Collectibles-General (Antiques)/Henrie Runcie & Company Trunk
QUESTION: Hi Marvin
I was hoping if you can kindly help me with some information regarding my H.R & co trunk. I purchased an older home in Buffalo and found this beautiful trunk in the attic. Do you have any idea how old it is, what is the best way to restore the metal, canvas and wood (there are some random stickers on it and metal trim is pretty beat up). And out of curiosity, any idea how much this may be worth?
I am planning to restore it and use it as a coffee table with a custom fitted glass on top
I can send more pictures if needed
Thank you !!
The company was originally established in 1838 as the S. Henry Runcie Trunk company and remained in busy until about 1900 when it was purchased by a new owner and called the Buffalo Trunk Mfg. Company. This style canvas covered trunk was very popular mostly from about 1890 to the 1910 period, so it was most likely made during the 1890's. Not very many trunk makers had trunks with the dovetailed or "lock corner" construction. A trunk catalog page from 1900 is attached with similar trunks made by the Goldsmith & Son Trunk Co. This is a good quality trunk based on the hardware, thick hardwood slats (usually elm), and the extra metal binding strips. The lock appears to be a high quality solid brass lock. These are more valuable if they have the complete inner tray and in that condition with a tray they usually have a retail value in the range of about $150 to $250. The metal can be cleaned of any surface rust with steel wool. It can either be repainted if desired or just given a coating of clear varnish to protect it and bring out the color more. The wood slats can be cleaned with wood polish and steel wool or stripped with varnish remover and refinished if desired. Some people remove the canvas to refinish the wood trunk, but some prefer to preserve the old canvas and give it a coating of clear satin varnish which will not hurt the canvas, but you can always test an area on the back to see the finished look. I hope that helps.
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Thank you so much for all the detailed info! I think this is sparking a new love for trunks!
A few questions regarding the canvas - this trunk has majority of the canvas intact and only a few spots where there used to be old stickers and some slight damage like a crack (I removed the stickers b/c they were damaged/faded), so do you recommend to re-paint the canvas with black acrylic paint just to keep it in the most original form? After painting it with acrylic paint, is there any specific varnish that I should use?
In regards to the wood slats, I am sanding them down, and I will purchase a dark wood stain to re-stain them
In regards to the metal details & nails, I will purchase a steel wool to bring out the original silver metal colour, or I may strip the black colour & rust and repaint it black again with metal paint.
I am surprised to hear that its worth so little. I would've thought that something from the 1800s is worth more! But none the less its my 1st antique and I love it regardless of how much it is
Once again, thank you for all your advice
The spots on the trunk can definitely be painted to help match up the finish, or you can repaint all the canvas. There are a few people who say you should not repaint or refinish the trunks, but that is the same with all antiques. If it were something very rare I would say that makes a difference. The canvas was originally painted on these before it was put on the trunk. I agree about removing the old stickers that are faded and damaged. The trunks often had a coating of clear varnish or shellac put on them when they were made. I use clear shellac or "sanding sealer" on the canvas and it does very well. It helps if the weather is clear and dry when you put it on. Some people use spar varnish or polyurethane but I don't particularly like those finishes. The metal on your trunk appears as though it was all black originally. Some had hardware that was tinned and a silver color, but not all of them. You can usually tell with a close inspection. Repainting the black metal is fine and I usually do that also if the finish is uneven and I use a satin black oil based paint. Sometimes the slats don't need sanding if you clean off the dirt and old finish, but sometimes it helps to sand them with fine grit paper. They were not usually dark when new, so you can use a lighter stain if you prefer. They have darkened with age and dirt. These trunks can sell for more in that condition sometimes but after cleaning and refinishing the value will be higher. Refinished trunks of this style can sell for $700 to $800 or more and I see even higher asking prices on some. One thing more unusual about your trunk is the scalloped pattern of the metal covering, which I don't see very often. I hope that helps some.