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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Old Trunk questions


Trunk 1
Trunk 1  
Trunk 2
Trunk 2  
QUESTION: Hi Marvin,
I just reviewed your answers to Andy from 1/22/14 and he has the same trunk I have questions about My trunk has the crystalized gold finish on the zinc tin and bordered with black finish on the over areas.  I will try and send pictures but am not best tech person.  My questions are, 1. Is there a way or process you can redo the crystalized look on those areas as most of this finish is wore off? 2. The latches on my trunk need some help one is bent is there a place to get a reproduction or original latch like the ones in the photo to replace at least the bent one and how much would they be. 3. One of the curved top pieces is broken is there a place to buy curved pieces with the same design or boards with the design that one can curve? The wood looks like oak to me. 4. I would like to get a key for the lock right now I am using a fashioned nail. 5. Where would I get a leather handle for the one that is just above the lock to help lift the lid as the one on my trunk is missing.  Thank you for your review and answering of my questions look forward to getting the information. Sincerely Wade

ANSWER: Hi Wade,
I'll do my best to answer all your questions. I have been studying trunk construction methods, patents, and history for many years and like to pass on only historically accurate information.
1. I've read many unusual and totally undocumented stories about trunks in the past, including about one about how the crystallized metal was produced. One trunk seller on ebay stated that the crystallized metal was created by an electrical current process. No, that was not the process, but there are a few patent documents I have found that give the details of the chemical process they used. The process of producing the crystallized sheet tin for trunks was developed in the early 1880's and one patent for making a colorized crystallized tin for trunks was as late as 1888. This remained very popular until about 1920. The process began with completely cleaning the metal in a solution of two acids and other ingredients. Then a mixture of certain chemicals and potash was used to produce the crystal like patterns on the metal. Then the metal was coated with a colored varnish which gave it the gold, blue, red, green, or desired color, allowing the crystal patterns to show through it. It was a different process than that used for making the galvanized sheet metal that can be purchased today, which is made by using hot zinc to coat metal or using an electroplating process, which also creates some crystal patterns on the metal. But the crystallized tin was not an electroplating process. I don't know of anyone who is currently reproducing the crystallized tin or of an easy process to redo the look. Usually the top coat of the colored varnish is what is worn off and sometimes the crystallized patterns can still be seen on the metal. Sometimes a coating of colored varnish or amber shellac can give a similar look to the worn sheet tin, but it probably will not look the same as the original finish.
2. I can't see the latches very well in the picture of your trunk, but I think I know the style they are. You may need to send me a better close up picture so I can be sure since there were several styles used on trunks like those. I sell a variety of old trunk parts and I have some other parts, so I may be able to help you if you contact me at  There are no reproductions of most of the old style trunk latches and most new ones you can find look nothing like the old styles from the 1880's to early 1900's.
3. There are some new wood slats that are sold and I have used some of them. They can be steamed or soaked and curved and are not sold that way. I have a few old pieces as well, but there were several styles and patterns and widths, so I would need a better picture of yours to help you more. If you contact me I can send more information.
4. There were many types of locks used on these trunks.  Again, send a good picture of the lock and I can possibly help you find a key.  
5. Yes, you can obtain the leather lift pieces for your trunk and I can help if you contact me directly.

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QUESTION: Thank You Marvin for your answers.  My lock and the latches are the same as the ones on Andy's pictures of his trunk from 1/22/14 they were good pictures of both those items.  Lock info was as exactly like mine and you said you had a key for it.  Sorry I was probably not clear on that in my original question to you. I will send a new close up of the wood slats to you This Old Trunk site.  Thanks Wade

I checked those on Andy's trunk, and yes, those can be found and I may have some but will have to check. Those were made in two sizes and it's hard to be sure which size that is. They will normally have a small 1 or 2 on the top piece of those so look and see if yours have a number on them.  Those locks also came in two sizes but I think that is the larger size.  I do have an old original key that should fit that.  I will check for your email to ThisOldTrunk, and can provide more information there for you.

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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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