The Daryle Lambert 31 Club Blog
Did you know that at one time sugar, was a very precious commodity? Back in the early to mid 1800’s, sugar, in fact, was so expensive and prized, it was kept in a locked chest. This furniture was a very functional piece, plain in decor, yet often a symbol of the family’s social status. They were often kept out in plain view, usually in a parlor room or dining room. The most expensive of the sugar chests might well be the Kentucky chest.
These chests were usually made of walnut, and often consisted of just four boards. Why is this important to know? A four board chest was special because it meant it was formed from virgin timber. Today, most furniture is composed of several boards glued together to make a side, front, back, top. Only with virgin timber were the trees large enough so that an entire side or top could be produce from one log.
The sugar chest could have one small drawer at the bottom, but some had no drawers at all. The chest opened from the top, and inside you would find a small space where the knife that cut the sugar was kept. These chests can be fairly primitive or very formal in design.
You must be familiar with sugar chests if you have an interest in antique furniture, because the value is substantially different between sugar chests and blanket chests. The sugar chests are usually much more valuable, and be warned — there are people who rework blanket chests to look like sugar chests for obvious reasons. A good Kentucky sugar chest may bring $25,000 or more, so they are well worth looking for. The best places to find these at a bargain price is at sales in states where they weren’t used. They’ve moved with families through the generations and the new generation doesn’t know its use nor care to inquire of its history.
The expression “a horse being taken to the glue factory?” comes from the fact that early glue was made from horse parts. This also explains why older furniture often comes apart. The early glue was water soluble, and if it was exposed to moisture it would easily come apart.
Unlike the valuable sugar chest, a valuable blanket chest that will bring big money usually has to be signed and dated. Blanket chests from the 1700’s, with the right information on it about the owner, can easily bring $50,000 to $1,000,000. These are, indeed, rare. Blanket chests you are more likely to come across will be valued in the $500 to $2,500 range. These chests are usually long and narrow, standing on very short legs, opening from the top. They can have up to two small drawers underneath the main compartment.
It is easy to see how someone could convert this to look like a sugar chest, so don’t be fooled.
In both of these types of chests, you will find the value between the best to the average is the difference between night and day. If you are fortunate enough to find a piece that could be of substantial value, that might be the time to call in an expert to confirm your opinion. Any repair or the use of new parts to the piece will reduce the chest value by up to 80 %. So be on the lookout for more modern parts or any repair.
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