Ginger Rogers in an outfit made of money from Gold Diggers of 1933Several readers have written concerning an outrageous eBay posting, high in hyperbole.
It's back up there in another auction this week. At the beginning of the week you could "Buy It Now" for $500,000. A price reduction of nearly 3 million dollars. But then the listing was dropped.
Click here: http://cgi.ebay.com/Oldest-Known-Quilt-Western-World-1650s-/170485551759?cmd=ViewItem&pt=Quilts&hash=item27b1bb128f
or maybe click here:
It was advertised as dating possibly to the 1650s, attributed to Hester Hosmer (1641-1702) who was later the wife of Rev. Thomas Buckingham (1646-1709). If the quilt is indeed the 1650s Hester would have made it between the ages of 9 and 19.
When asked last month for any documentation the seller replied:
The problem has been that every quilt appraiser who has looked at this has admitted that they are under qualified because of the obvious age and materials used. And they do not know of anyone who is qualified (I have been searching for years.)
The reverse seems to be patched of large pieces.
Here's a blue and white woven striped cotton
Were I looking for assistance in dating a quilt from that era I would take the quilt to an expert in colonial costumes, textiles and fabrics. There are many museums, here and in Europe, that specialize in the 17th century period. There are many people who would be glad to take on the job of identifying and dating the piece.
Detail of a patchwork coverlet dated 1718
From the collection of the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles
Even a novice appraiser should be able to identify the fibers in the fabrics. Anyone with any experience could find costumes and household textiles with similar weaves and dyes.
Patchwork attributed to early 18th century.
Collection of Colonial Williamsburg.
This quilt is on display through October, 2010.
If you are looking for a quilt appraiser the first place to check is The Association of Professional Quilt Appraisers/Quilted Textiles. Click Here: http://www.quiltappraisers.org/
But that is not the real point. The point is that the quilt is WAY OVERPRICED and WAY OVERHYPED.
Let us say this wholecloth (or minimally pieced) quilt is indeed the work of Hester Buckingham who is said to have died in 1702. It is thus a 17th-century quilt. This may very well be true.
What is the monetary value of a quilted bedcover attributed to the end of the 17th-century? I'm not an appraiser and I don't keep up with the current auctions, but I do know that a quilt is worth the price agreed upon between an honest seller and a knowledgeable buyer. We can look at the history of quilt sales, which have been dropping in this recession.
About 20 years ago people were paying premium prices for Baltimore album quilts, way over $100,000 and into the $200,000's. Baltimore albums now sell at auction for maybe $10,000 to $60,000.
See a link to a recent sale:
Album quilt by Lucinda Ward Honstain
This quilt, now called the Reconciliation Quilt, sold in 1991 at a Sotheby's auction for $264,000. It's now in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum and "considered the most valuable quilt by many experts," according to the IQSC.
Lancaster County center diamond from the Brown Collection
The other consistently expensive quilts, rare Lancaster County Amish quilts, tend to go for $10,000 to $30,000.
These are posted auction prices and there may well be private transactions going on where prices are higher.
So the Buy It Now price of $500,000 this week was nearly twice the record price for a quilt.
Adding to the impression of an outrageous price is that early wholecloth quilts without patchwork tend to be of far less interest to collectors that folk art classics with pictorial applique or Amish quilts with good sales histories.
Back to the claim, this is the "Oldest Known Quilt in Western World." Could it be? First we have to define the Western World---the Western Hemisphere, the North American Continent, Any place that's not the Eastern World???
There are many European textiles dating to the late 17th century, and several American pieces considered as old. Colonial Williamsburg right now is hosting an exhibit named Quilted Fashions, which "explores the use of quilting to decorate bed coverings, clothing, and accessories of the 17th and 18th centuries."
What can we learn from this?
- Hyperbole like "Oldest Known Quilt in Western World" muddles the whole quilt dating field. Don't believe it.
- Avoid claims like "oldest" and "first." There is no way to prove this.
- Statements such as "There are no qualified appraisers are ridiculous." One can find an extremely qualified appraiser for a fee.
- Don't ever pay over $300,000 for a quilt without a lot of expert advice. It's hard to find a greater fool to sell it to.
The six fabrics in the quilt were described as:
- Center is Damask fabric, blue floral on brown ground
- Border fabric is a brown & tan stripe
- Back is 2 main pieces of a blue & white striped fabric
- Border of a dark brown wool
- Binding mostly a green jacquard
- With a piece or two of a lavender fabric