Unloved Antiques: Cavalier Cedar Chests

This Cavalier cedar chest, in the waterfall design circa 1920, may be loved for its family history but with tens of millions produced for the last 100 years, collectors aren’t so crazy about them.

Some items, even if in good shape and approaching the magical 100-year mark that turns a “vintage” item into an “antique,” do not appreciate in value like one would think.

In cases like the Cavalier cedar chest, one reason its value is low is? its availability—they aren’t rare—and the fact it’s made by a lesser-known maker.

This Cavalier cedar chest is in the Art Deco “waterfall” style, named for the curving veneer  top resembling the edge of a waterfall. Pieces like this tend to date from the 1930s through the early 1940s.

Most of ?these cedar chests have solid cedar cores and were used as hope chests or linen chests. As long as the chest was well maintained, the cedar oil would keep moths from attacking the contents. Women often kept their detailed laces, embroidered material or fine wools in their cedar chests in order to preserve them from such pests.

These Cavalier cedar chests were built from Tennessee red cedar by the Tennessee Furniture Company, based in in Chattanooga, Tenn., beginning in 1923. The Cavalier line and trademark was only used for cedar chests and iceboxes.

Since the company that made this piece changed hands several times in the later part of the 20th century, many of the records were lost through the years, so there are no reference codes for the serial numbers or model-line details, except those antique dealers have parsed together.

Being “unloved,” at least from the collectible standpoint, values for these chests tend to be rather modest—the reason being that they were a popular item produced in the millions from the end of the First World War and into the 1960s.

The best known maker of chests of this type—Lane, located in AltaVista, Va.—never quit making them. Just on its own, the Lane company is estimated to have produced more than 14 million of them, the last rolling off its North America production line in 2001.

In the current ?market, comparable Cavalier chests to the one pictured often sell at auction in the ?$90-to-$150 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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