Victorian furniture was larger, darker than modern counterparts

Tim Kovel and Kerry Kovel
Cowles Syndicate
Fake bamboo was often used as trim on late Victorian furniture. The trim plus the clever side lock on the chest made this Horner piece worth over $1,000.

Victorian furniture was larger, heavier and usually darker and much more ornate than the mid-century or even modern pieces used today. The houses were large and dark. The electric light was not invented until about 1805, and the candles and oil lamps used for light could only illuminate a small area. 

Big carvings could be seen, dark wood covered some of the flaws and wealthy homeowners who bought the expensive furniture had large homes with big rooms and the furniture was styled to show off the size and wealth. 

The best furniture makers and designers in New York favored George Hunzinger, who came from Germany in 1855. He made unusual furniture that had wooden parts that looked like lollipops and plumbing parts. Many chairs folded up. He patented over 20 designs. 

Another star was the firm Kimbel and Cabus. These New Yorkers started in 1862. They created modern gothic style, much simpler than the earlier renaissance gothic and an Anglo-Japanese look. They used tiles, painted sections and metal trim. 

A third totally different type of furniture was made by Robert Horner in 1886. Walnut wood was scarce, so he used oak or mahogany to make heavy furniture with large carvings of gargoyles and cherubs and trim. Several other furniture makers made similar furniture that collectors may attribute to the wrong maker. 

A Cowan auction sold a five-drawer Horner chest of drawers. It had faux bamboo trim on the drawers and a side lock. The bamboo pole at the side is made to slide over part of the drawer to keep the drawers shut and locked. It sold for $1,088.

June 13:Current prices

Question: I love McCoy pottery and for years have had a green McCoy letter holder hanging on the wall near my front door. Is it rare? 

Answer: The McCoy Pottery Company was based in Zanesville, Ohio, and from 1910 to 1990, produced huge numbers of planters, bowls, serving dishes, wall pockets, cookie jars and your letter holder. The pottery is still an inexpensive and colorful collectible. McCoy pottery is very functional, including your letter holder, which is selling for around $45 in antique stores. 

Q: I have an extensive glass collection and live in the middle of nowhere and would like to find an appraiser to give me a fair value on my collection. 

A: First decide what kind of appraisal you need, one for insurance or estate purposes, or one to find out how much you can sell your collection for. The appraiser will have to travel to see your collection. Insurance companies usually require a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser to set the amount they will cover. Ask the appraiser what the fee is for a written appraisal. It is expensive to get an itemized appraisal, but you can get a less expensive appraisal if it's less detailed. 

After you get the appraisal, call your insurance agent to see if you need to buy extra insurance or a special fine arts policy to cover the value of your collection. Some things, like guns, expensive paintings, books, jewelry and computer equipment, may require special appraisers. These national appraiser societies list appraisers by specialty and location and are listed on our website, American Society of Appraisers (; Appraisers Association of America, Inc. (; and International Society of Appraisers ( are the largest national groups. 

Q: I'd like to know the age and value of a Royal Grafton open sugar and creamer. They are white with a wide border of pink, blue and violet flowers. The top edge is slightly scalloped. They're marked with a crown on top of a diamond shape with the words "Royal Grafton Bone China" inside and "England" below. The creamer is 3 1/4 inches tall. The sugar is handleless and is 2 inches tall. 

A: Royal Grafton is a trade name used by A.B. Jones & Sons (Ltd.), a pottery in Longton, Staffordshire, England. Alfred Bailey Jones began decorating and selling pottery in 1876. He built the Grafton Works in 1900 and began making china marked "Grafton." The word "Royal" was added after the company received a Royal Warrant from Queen Mary, indicating it supplied goods to the royal family. The mark on your sugar and creamer was used beginning in 1949. Members of the family ran the pottery until 1966, when it was sold to Crown House Glass Ltd. In 1971, it was sold to Crown Lynn Potteries Ltd. of New Zealand and renamed Crown Lynn Ceramics (UK) Ltd. Production of Royal Grafton china stopped in 1972. Royal Grafton sugar and creamers sell online for about $20. 

Q: I was a pharmacist for 50 years and have collected pharmacy products that are antiques now. I'd like to sell them. Can you give me the name of a company that might buy my collectibles? 

A: Pharmaceutical items are collectible. Medicine bottles, advertising trade cards, catalogs, labels, displays, thermometers, scales and other items sell at advertising and medical auctions, shows and flea markets. You can search online or check the listings in the business directory on to find auctions that handle medical or drug-related items and contact them to see if they can sell what you have. If you have old bottles that still contain medicine, be careful. Cleaning them may release poisonous fumes. 

TIP: Need a quick measurement at an antiques show? A penny is 3/4 inch in diameter; a dollar bill is almost six inches long.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at