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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Sea Chest Appraisal

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Question
Sea Chest
Sea Chest  

sea chest
sea chest  
I'm sending a few pictures of this old sea chest/trunk that's been in my possession for many years. There is no tray.
Can you tell me what it's made of, how old it is, and the value of the chest?
Thanks for your response,

Anne

Answer
1911 cross slat trunk
1911 cross slat trunk  

1912 Saratoga Trunk
1912 Saratoga Trunk  
Anne,

First, let me say that this style trunk, originally called a Cross-Slatted trunk when it was patented in 1880, was designed and made as a general purpose travel trunk and was never really considered a sea chest. Of course some of these were used for travel on ships, but that's not what I would consider a sea chest. I've actually seen quite a few advertisements in the past by people selling these and calling them pirate chests, but these trunks from the late 1880's to 1900's were not used by pirates. The style and slat clamp hardware for the trunk was patented in March 1880 by Charles Taylor of Chicago. I have a copy of the original patent document but can't attach it here. By the mid to late 1880's these cross slat round top trunks were being made by many trunk companies across the U.S. They were a very popular style and were made in many sizes and quite a variety of models, with each company making them just a little different than the next. But the overall style and look was the same and they often used the same hardware that was available from a few large trunk hardware companies. These were made with coverings of tin, canvas, leather, and even heavy paper. Someone has worked on your trunk in the past and has removed some of the old covering between the wood slats. The trunk body is made of pine and the outer slats were usually made of elm or ash, which are hardwoods. The interior of these trunks always had one or more trays, which usually had one or more compartments and a hat compartment. They also had leather handles on the sides.  The largest and fanciest models of these round top trunks were often called a "Saratoga Trunk". See the example of the trunk from a 1912 trunk catalog that I am attaching. Today I see many people calling these dome top, camelback, humpback, etc. but those names were not originally used either. They were called either a round top or barrel top trunk and sometimes a Saratoga trunk.  The name "steamer trunk" is also used by many people now for nearly all old trunks, but a true steamer trunk was only the short flat top models, from 12 to 14 inches tall. Now I see people calling a steamer trunk a "low profile" or "half trunk". I don't know when or why all the names got changed but I like to use the original names found in the old trunk ads and catalogs. I guess everyone just likes to make up a name when they don't know what something is.   
So, these cross slat round top trunks or Saratoga trunks were made by many trunk companies, from the early 1880's to about 1915 according to old trunk catalogs and ads. The latches on your trunk were patented in 1882, so the trunk could not have been made prior to that year. It's very hard to tell more precisely when these were made because they continued to use the same style hardware and locks for many years. Sometimes later patented parts are found on these trunks so that helps narrow it down a little more. I would estimate that your trunk was made between about 1885 to 1900. Based on the condition and that the tray and handles are missing, this style trunk can usually be found in the $100 to $150 range, maybe a little higher in some areas or in antique shops. I hope that helps and please see the details in the old 1911 and 1912 catalog pages I've attached.

Marvin Miller  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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Marvin D. Miller

Expertise

I can answer questions related to antique trunks, their age, manufacturers, styles, patents, etc, including all types of trunks such as steamer trunks, saratoga trunks, Victorian trunks, slat trunks, toy and doll trunks, stagecoach trunks, valises, hat trunks, and others.

Experience

I have over 40 years experience in trunk restoration, collecting, and research. I own the most extensive collection of historical documents, catalogs, maker's labels, cards, etc. related to antique trunks. I am always updating my inventory of historical documents and antique trunks.

Organizations
Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.

Publications
Primarily on the website www.ThisOldTrunk.com Cotton & Quail Antiques newspaper (Southeast). Antique Journal magazine.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia. I have conducted extensive research related to the topic of trunk manufacturers and trunk styles in the U.S. and Europe.

Past/Present Clients
Have consulted for the Pawn Stars TV show on antique trunks. I have sold antique trunks to museums in California and Florida and to customers around the world.

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