Q: I was given these two chairs and I know nothing about them. One has a small brass plate on the seat underside, reading “Pittsburgh.” Any info?
A: A photo showing one chair reveals that the reader has mass-production side chairs. Most likely, they were once part of a formal dining set.
I have good news and bad news about chairs. The bad news is that when it comes to dining chairs, most buyers want six or eight that match, although in 2014 interior design gurus find it acceptable to mix and match.
That’s part of the good news: Our reader has a matching pair, and that may up their appeal to a buyer. Matchy-matchy may be passe, but a hodgepodge can be jarring. Having pairs lessens the dissonance.
The brass plate on the underside indicates the maker or merchant. Sometimes at antiques shows or sales, one sees people lying on their back under furniture peering up with a flashlight, searching for a mark.
I suggest our reader upend the chair (a lot easier) with the plaque to see if the plate yields a name.
The fact that the plaque is metal is a positive because cheaper goods were stamped or marked with crayons or pencils.
The chair we see appears to be walnut, but composition of the vaguely Queen Anne/Chippendale solid back splat is hard to make out. It may be veneer. If condition is off, as often happens with veneer, that would affect value.
The chairs were quality when new. The lines, including cabriole legs with pad feet, are graceful. What really makes them is the backs that culminate in graceful, machine-carved swan heads back-to-back at center top. The overall look is a design mix that points to around 1910-1930s.
Value depends on how and where the pair is sold. Somewhat similar pairs have sold online for $65-$150.
Q: I bought these wingback chairs at auction decades ago. The cushions were stuffed with straw and had springs. I had them recovered and in the process lost a Boston label. I’ve always been curious about their age and value.
A: The two chairs seen in photos look like a good grade of machine-made decorative seats with carved cabriole front legs plus ball-and-claw feet. The carving is moderately fine.
The “straw” stuffing may actually be excelsior or fine wood shavings. Next time the chairs are covered, see if the material has a hollow core, indicating straw. Excelsior is solid. For a long while, excelsior (or straw) with or without springs was how such chairs were padded. These days, foam with springs rules.
The time to date the chairs was when they were apart for reupholstering. Wing chairs have been built for centuries, and the frame tells when. I suggest you photograph them when they’re next stripped. Include every angle and joint, then ask an experienced antiques furniture dealer to look at the images.
Q: Any info on my very large Mason jar with a Nov. 30, 1858, patent number? The bottom looks like a spider web.
A: Without a photo or image, we deduce that the reader has a 5-gallon canning jar standing about 18 inches high. Usually seen in blue glass with a white metal lid, the large jars have a crackle or pebbled bottom. They were used for canning pickles or the like. One in mint condition sold on eBay last year for $85.