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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Age Test for Wooden Indians


Mr. Barnes, how do you determine or verify the age of the carved Indian without excessive lab fees?  Is there a reliable source for rating the age of the wood that is accepted by collectors or auction houses for a reasonable cost? Thank you for any information you may have. George (no image at this time)

I do not know any "cheap" way to lab test one to determine the age of a Cigar Store Indian.  

In my opinion only fools take lab tests to determine the age of a carved piece of wood.  How would knowing the age of the wood prove when the carving was made?  What keeps someone from taking a piece of wood that was cut 200 years ago and making a carving out of it today?  People often try to use "lab tests" to convince uneducated buyers that something is older than it really is.  The only thing an age test on wood might determine was how NEW something was (if the wood is only 50 years old, the item cannot be older than that).  A wood test might be of use if you were trying to determine the species of wood (American Pine vs English Pine etc.).

Buyers should be cautious whenever seeing a seller using a lab test to sell something.  I am not claiming that lab tests are ineffective, but you have to use common sense when trying to put an age on a wood carving or paint surface.  

I often see where people have a Cigar Store Indian that they desperately want to be older than others have told them it is (thinking it will make their piece more valuable).  The problem is that it is a combination of things that determine the value - the age of the carving, the quality of carving and an aged paint surface.  

I had left you a message when you called, that if you sent a photo of your Indian, I would try to tell you something about it.  Since you apparently were not interested in doing this, I am afraid I cannot help you.  

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Russell Barnes


I specialize in 19th century wooden Cigar Store Indians. My website contains pictures and information on 19th century antique cigar store Indians. I am also gathering information for a book some day. Would enjoy seeing pictures of other potential early Cigar Figures. Chances are if you have an authentic figure, I have some information on it


I have been collecting over 20 years and currently have over 900 photographs of antique 19th century Cigar Store Indians. This helps me date and give other information on the older figures. I also have over 1100 images of actual Cigar Store Indians out on the streets of American - this also helps me to date the figures.

Have traveled all over the continental US looking at figures in museums and private collections.

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