of Harrodsburg where they could purchase a Jesta Bell Armstrong watercolor or ask a random person in Danville if Jack May is still painting Boyle County scenes and you are more than likely to get blank stares and open jaws.

Ask a savvy collector out of state and you’ll get all kinds of answers.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is that people don’t always appreciate or even care about what was produced in their hometown or state. But not always!

Sometimes some local scholars and collectors are rabid in shouting from the roof tops about a local crafts person or artist. If there are only a few examples of this crafts person’s work in the market and if no one has done any research or genealogy on them, the chances for a serious bidding war is likely to be slim.

Personally, I think that it boils down to the quality of the piece itself. Is it true to its form? What are the materials? Is the finish old? Is the artist a listed artist?

I think that in a well-publicized auction true quality will always get attention. It might not always get the money, but it will get attention.

Sadly, why it won’t always fetch the top dollar is another topic for another day. Thanks for the great question. By the way, you paid a more than fair price for your cupboard, regardless if you are in Kentucky or South Carolina. Enjoy it.