Fascinating music

That old thing: the desk value has been readjusted

Q This table was purchased at an estate sale in Ontario in the 1960s for $1,200. Apparently it was brought from England by the estate owner’s great-grandfather. It’s about 102 centimeters tall (40 inches) and I believe it’s rosewood veneer. The carving is different on each side so I think it must be done by hand. We were told this was one of 13 tables made for Canterbury Cathedral barristers.

A. Your interesting story may have some truth to it, but it has probably evolved over time. This is a wonderful piece known as canterbury, intended for paper music printed in sheet and book form. The famous furniture maker Thomas Sheraton stated in “The Cabinet Dictionary” that the Canterburys were so named because they are said to have been commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This one was made circa 1860 and it is mahogany veneer with hand carved and hand sawn sheet music. These are rare coins, usually owned only by very wealthy people. Today’s volatile antiques market has risen since the 1960s and has stabilized at the same value today, averaging $1,200.

Q I inherited this dulcitone from my ex-husband’s uncle. It is a beautiful old piece of furniture but I intend to sell it. It was manufactured by Thomas Machell & Sons, Glasgow, Scotland. It measures approximately 100 cm wide (39 inches). I was hoping for $2,000, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point, so I’m looking for advice.


A. You have a charming and rare musical instrument – a category of antiques where musicians wishing to play period instruments are most often the interested buyers. The dulcitone was invented by Thomas Machell around 1860. It is a percussion instrument, just like a piano, but it has tuning forks instead of strings and never goes out of tune. They have a smooth sound, a short keyboard – 49 to 68 keys – and are quite portable with folding legs and handles on each side. Yours dates from around 1890 or 1900 and the case is mahogany. In perfect working order, you might be able to make $750 today.

Q This cabinet belonged to my late husband’s grandmother. She claimed he was over 100 years old. It is approximately 224 cm high (7.5 feet) and 152 cm wide (five feet). We paid $900 for it 20 years ago.

Aesthetic style sideboard

A. This sideboard is designed to suit the tastes of the 1870s and early 1880s aesthetic period – a Japanese art-inspired fashion with stylized floral designs. Spindle turnings and dentil work are also typical. Dark finishes were used, often covering walnut or cherry. It has the feel of a piece made in Canada, but it could also be American. Dining room furniture, as well as larger pieces, are currently not selling well. It would struggle to make $600 at auction today. It’s a nice piece, regardless, and not too long ago it might have fetched $2,000.

John Sewell is an appraiser of antiques and works of art. To submit an article to his column, go to the ‘Contact John’ page at www.johnsewellantiques.ca. Please measure your part, say when and how you got it, what you paid for, and list all identifying marks. A high resolution jpeg photo must also be included. (Only email submissions are accepted.) *Assessment values ​​are estimates only.*