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Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Canvas covered trunk



Frayed edges
Frayed edges  
I am very impressed with your knowledge from your previous answers!
I am trying to repair and refinish this cavas covered steamer trunk. I am debating wether to remove the cavas as it is frayed in many places or to try preserving it. There are some interesting labels that I wish I could preserve and fear it would loose its value if they were removed.
I've attached a few pictures and would love to get some advice. I have more images but don't see how to attach more...

Thank you


Part of the answer to your question depends on what you intend to do with the trunk. While the travel stickers or labels may be interesting to some, they don't typically increase the value or even affect the value on most trunks. The exceptions would be if there is specific information concerning the dates, owners, or companies which would be valuable or very interesting. Also, even if the canvas is removed, the stickers can often be saved and preserved if the restoration work is done carefully, either by removing them or working around them if they can't be removed by peeling off the canvas they are on, etc.. But the canvas trunks will almost always have some wear or damage, especially near the lid edges and latches. Sometimes that can be repaired by regluing loose or torn canvas, or by carefully patching in canvas pieces, or even gluing loose the frayed edges down and leaving them unrepaired. Again it depends some on what your plans are for the trunk; i.e. whether you plan to keep it or want to sell it. If you like the look of the canvas and want to keep it, the canvas can be cleaned some and if desired given a coating of clear sealer to help preserve it and bring out the color a little better. I have found that if a canvas trunk is not in excellent condition it is usually difficult to sell as most people prefer the look of a refinished wood trunk. So unless the canvas has some special appeal to you or the next owner, you might want to consider how the trunk would look with the canvas removed and the wood refinished. Unless the trunk is a rare style, in excellent original condition, or very unusual in some way, it usually doesn't hurt the value to refinish it. It is more difficult to give a recommendation without seeing the whole trunk and taking everything into consideration for the decision.  Sometimes it can be a difficult decision regarding whether or not to refinish any antique. The appraisers on antique shows always make comments such as "don't refinish or clean antiques", but they are almost always talking about very high quality, expensive, and rare items such as early period furniture.  That doesn't apply to everything old such as all trunks, which were quite common and utilitarian items.  By restoring and refinish an old trunk, we are making it useful and attractive again. There are some trunks which are quite rare or in excellent condition which should not be refinished, but they are the minority of antique trunks. But the final decision comes down to you and what you want to do with the trunk and what your preferences are. I have owned and sold canvas covered trunks, some which have been cleaned and preserved and some which have been refinished. Each time it was a decision based on the individual trunk, it's overall condition, appearance, rarity, completeness, and style. I have a beautiful American trunk in my own collection which has rare red and beige striped canvas, which I would never remove.  But most canvas was painted a plain color, such as brown, olive green, gray, or black, and was very common. I've also seen trunks where the old canvas was removed and new canvas was replaced. While that will look more authentic than a refinished trunk, since the canvas is not original I have found that it doesn't seem to increase the value to most people.
So, I hope all of that will help you make a decision for your own trunk.  

Marvin Miller  

Collectibles-General (Antiques)

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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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