Dear Helaine and Joe:
I saw an article you wrote about a set of vintage chairs. I have an old rocking chair about which I can get no information. I have had it since my mom passed away some 10 years age, and I believe she had had it at least 40 years before that. I am planning on selling it but do not know if it is worth a couple of hundred dollars or a couple of thousand. Before I make a big mistake, I would appreciate any help you can give me.
Dear M. DeG:
First of all, this is an unusual rocking chair, but that does not mean that it has an extraordinary monetary value.
The carved heads at the tops of the side posts are whimsical and fun but are not finely executed. The rest of the embellishment on the piece appears to be small areas of scroll work on the slat back where it fits into the side posts. Again, pleasant work, but not exceptional.
We see scattered pieces of embellishment in a couple of other places on the chair, but these appear to be inconsequential. However, as we studied the photos supplied by M. DeG, a weird off-the-wall idea lodged in our brains and would not go away.
The tops of the side posts curve over the top of the carved heads, and they strongly remind us of the very famous statue of Kamehameha I (1758-1819), the founder of the Hawaiian state in Honolulu. We are so strongly reminded of the king's head wearing the helmet that curves out above the face that we felt compelled to mention it.
This may just be our fevered imaginations, but the scroll decoration looks a little Polynesian, too. The Hawaiian monarchy officially ended in 1895, and many of the inhabitants of the island were not happy about the role the United States played in the event.
Could this chair, which was made somewhere in the 1895 to 1910 timeframe, have been made partly as protest and partly as tribute to the kings and queens of Hawaii? The resemblance may not mean anything, but we think it needs to be checked out in more detail than we can provide in this space.
When we first saw the photos supplied by M. DeG, we thought it was a slam dunk that the wood was golden oak. But then we took a closer look and questions began to arise in our minds. It is sometimes very difficult to determine from a photograph what kind of wood a piece is made from. In this case, there is a slim possibility the wood could be either mango or silky oak, but an in-person inspection by a specialist would be necessary.
It is probable that the wood is golden oak and the rocking chair has a retail value in the $350 to $450 range. But, in the unlikely event the wood is mango or silky oak and the Hawaiian connection can be firmly established, that worth could soar.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.