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Top Finds: Seymour Card Table, ca. 1794


GUEST: I went to a garage sale. How long ago
was this, Claire? GUEST: This was about 30 years ago. As we
moved into our new house, I needed a diminutive table and I thought, “I think I know this
shape and size,” and when I saw this out in the yard, I thought, “This is a great thing.”
It was pitch black. It was a moldy mess. And the lady was asking $30, so I said, “But I
only have $25.” I said, “That’s all I have.” She said, “You can have it for $25,” and I
took it. APPRAISER: With most pieces from the Federal
period, we make attributions on the basis of inlay, style, secondary woods. But on your
particular table, we’re very fortunate– you are, in fact– to have the actual label of
John Seymour and Son, Creek Square, Boston, which is where they were. And it’s a little
bit deteriorated but you can still read it. GUEST: Yes. APPRAISER: That’s just extraordinary because
it’s so rare to find labeled pieces. GUEST: Yes. APPRAISER: What you brought in today here
is a Federal inlay mahogany demilune card table made by John and Thomas Seymour, very
distinguished cabinetmakers who made some of the most distinguished and fine furniture
for the very wealthiest families in Boston at the time. GUEST: Ah. APPRAISER: This table, everything about it–
even if it didn’t have the label– says “John and Thomas Seymour.” The quality is incredible.
It has this wonderful figured mahogany. The top has these inlaid… GUEST: Egg and darts. APPRAISER: Almost an egg and dart with a dot
and almost a seed, which actually has sand-burning. It’s sand-burnt– they used hot sand to color
that inlay to give it a three-dimensional effect. If you come down to the edge, this
edge has wonderful satinwood inlay, this figured satinwood. It has a typical Seymour coved
edge– this cove right here– a veneered front, and on this veneered front tapering bellflowers–
you see how they taper from small into large– and then the bowknot, which is so delicately
done, this satinwood bowknot. All of these elements that we’re seeing actually came out
of English design books from the late 18th century of George Hepplewhite and Sheraton,
their design books. But the Seymours took it even to a higher level. We look at this
edge. It’s all satinwood decorated and then, incredibly, the legs actually have this satinwood
band which tapers down and there are these bellflowers graduating down.. GUEST: Yes, yes.. APPRAISER: …the leg and at the very bottom,
a bellflower. GUEST: Yes! APPRAISER: Now, did you try to clean it at
any point? GUEST: Uh, linseed oil and turpentine. I didn’t
refinish it. I wiped it off and then I saw this and then I kept going, and I thought,
“Well, I’ll just see.” and I took the dirt all off. APPRAISER: Well, Claire, luckily you weren’t
a great refinisher… I am! No, I’m joking, but if you’d cleaned it a lot more, you would
have taken a lot off the value. Luckily, it still has a nice old color, and even though
you cleaned it, see all the dirt down at the bottom? I love that. GUEST: That’s what was up here. APPRAISER: I just want to say, when we first
saw you, my heart started going like this. You can feel it right now. GUEST: That’s right. APPRAISER: Mine did, too. APPRAISER: Leslie looked over and said, “Leigh,
is that what I think it is?” and as we got closer–you had this upside-down– and we
saw that label, and Les went up to the label and said, “It isn’t, is it?” And I said, “It
is.” So it’s really one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever had– Les? APPRAISER: Absolutely. APPRAISER: Just to be here with this. Now,
do you have an idea of what it’s worth, or have you gotten some idea? GUEST: Oh, probably $20,000. Now, I just said
that. APPRAISER: I think the estimate we’re going
to give you is going to top that. I think Les and I both feel that this piece in the
open marketplace on a good day would be in the range of about $200,000 to $225,000. GUEST: Wow! APPRAISER: Now, I want to say that on a very
good day with everything in place, it has the possibility of bringing $300,000. I don’t
want to get your hopes up that much, but $225,000 isn’t bad, I guess, right? BONUS FOOTAGE: THE SEYMOUR CARD TABLE GOES
TO AUCTION GUEST: I’m so excited. I really wanted it
to be someplace where the rest of the world would see it and be able to know it. Now we’re
going to find out what it’s worth today. AUCTIONEER: Lot #1440, the Federal mahogany
card table labeled by John Seymour and Son. And I have $100,000 bid to start it. Now bidding
at 100, 110, 120. Ninety! One hundred ninety. Two hundred. Ten! 210,000, 220,000. Thirty!
230,000, 300,000. 400,000. Fifty! 450, 460. Eighty! Four hundred eighty. Ninety! 490,000.
I have $490,000, and down it goes where you’ve called it at $490,000. Sold for $490,000.
Thank you all. GUEST: It’s too much to believe, really. I
thought two to three was pretty good.

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