How Much Is Grandma’s Victorian Silver Worth?
Experts weigh in on this and other Maine-made treasures in our recurring appraisal series.
TEXT BY SARAH STEBBINS
I acquired this wood-fired stove from a friend in Skowhegan, where it had been the only cooking appliance in his kitchen. — Paul Politz, Gorham
“Just about every Maine home had one of these in the 1880s and ’90s,” says Bruce Gamage, of Rockland’s Gamage Antiques, noting that the appliance — fitted out with an oven, burners, and a temperature gauge — vastly improved upon fireplace cooking. This cast-iron-and-nickel Clarion model was manufactured by Wood & Bishop Co., which had foundries in Bangor and Littleton. “It’s a beautiful piece,” Gamage says. Alas, it’s also highly inefficient and labor intensive to use, on account of its “teeny” firebox. Today, it’s largely valued as a collector’s item.
Gamage’s appraisal: $600–$800
Inside a top drawer in this dresser is a stenciled label: “J.P. Caffrey & Co. Cabinetmakers, Waterville, ME.” The drawers have a nice grain pattern and the rest of the wood has reddish paint. — Sally Chandler, Amesbury, Massachusetts
This bureau’s rounded, turned columns and graduated shape are hallmarks of Empire-style furniture. It was probably made in 1855, the only year J.P. Caffrey appears to have been in business. The woods look to be painted pine with “crotch mahogany” veneers on the drawers — a reference to the V-shape grain pattern created by slicing a forked 3 trunk or branch. Dan Andrews, who runs Northport’s Andrews & Andrews auction house with his wife, Elsie, calls the market for Empire pieces, and brown furniture generally, “soft,” but this bureau’s Maine provenance may intrigue some buyers.
Andrews’s appraisal: $150–$250
My three-piece silver set belonged to my grandmother, who displayed it on her kitchen table, in Wayne. Whenever I polish it, I feel a connection to my ancestors and hope to pass it along to my daughter someday. — Brenda Joseph, Fayette
According to their stamps, your pieces are “quadruple plate,” made by Portland-based Stevens Silver Co., a producer of silver-plated goods in the 1890s. Silver plating involves coating a less precious base metal, such as copper or nickel. Quadruple plate means the items were covered with four times as much silver as a standard-plated item — whatever “standard” meant. “Different companies used different amounts,” says Elsie Andrews. Although durable, quadruple plate isn’t nearly as valuable as sterling silver. “However, a collector of Portland items would likely be willing to pay a little more for this set,” Andrews says.
Andrews’s appraisal: $15–$50
This was my dad’s wagon when he was a child, in New Hampshire. One of my most prized possessions, it’s stamped “Paris Mfg. Co.” on the bottom. — June Hoar, Milford, Pennsylvania
In 1861, Henry Morton and Lucilla Forbes began making hand-painted wooden sleds in their Sumner home, and later launched Paris Manufacturing Company. By the early 1900s, the business employed 300 people, who crafted sleds, skis, furniture, and children’s wagons at its South Paris factory. “You’d pull your friends in the wagon, or you’d run it to the store for your mother, fill it with groceries, and run it back,” Gamage says. “The market still loves Paris Manufacturing,” he adds. If this wagon had more vivid stenciling, or upgrades like built-in seats, it’d be worth several hundred dollars more.
Gamage’s appraisal: $125–$250
SUBMIT YOUR ITEM! Have a Maine-y curiosity you’d like to know more about? Send a photo and description to [email protected] and we may feature it in an upcoming column.