Expert Advice

Maine antique

Faux Tomahawks! Makeshift Commodes!

Expert Advice

A certain popular PBS appraisal series continues to ignore our state, so every so often, we create our own version, enlisting experts to evaluate your treasures.


This tomahawk (if that’s what it is) has been in my family for generations. I’ve always wondered if it might be a historical relic. 
Fred Ludwig, Houlton

This appears to be a 20th-century copy of a primitive stone ax. Such implements were used as props in plays and traveling shows depicting Native American life, one of the earliest being Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, which began touring the country in 1883. Due to its relative lack of wear and leather wrap, versus the lighter-colored rawhide Native Americans would have employed, “it is not likely that this was ever used by indigenous tribes,” says John Bottero, vice president of Thomaston Place Auction Galleries.

Bottero’s Appraisal: $200–$300


S.W. Shackford grocery store signMy husband inherited this 8-foot-by-3-foot sign. S.W. Shackford was his great-great-grandfather, who owned a grocery store in Gorham from the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Jess Walker, Windham

The earliest record we found of this store is 1905. “It’s possible the establishment existed before that,” Bottero says, but this sign’s fonts and colors indicate that it was made in the first quarter of the 20th century. Bruce Gamage, of Rockland’s Gamage Antiques, adds that “antique signs are hot right now.” The fact that this one is double-sided, allowing it to be hung in the middle of a room or store, increases its value.

Bottero’s and Gamage’s Appraisal: $1,000–$2,000


Ladder-back antique armchairThis chair from my grandmother’s family in North Berwick used to be a commode; the rush seat was added later. It has two bars between legs on the front and sides, but only one in back — I assume for getting the chamber pot in and out.
Linda Tharp Tsao, New York

Your seat may have been used as a commode, but it wasn’t designed for it. Ladder-back armchairs with “sausage” turnings like these were common in Colonial American living rooms; bedroom chamber-pot chairs, by contrast, tended to be simple, plank-seat affairs. One rear-support bar is standard, Gamage says, but alterations were made to the legs, “which look about 2 inches shorter than they probably were originally.”

Gamage’s Appraisal: $400–$600


I have two storage pieces that are similar in style. The smaller one has a faded tag that says “Carleton Furniture Company, Portland, ME.” I’m so curious about them.
Meredith Schwerdt, Falmouth

antique Carleton Furniture storage pieceThe smaller piece (pictured) is a “server” for storing linens and flatware that was likely sold with a larger sideboard, designed to hold dishes. Carleton was a retailer on Congress Street in the 1920s. Mahogany veneered and machine made, this is not a pricey item, says Bottero. Nor does it adhere to a strict style (note the cabriole legs and Queen Anne feet), but it’s handsome all the same.

Bottero’s Appraisal: $200–$400

 

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