In Which I Get On My Soapbox Before a Young Antique Dealer…
…and he takes it with admirable grace.
Last weekend we went to an antique festival in town. My usual routine is to cruise through quickly, snapping up anything I know I want, and then to backtrack, taking a more leisurely look, to see if there is anything I’ve missed.
I glimpsed this red and white coverlet in a booth when we entered, but dismissed it as a mass-produced blanket from the ’50s. But when it was still there when we on our way out, I gave it another look.
I approached the young dealer and said, “Can I talk to you about your table covers?”
And he said, “No.”
I said, “Okay,” but I kept standing there, wondering why antique dealers bring things to shows when they don’t want to sell them, and wondering if I should ask this question.
Dealer: “I got it from this really cool old lady.”
Me: “Fine, but if you value it, it really shouldn’t be out here in the sun.”
Dealer (a touch apologetically): “I don’t want to put my stuff out on something new.”
Me: “Okay, but there are lots of new things that look old and interesting, and wouldn’t hurt your presentation any, and you wouldn’t have to ruin an old piece.”
Dealer’s Partner: “Look at how she’s looking at it. She can see it’s suffering.”
Dealer: “I fold it up nicely and put it in a plastic bin when I’m not using it.”
Me: No comment. Possibly an eye roll. The point of my sermon was to get this coverlet out of the sun, I was not going to go off into the evils of plastic storage as well.
Dealer: “And really, it was in that shape when I got it, I promise you.”
Me: “Fine, but it’s 170 years old and you are not helping it survive to get any older!”
Dealer (with interest): “How do you know that?”
At this point we had the little angel/demon discussion going on on my shoulders — “Tell him what you know!”/”Don’t tell him anything, just try to pick up a bargain! He’s had time to research this before! He doesn’t deserve to keep it! His partner wants him to sell it to you!!”
But the kind teacher in me won out over the merciless bargain hunter (I don’t really need to own ALL the textiles, I just need to see them get some respect).
So I showed him the date.
Dealer: “I never noticed that before. What else can you tell me?”
Here are some of the other things I pointed out about it:
(And let me interject here that the day was wearing on, and crowds were thinning. Plus his partner was there to deal with customers. I don’t think I lost him any money.)
So then he started taking things off from on top of it, I took pictures and told him I was going to blog about it, we exchanged contact info, and I thanked him for letting me be on my soapbox, and congratulated myself on making a Textile Conservation Convert. 🙂
When I got home, I decided to research the weaver. I searched for “T. Marst Eller 1859”, but all that came up was a lot of results for a Chance Marsteller, who is apparently a boxer or wrestler who is involved in some type of scandal. But it gave me the clue that the weaver had broken up his name to fit in the border, and I looked for “T. Marsteller weaver”. I had no idea what the “L + S” could mean; I was thinking possibly “Louisiana.” I was very excited to find that coverlets from Thomas Marsteller of Lower Saucon Township had been in an exhibit in 2001!
So far, that is the only reference I have been able to find. I have emailed the museum that had the exhibit, but so far, I have not heard anything back.
I have also been looking for coverlets that were woven in the summer and winter structure on Jacquard looms, but so far, I have not found anything about that either. If I find anything more, I will let you know!
That is terribly interesting! Thank you for stepping to try to rescue the piece. 🙂
I am so glad you were interested! I learned a lot, myself, in researching the piece afterward!
We have a T. Marst Eller jacquard quilt we are trying to value . It is dated 1850 and is blue and red.
Hi, I wish I could help you! I never heard back from the Kemerer museum that had displayed a T. Marsteller coverlet in 2001, and I don’t know appraisal values of coverlets. I have only bought 4 and they were all bargains, but none of mine are dated or even in particularly good shape. I will say that I think the term you are looking for is coverlet, not quilt, so maybe searching for that term will help you find better information.
That’s my daughter! I am busting a gusset with my pride in you!
Well, you get points for using a textile-related compliment!! I could tell he really wished he knew more, that’s why I felt like I could keep talking. 🙂 I hope it helps him in his career.
That was probably the oldest/best thing he had in his booth and he didn’t appreciate it! Good for you, for stepping up for the rights of antique textiles!
You’re right, it was definitely the oldest thing in his booth. I did tell him I would almost rather see something old not being valued, than to see when people put brand new mass produced quilts and afghans in their booth and lead people to believe they are old.
Love the 19th century flavor of your post’s opening. I’m proud that your better angel triumphed over the base desire to score a real bargain. Of course, the dealer may simply put a much higher price on the coverlet. You should get a commission for your research.
He did take my contact info in case he ever decided he can part with it. I may have raised the price for myself, but I also have a lot of old stuff he might want for his business, so hopefully we could work a deal!
Interesting. I hope he takes your advice on looking after it. Someone should really tell him that nothing looks good when it’s displayed on a table that’s been draped with a bit of fabric. There are so many better ways.
The table draping is very popular here! In this show the trend was crocheted bedspreads. I hated to see them just flung across tables like that, but on the other hand, I haven’t rescued the ones I have come across myself, so I can’t be too picky about what others do. I have gotten one other handwoven coverlet that the people were just using as a table cover. I should bring substitutes along so they will sell me the ones I want more easily!
Had to laugh at your saying you don’t have to own ALL the textiles!
Wonder if your Marsteller is related to the Marsteller in Waco?
I did not know about him, but from reading his obituary, it does seem like maybe T. Marsteller could have been an ancestor! I will try to find out more, and maybe the antique dealer will know more too. Thanks for making that connection for me!
Points and kudos to you. Am sure he is rethinking ‘stuff’ he puts out. Lets hope it is to your advantage but like you said….you don’t have to own ALL the textiles 🙂
I know I said it, but I don’t think I really meant it. 🙂
So, you didn’t come home with it? I think you did a great job of educating him, and I’ll bet he’s at least a little bit more curious about those pieces when he picks them up from now on. What interesting research too!
No, I let it go, but I am going to email him with the information I have gotten so far. I was very excited to be able to find at least that mention of the weaver! Information is almost as good as actual textiles. 🙂
Where would we be without the internet to search on. Glad you educated that dealer. Maybe he’ll have more respect for antique textiles in the future.
He’ll be draping some lace tablecloth over his booth table and suddenly he will hear my voice in his head, “Young man! That is no way to treat such a fragile item!” Poor guy. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and following my art blog, Textile Ranger. I’m a sucker for anything that’s a play on words, so your blog/user name quickly caught my eye. I’m glad I explored further – you have a fantastic site here! Look forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers, Fiona
It took me a long time to come up with that name, but once I finally thought of it, I knew it was the perfect one for me! 🙂 I love your art! I’m glad you find something worth your time here!
What a great story! I hope the dealer takes better care of it.
I hope so too. I would love to find out more of the story too, I will have to track him down and interview him as to its provenance! 🙂
Beautifully written. Thank you
Most of the antiques I have bought were from dealers who did not know the history or the value of their items. I have given them a good home. Of course I’m now trying to downsize somewhat,, but it’s difficult.
Yes, every now and then when I browse eBay, I am amazed at how little people know about what they are selling! It’s a tough call between educating the seller or just rescuing the item. 🙂
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