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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Steamer clothing trunk


I have a steamer trunk it has drawers on one side and hangers on the other is title a never break trunk serial #638070 I want to know what it worth what time period it from and who to contact if I want to sell it

1921 wardrobe trunk
1921 wardrobe trunk  
 I get more questions about these trunks than most others partly because many families still have one around somewhere and they are fairly common to find. As with most items, supply and demand is the main factor in the value, so because the wardrobe trunks are still fairly plentiful and not in great demand, the prices are still fairly low, usually from about $75 to $200 on most unrestored wardrobe trunks. You may see higher asking prices in shops or online, but that doesn't mean they will sell. There are some exceptions that can bring higher prices, such as Louis Vuitton trunks or some very rare American made wardrobe trunk in excellent condition. But the majority of American wardrobe trunks are not going to fall into that category.  NeverBreak was a name used by the Goldsmith & Sons trunk company of Newark, NJ. They made most of their wardrobe style trunks from about 1915 to the 1940's. There is no reference book available to look up the serial numbers for these trunks. Since they are large and costly to ship, the best way to sell them is probably on Craigslist with some pictures or an online auction website. The shipping cost on these can be higher than their value, so it makes it hard to sell it out of your own area. You could also try local antique dealers or flea markets.

 Wardrobe trunks are basically like a mobile clothes dresser and closet. These typically have several drawers on one side and clothes hangers on the other side but there are several fancier models. These didn't really come on the scene until about 1900 and then really became very popular from the 1910's to the  1940's. The Montgomery Ward trunk catalog of 1897 didn't even contain wardrobe trunks but had all other styles. Then after about 1910 all the trunk companies made or carried wardrobe trunks. Most were made between about 1920 and the 1940's by a couple dozen large companies in the U.S. Several lock companies make trunk locks for these including Eagle, Yale, Corbin, Excelsior Lock company and others, but they didn't make the trunks. There were many models of wardrobe trunks with different features including expanding clothes racks, hat cases, ironing boards and irons, fold down desks, shoe cases, clothes bags, lights, etc.. Some were fairly simple but others were quite elaborate with many drawers and compartments, fold up tops, mirrors, and revolving stands. Nearly all wardrobe trunks came complete with wooden clothes hangers and tie down straps inside. They ranged in size from the smaller compact models to huge trunks the size of phone booths or larger. I wonder how many people it took to move some of these enormous trunks, especially loaded with clothes! Based on research I've done it appears that more patents were issued for wardrobe trunks than any other trunk style. The largest makers of wardrobe trunks were companies in Wisconsin, including Hartmann, Wheary, Oshkosh, and in Newark, NJ, including Goldsmith and others. But companies all over the United States and also in Europe made wardrobe trunks. Some wardrobe trunks have labels from the maker such as Hartmann, Wheary, Oshkosh, Seward, Wilt, Likely, Winship, Drucker, National, Parkhurst, Rogers, Indestructo, Innovation, Goyard, Louis Vuitton and many other trunk makers. Now and then, I see a wardrobe trunk with no maker's label on it. This is because these trunks were often made to be sold by furniture and retail luggage stores who sometimes put their own labels, or no label, on them. While a few wardrobe style trunks were patented and made prior to 1900, the majority were made between 1920 to the mid 1940's. Some of the earlier wardrobe trunks were canvas or leather covered wood, however most wardrobe trunks were plywood covered in vulcanized fibre. Vulcanized fibre was a hard waterproof material similar in look to formica, but more flexible not as glossy, and made in a variety of colors. Most wardrobe trunks made after 1900 had brass plated hardware, but a few were made with solid brass hardware, which is fairly rare to find. (If a magnet sticks, it's not solid brass) The lining of wardrobe trunks varies from paper covered to cloth, linen, and even silk on high end models. Many small toy wardrobe trunks were popular for children during the 1920's to 1950's and a few salesmans samples or store display models were also made, but these are rare. A variety of wardrobe trunk pictures, ads, and patents are included on the website on the Showcase page. Don't be too surprised if yours is different somehow from these as I have seen hundreds of different looking wardrobe trunks!

Keep in mind that even though today you will hear most people call these "steamer trunks" they are really something completely different than the original steamer trunk. The early trunk catalogs from the 1880's through the 1930's showed and described steamer trunks as the low style flat top trunks which were designed to fit under berths on steamships. They were typically about 12 to 14 inches tall by ship line regulations. Some catalogs also called them cabin trunks. I've seen some other websites call them half trunks, but they were never called that. Somehow over the years the term steamer trunk was gradually applied to all old travel trunks. Many people are surprised to learn how many styles of trunks were available and when they were made.
Hope that helps.

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Marvin D. Miller


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.


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.

Association of American Antique Trunk Restorers, President.

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

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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