In Your Attic

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson

Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Helaine and Joe: The piece in the enclosed photographs was purchased in an antiques store in Northern Ohio for $300 several years ago. It is 5 feet tall, and in good condition. I am curious about its age, history and current value.

Thank you. — L.M., Fairfax, Va.

Dear L.M.: It probably goes without saying, not everything found in an antiques store these days is actually "antique" by the accepted definition of that rather overused term. The meaning most commonly associated with the word "antique" specifies that an object must be at least 100 years old before it can be placed in this category.

This standard of age has been around and accepted for a very long time, but there is a somewhat less stringent definition, which says that in order to be an "antique" a piece must be from an earlier age and be typical of that period. By the first standard, L.M.'s piece of furniture will not be "antique" for another quarter-century or so, and most purists who embrace this way of thinking would refer to L.M.'s circa-1925 china cabinet as being "used furniture" (harsh but true).

By the second definition, the 1920s were an earlier period very different from today, but this piece is not really typical of that era because the design elements used in its construction were "borrowed" from an even earlier time. This china cabinet is loosely based on an early-17th-century court cupboard, which is a kind of three-tiered sideboard or buffet with an enclosed cupboard in the middle tier (the open top would be counted as the third tier).

The cupboard section on these pieces often had canted corners and column supports with melon-shaped spacers as does the piece belonging to L.M. In original court cupboards, however, the lower section would have been open and used to hold pots, while the piece in today's question has an enclosed cabinet.

In all probability, this piece is made primarily from gumwood with handsome exotic wood veneers placed on top. The elaborate and beautiful decoration in the middle of the arch in the cabinet's central door was not hand-carved, but was created by pressing the design into the wood using heat and steam.

This blind-door china cabinet is really quite attractive and L.M. got something of a bargain when she paid $300 for it. Currently, the insurance replacement value for this piece is between $850 and $1,000.

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