Collectibles-General (Antiques)/antique Trunk


Original condition
Original condition  
QUESTION: I bought this trunk for $20 and spent about 1 month sanding the rust off. I also had to replace the bottom slats and side handles.  I kept everything else original.  I would like to know the age, maker and value if possible.  The lock was pat'd April 15,1879.

1911 trunk catalog
1911 trunk catalog  
1911 trunk
1911 trunk  
ANSWER: Barby,
You got a very good deal on the trunk. Many of these trunks are unmarked except for patent dates. The lock was patented in 1879, the pressed slat clamps in 1880, and the small front latches in 1873, but that type embossed metal covering was developed later beginning around 1885 and used mostly from the late 1880's to about 1910 mostly. So the trunk was most likely made between around 1886 to 1910, give or take a couple years. It's really not possible to narrow it down more than that in this case. There were around thirty different patterns of the embossed metal covering and it was nearly always painted in two colors when new. Sometimes it does get rusty and sometimes the old paint can appear to look like rust when it is very old and oxidized. Some of these trunks had all plain flat metal, either painted or with crystalized finish which was lacquered. This is a "cross slat" barrel top trunk and many American trunk makers had models like this in several sizes. Very few are found with maker labels and very few, including this trunk, have any hardware which is unique to a particular maker. There were several large trunk hardware companies that made and sold the various hardware parts and sold them to makers across the country. So without a label it's not really possible to tell which company made it. There were many more trunk companies than most people would imagine.. hundreds actually. These had a lift out tray and sometimes a compartment or two in the lid. But they were not all alike inside and the more elaborate models are usually worth more than the simple models. While it's hard to give an accurate estimate of the value from one picture, generally these embossed metal cross slat trunks in good complete restored condition have a retail value in the range of around $400 to $600. You can usually see a variety of them for sale online on the well known auction websites to help get an idea of the selling prices. It's often hard to find one exactly like yours because there were so many different makers, but that doesn't really make it rare or worth more since this was a very popular style for so long and many were made. The trunks with the more unusual and rarer style hardware are usually the more valuable trunks. Your trunk looks very nice and I think you've done a very good job cleaning it up.  I'm attaching a couple pages from a 1911 trunk catalog which show similar style trunks. These were made with different numbers of wooden slats and some had a little different arrangement of the slats, again that doesn't usually affect the value unless it's something very rare. I hope that information helps and let me know if you don't mind.  

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for the information.  Do you know what key might fit this lock?

Look very closely on the front of the lock for a maker's name and key code. Some of these were made by Eagle and some by Corbin and Yale. The most common key code for these is AB, but some use an eagle 178. If you find any markings on the lock let me know and I may have the right key.

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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