Collectibles-General (Antiques)/curious about old trunk
Hi, I pulled this trunk out of my grandma's basement. She said she got it at a garage sale 40 years ago. I was hoping to find out what it is worth and any historical information on it. It has original leather handles on both sides.Thank you so much!
The trunk your grandmother owns is a type that was called a "fibre covered trunk", which was made sometime between about 1890 to the mid 1920's. The fibre covering was called vulcanized fibre which was a hard heat treated pressed fiber material. It was made in many colors and used on trunks because it was waterproof, lightweight, and almost indestructible according to the trunk companies. And based on many of these that I have seen and worked on, the fibre covering did hold up and last much longer than the canvas or leather covering on trunks. It was used by many trunk companies and these style trunks were often made very heavy duty, such as this one, and so many of them were used by traveling salesmen who traveled frequently. Some were also used by individuals for their personal travel, but these fibre covered trunks were actually much more expensive than the average canvas covered trunk of that time. In one 1911 trunk company catalog, their similar fibre covered trunks started at $52, while a nice canvas covered trunk of the same size was only $12. It is nice that your trunk has the maker's label because many trunks don't have one. There were many trunk companies at that time and large cities such as Chicago had more than a dozen large trunk companies. I have seen labels from hundreds of trunk companies, but I still see some that I have not seen before, such as this one. So, it was probably not a very large company. Unfortunately that alone does not make it rare or raise the value to most people. There is very little information available now on most of the trunk companies, especially if they were not in business very long. I watch trunk prices constantly and I so see trunks of this type sell now and then. In very good original condition, these trunks can sell in the range of about $200 to $500 or sometimes more in a good retail antique shop. If it has any damage or is missing the internal tray, the value could be lower or on the low end of the range. Sometimes these can be found for less at auctions or flea markets. The fibre covering can be cleaned and even given a coat of clear varnish if needed to restore it's finish. These trunks were often varnished when they were made, which may have worn off over time. There were several lock companies that made locks for these trunks and most of the locks are brass. There is often the name of the lock company and the key code on the lock, so that you might be able to find a key if you don't have one. I am attaching a couple old trunk catalog pages from 1911 and 1914 which show some fibre covered trunks. Hopefully you can read some of the details they give about their trunks. I hope that helps.
Marvin from ThisOldTrunk.com